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Most cats are worthless for the most part. Unlike a dog, they show no appreciation. They want what they want, or don't want, right now or they will shrug you off in a heartbeat. Or just bite you.
If you were to use the foulest words to someone who didn't understand the language, yet you used a delightful tone, it is likely they would be positively re-enforced towards those specific words, at least until he discovered what they truly meant. Cats, however, can never denote what words mean according to how we define them, only with how we use them, that is, according to what cues we exhibit when we speak them.
Tone isn't the only aspect of communication that cats understand, as body language, movement, environment all come into play. When we think we are communicating with cats, or other animals, it is only that they are reacting to whatever it is we are doing.
Most cats are worthless for the most part. Unlike a dog, they show no appreciation. They want what they want, or don't want, right now or they will shrug you off in a heartbeat. Or just bite you. Ask your cat what I said and tell me what it says so I know why they are that way please.
reply to post by darkbake
I liked your reference to "polite" and "informal", and that indication of a sort of... cat culture.
In the video those vocalizations are very similar to how mamma cats talk to their kittens, but they use those vocalizations less and less often as the kittens get older, and much less often between adult cats. It seems a lot like how we do "baby talk" to infants. Which means our cats might use a sort of "baby talk" with us; which I think supports your theory about subtly. If you are on it, and speak "cat" well enough you can catch the subtler cues without the vocalizations at all.
There was some tid-bit coming to mind (although I can't remember the source, so take it for what it is) that cats are much more vocal with humans than with other cats, and even further, that domestic cats that cohabitate with humans vocalize much more than wild or feral cats, even among each other. Which begs the question of just how much they are trying to bridge the gap and accommodate our communication styles and even culture. How much do they understand about verbal language?
On that last note, we did have a tom cat here (this is a mini-farm), that when we would come outside he would flat say "Hello" "HI" "Hello" in a steady stream as he approached us. He would up-turn the tone at the end so it sounded like a question ("Hello?" "Hi?"). The vocalizations ceased as soon as he got to us and we would stroke his back. It was a very close mimic to human vocalizations. We have video of this, but I don't know how to embed.
When a cat purrs within a range of 20-140 Hertz, nearby humans may be therapeutically benefiting from these vibrations. Purring has been linked to lowering stress, decreasing symptoms of Dyspnoea, lessening the chances of having a heart attack, and even strengthening bones.