Today’s guest story comes from Casey Karp.
I’ve been lucky. I mean in a way that goes beyond the sheer number of cats who have agreed to share my life. You see, as far as I’m concerned, a Siamese cat is as essential to a house as a kitchen. Sure, you could get along without one, but why would you want to?
As a result of that prejudice, I’ve shared living quarters with a succession of meezers and part-meezers–and that’s where I’ve gotten lucky. Consider the three things “everyone knows” about Siamese cats: they’re insane, they eat wool, and, most disturbing*, they’re loud.
* Unless you have a wool fetish, of course.
There’s a lot of truth in all three of those stereotypes. Are they crazy? Absolutely. Every Siamese cat I’ve ever met has been nuts. But let’s be honest here. Can you tell me you’ve ever met a cat that wasn’t crazy in some way? Neither have I. Every cat is crazy. (That said, I should point out that at least 95% of humans are crazy as well. That’s what makes them interesting.)
Do Siamese eat wool? Absolutely. Not all of them, but a good percentage of meezers can’t resist chewing on a wool sock or drooling on a wool blanket. But they’re massively outnumbered by the fleecivorous felines of every other breed.
As for the third stereotype, well, one needs look no further than MM, the feral Siamese who visits the public food bowl in our yard. We’re pretty sure that she isn’t a purebred, but you certainly couldn’t tell by listening to her. She talks constantly, a string of peremptory quacks, irregularly interrupted by a demanding blatt* when she thinks the bowl isn’t being filled quickly enough.
* She really does sound goose-like when she gets going.
So with that mental audio image in mind, step over here and meet the Siamese and Siamese crosses who have co-occupied my home over the past quarter-century or so.
Nimmao–her name is an Americanization of the Thai words for “soft, fluffy cat”–was a shelter cat, so her ancestry is a matter of guesswork. Based on her markings, the shape of her muzzle, and her luscious, long fur, I believe she was a Siamese/Himalayan cross.
Ms. ‘Mao was one of the most even-tempered cats I’ve met, taking plane trips, feral kittens, and two international moves* with equal equanimity. OK, she was usually totally stoned for the plane flights, but she never once said anything about the pretty, colored lights she was watching.
* First from Austin to Manhattan–if you try to tell me Texas and New York aren’t in different countries, I’ll laugh in your face–and then on to the San Francisco Bay Area, which should really be considered an interplanetary move, not just international.
Nimmao had a voice, I’m sure. But I don’t actually remember her saying anything. Purring, sure. A very occasional growl when the kitten got a little too aggressive with her ears, absolutely. But meows, squawks, or yowls? Nope. Can’t recall a single one.
Hamachi, on the other paw, had a voice–oh, did he ever!–but with two exceptions, he was sparing in its use. He hated to be confined, so he turned car rides into a non-stop litany of complaints. And he hated being kept away from his humans. He’s the reason I learned to sleep with cats draped all over my body: if the bedroom door was closed, ‘Machi made sure nobody got any sleep.
Some friends found him lurking around their new house–he had been abandoned by the previous owners–and arranged an introduction. He did not take the car trip home well. He escaped his travel box and quite literally bounced around the car, yowling at frequencies and decibel levels calculated to crack the windshield. But once he was inside the house, he settled down to life as a lap fungus.
Mr. Yellow Tail was never happier than when he had a lap to sleep on. He’d say a word or two to get someone’s attention, ask them to sit down, or direct their strokes to the best spots, but that was the majority of his talking–until it was time to get him in a carrier for a trip to the vet.
Kokoro is another shelter cat, though unlike Nimmao, there’s little doubt about her breed. She is usually shy and reserved, but she Has Opinions and she will express them. She considers herself Empress of All She Surveys*, and if the Universe doesn’t conform to her expectations, she chastises it. However, her normal speaking voice is quiet and sounds like a small car’s horn–a very small car and a very small horn–earning her the nickname “Ms. Meep”.
* In truth, she is. Cats being cats, though, not everything she surveys acknowledges her supremacy.
She does have a classic Siamese yowl in her repertoire, but she saves it for earth-shattering emergencies. Once or twice a month, I’ll be reading in bed, a mere handful of steps away from her perch on the stairs. Suddenly, she’ll realize she doesn’t know where Her Human is, and she’ll crank up the volume to announce to everyone within five blocks that she’s lonely. When I accuse her of being a pity-kitty, she runs into the room, glares at me and meeps in quiet admonition for hiding from her, and then goes to sleep in my lap.
Our newest semi-meezer is Sachiko. She’s MM’s daughter, and the reason that “MM” now stands for “Meezer Mommy” instead of “Ms. Meezer”.
Sachiko doesn’t say much, and when she does, it’s a tiny squeak, not loud, but it does carry well up the stairs. She cranked up the decibels once, the second night after we kittennapped her. By the next day she had decided warmth, regular feedings, and no coyotes were pretty nice, and she stopped complaining. After a few more days, she decided that humans might make adequate Mommies, and added a purr to her repertoire. The purr is louder than her squeaks.
She’s still young–a bit over seven months–so she may yet develop a more assertive voice and start talking like her mother. I’m not prepared to rule it out: she isn’t more than half-Siamese at most, but her bone structure is pure meezer. If her voice develops along Siamese lines, it’ll be a splendid opportunity to explore the “nature vs. nurture” controversy: will the example of her adoptive sister Kokoro override the genetic urge to yowl?
There you are. Four randomly-chosen meezers, none of whom display a stereotypical Siamese voice, and only one (Sachiko’s mother) who does–and she lives outside, where she can only be heard at dinner time.
Casey Karp blogs regularly about cats, baseball, food, technology, and whatever else is on his mind. Follow him at http://koiscribblings.com.
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