By: Christina J. Johns

Don't let anyone tell you that cats can't talk. They do. My husband likes to tell this story about the first night he spent in my house.

I woke up and Christina was in the kitchenjust a talkin' to those cats. Like she was talkin' to children before they went out to play. "Airight, I don't want anybody leaving the yard. Fernando you and Goodman leave that gray kitty alone, you know he's been declawed, and it's not fair. And Felipo could we please try not to mangle, maim, pull the tail off, and especially not behead any of God's creatures, at least until this afternoon when I can deal with it."

I just laid in that bed smilin' to myself. "Those cats don't understand a work she's saying."

But you know what? You won't believe this, but before I was around two weeks, I figured out thay understood everything she said; and by the end of the month, I was talkin' to lem too.

And he does. Four years later he talks to them every bit as much as I do. He even taught them a word they haven'6 forgotten in three years. One year we lived in a cabin in Michigan beside a lake. There was all sorts of wild life you could see at night by leaving food out and turning off the inside lights. We would sit on the floor in front of the sliding glass doors and watch possums, raccoons, skunks, deer. But, the cats were generally bored with all of the wildlife that was not either avion or feline.

So when a cat came into view, Gayle would say: "Oooooooooo, cat. Oooooooooo, cat." And all three cats would come from whetherver they were in the cabin to glower and hiss and arch their backs and generally have a macho cat good time. Three years later, they still .. ........ remembers the word. And if anyoone says "Oooooooooooo, cat." they start for the windows. "Where? Where is he? Let me at him."

You see cats do understand what you're saying to them, it's just that you don't often say anything important.

And they talk especially Peep. Femando, very rarely says anything so, like Dean Whittier, when he talks, you usually listen. Fernando perfers the language of facial expression. He can give you one hell of a withering look. And the language of the tail. When it starts whopping on the bed, you'd better stop whatever you're doing if you value your hand.

But Peep is the verbalizer in the family with an impressive vocabulary, If Gayle asks hiim if he wants to go outside, he says , and runs to the door. If you tell him he can't go outside, he sits in the middle of the floor and goes . Rainy days are sepcially verbal, since Peep generally holds us entirely responsible for the rain and sincerely believes wythat we can make it go away if we just wanted to.

So he spends the day alternating between words of frustration and demands that you make it stop. Usually, because w3e can'6t stand istening to him for another minute, we open the door to let him see. He has three responses to this situation: 1) he looks up at you and says; "But, it's raining.", or 2) he runs out the door only to return making this wink winking sound on the ftench doors that says let me in, Now. Then he looks up at you and says: "It's wet out there? Why did you make me go outside?", or finally 3) He proceeds to the front door and goes through the same routine, evidently reasoning in his kitty brain that just because it's raining in the back yard, it may not be raining in the front.

Sometimes when I'm here alone I leave the kitty door open for them so they can go in and out without the doorman (me) getting up every time. Sometimes, peep brings in various beings in various states of health. One of his favorites is lizard, which he evidently lets lose in the house so he wfll have something to play with when he gets bored. I have found several of these unfortunate beings gasping on the bathroom floor, as if they were saying: Help me. I promplty put them outside and hope they are not so dehydrated that they will die. It's hard, in case you haven't tried it, to give a lizard a drink of water.

Anyway, one night we were in bed and Peep started making these noises. "Peep?" I said raising up on one elbow. "He's got a lizard." Gayle replied and turned over. And when I got up it was true. "How did you know what it was?" Gayle held the bedcovers up for me to get back into bed. "That's the noise he makes when he has a lizard." Guy stuff.

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