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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/386

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Cats appear taciturn in ordinary life, but every one knows that they can upon occasion, and that often, speak forcibly enough. They also have a language for their friends, varied and expressive enough to convey their wants definitely, and make intercourse with them pleasant and lively. Those who know them best may readily say, with John Owen, in the London Academy:

"Thou art not dumb, my Muff;
In those sweet, pleading eyes and earnest look
Language there is enough
To fill with living type a goodly book."

Montaigne observed, some three hundred years ago, that our beasts have some mean intelligence of their senses, well-nigh in the same measure as we. "They natter us, menace us, and need us; and we them. It is abundantly evident to us that there is among them a full and entire communication, and that they understand each other" Dupont de Nemours, who undertook to penetrate the mysteries of animal language, recognized that animals had few wants, but these were strong, and few passions, but imperious, for which they had very marked but limited expressions. He thought the cat was more intelligent than the dog, because, being able to climb trees, she had sources of ideas and experiences denied to him; and, having all the vowels of a dog, with six consonants in addition, she had more words. The Abbé Galiani pretended to have made some curious discoveries respecting the language of cats, among which were those that they have more than twenty different inflections, and that "it is really a tongue, for they always employ the same sound to express the same thing." Champfleury professes to have counted sixty-three varieties of mewings, the notation of which, however, he observes, is difficult. The sign and gesture language of the cat is even more copious and expressive than its audible language. As Mr. Owen has it:

"What tones unheard, and forms of silent speech,
Are given that such as thee
The eloquence of dumbness man might teach!"

Lindsay enumerates, as among the elements of the non-vocal language of cats, capers or antics, gambols, frolic, and frisking in the kitten; prostration, crouching, groveling, crawling, cringing, and fawning; hiding, flight, sneaking, skulking, slinking, shirking, or shrinking; rubbing against the bodies of other animals or against hard substances; licking; touching or tapping with the paws; scratching; head-shaking, tossing, or rubbing; and tail movements, of which there are many. Dr. Turton says that "the cat has a more voluminous and expressive vocabulary than any other brute: the short twitter of complacency and affection, the