Talking to Your Pet

We’re not all Dr. Dolittle, but we all do talk to our pets.

Sometimes, I swear they talk back. My cat Yogi actually argues with me, and I say that even though I don’t speak “Cat.”

Keep it Down

All of our pets learn to understand one-word verbalizations. The most used word for dogs, cats, and as it turns out, teenagers as well, is, “No.” Both dogs and cats pick up on this pretty quickly, though teenagers seem to struggle with it. Other words pets learn quickly are “Sit”, “stay”, and “come.” Saying “Get off the couch”, “Get off the table”, or “No, you can’t drive my car” works on dogs, cats, and teenagers, respectively, because of your tone of voice and not the actual words.

Baby Talk

It’s being proven that baby talk doesn’t work any better with dogs than normal talking does—it does help with puppies, though. If you’re trying to get your dog to understand verbal commands, you’d be better off speaking like an adult. Cats, on the other hand, don’t care how you talk to them; they ignore you either way.

It’s a Pitch Thing

When our cat Yogi speaks to my wife, it’s in a gentle, cute kitty voice. When the cat speaks to me, I swear she’s yelling. The wife thinks it’s because I speak so loudly that Yogi naturally speaks louder for me. Yogi meows for treats from the wife and roars at me. I think they are in cahoots and the wife knows darn well that when the cat is yelling at me, she’s just copying learned behavior.

Selective Hearing

Our dog Jasmine is losing her hearing, which is a sad sign she’s getting on in years. She doesn’t come when called so easily anymore, but if you include the word “treats” she comes running. I believe this selective hearing is also a learned trait and I accept the blame. It’s kind of like when the wife says something is broken, or we need to go see her mother, I don’t hear a thing. Mention anything involving “Football”, “ice cream”, or “treats” and I, too, come running. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

Pay Attention

Pets do speak to us all the time, we just don’t get it. No, your pooch is not going to tell you, “Timmy fell in the well,” like Lassie used to do every week on TV. But they do speak to you. They use inflections to convey when they are hurt, scared, or hungry. I can tell the neighborhood bully cat is outside the window by the way Yogi meows. I can tell when Jasmine is hurt by the way she is whining. I can tell the wife is mad by the way she doesn’t speak to me at all. You see, it’s all learned behavior and if you wish to speak to the animals, you have to listen as well.

Meet the Author: Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan is a full-time musician along with a humor, travel and outdoor recreation columnist. He's also an avid skier and golfer and has traveled extensively around the U.S, the Caribbean and Europe. His musical career takes him all over the U.S. and his wife drags him everywhere else. His weekly columns “The Life of Ryan” ran in the Transcript and Sentinel newspaper chain for several years and have been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Mile High Magazine. He is the co-founder, editor and humor columnist for and currently resides in Morrison, Colorado.

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