Monday 12 October 2020

Is it true that cats only meow at humans?

I am referring to domestic and feral cats. It is not 100% true that cats only meow at humans but you will find that feral cats do not meow at each other very often. This is because the meow is a learned request by the domestic cat living in the human home for something such as food or interaction.  It's been learned over thousands of years. That's what the experts say. It is quite rare for the average person to mingle with feral cats in a colony to check this advice. But it makes sense.

Feral cat colony. All shorthairs. Photo: in public domain.

In fact the domestic cat has refined the meow sometimes so that it sounds a little bit like a baby crying. Some cats have learned that this slightly modified meow is more effective in getting their way.

Long-haired feral cats?

As an aside, you will also rarely see long-haired feral cats. Why is this? It must depend upon how long-standing the colony is. You will get new cats coming into a colony and some of them may be strays having been abandoned and these cats may have long hair. But if feral cats have had time to evolve their family over several generations, within a colony, it is argued they will normally be shorthaired cats because shorthair is more effective when living in the wild.

This, though, must only apply to countries where the climate allows it. Arguably, in very cold climates you should see long-haired feral cats. Perhaps the argument about feral cats normally being shorthaired relates to most parts of the USA, particular the south, where the climate is amenable to a shorthaired coat which requires less maintenance by the cat to keep it in good condition.

Excessively long hair, we know, is beyond the means of a domestic cat to maintain themselves. This is why owners of Persian cats have to support their cat by grooming him or her. This is an anomaly and it would never have happened under normal evolutionary pressure.

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