Recently I had the pleasure of meeting three felines–two kittens and an older cat. These kittehs live in a house that is perfect for cats, being large with slippery floors and some rugs, stairs, and all kinds of kitty toys and places to hide and prepare to ambush. When I met them, they were awake and having a bit of fun. The little ones chased, jumped, rolled, hid, came to screeching halts on slippery floors, put dibs on toys by pretending the toys were mice and proudly strutting with toy in mouths, tumbled, and generally acted like kittens will. But the impressive aspect of all of this immense joy in life and tumult was that it was all enacted in silence–at least on the part of the kittens; I was laughing with delight all the while. The older cat was aloof to it all.
Cats do not chatter, yip, bark. They have learned to talk to humans, yes, but when dealing with other cats (not counting new, potentially dangerous, cats), they are silent. These kittens were loud, but not vocally. The sounds were of paws hitting the floor or digging into carpets, or toys being flipped and landing with a flop. As I stood and watched all this silent action, or closed my eyes to hear only the paws racing across varied surfaces, I felt my normal stresses and peeves slip away leaving only the marvelous sounds of cat quiet.
I have two cats, so I should not have been taken unawares by this silent play. I am often awakened in the very early hours of the morning by the sound of herds of bison running down my hallway and back up again. Of course, it is never bison but only a couple of cats enjoying the chase and playing king of the mountain by running into the bedroom and jumping up onto the bed then right back down again and off down the hall, one right after the other. For small beings who are capable of moving very quietly when on the hunt, it is amazing the heaviness of the landings; the loud thuds as four paws hit the floor running. But never a meow or any other vocalized sound. Cat quiet.
In the ordinary course of a day, we are subjected to quite a bit of sound and noise. Cars and trucks on the streets, people talking to one another in person or on their cell phones, music playing sometimes so loudly it is no longer music, TV’s and radios playing, muzak in elevators and while on hold, neighbors’ dogs barking. At times, I become desperate for quiet and try to shut myself away from other people and their noise; other times, it is just sounds that are heard as the normal background din of lives being lived; and sometimes I long for those sounds, fearful of quiet.
Always, though, I want to be able to retreat to the sound of cat quiet that brings with it the knowledge that there are two living furry friends in my home keeping me company. They seem to enjoy it when I talk with them and will often answer me (but not always, of course, being cats). Those rumbling early morning chases are fine with me, because I know that there will be many times during the days and nights when I will hear two cats snoring, content to live their nine with me…quiet sounds of dreaming kittehs.
Fog (Carl Sandburg)
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over the harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.