What are you doing?
Studying up. I’ll be traveling soon.
They have one, I think. But this is Japan, which has a few.
How’d that happen? Have you been reading Murakami again?
Burroughs, actually. But the island, it used to be a hub for the sardine trade. There was a rodent problem on the boats, so the fishermen started taking in strays. The cats were treated well by the villagers. After all, they were essential workers.
Are they still?
Well-treated, yes. They outnumber villagers ten to one. But the sardine trade dried up. People left, except for the old timers. Cats stayed. Someone thought it would be a good idea to spay and neuter them awhile back, but a significant group escaped the knife. They’re somewhat of a sensation now.
Ever read Timothy Morton, the philosopher?
Oh, right. Who loves how cats blur the false boundary between Nature and Us.
Did you know that next to birds, cats have the widest range of vocalizations of any domestic pet?
The meowing would be just for kittens, but it persists into adulthood among domesticated species, as a cry for something from a caretaker.
Loneliness can do it, too. And hunger. By the longer, throatier Meeeoooooow can mean concern, or existential annoyance.
Yes, I think that’s actually what it means.
Well. Then, purring is contentment, obviously.
Sure, but it can mean worry, too. Like how humans will whistle when nervous, as distraction.
Chirping is my favorite.
Mothers will do that to tell the kittens to pay attention and follow along.
What about those little chirrups at the window?
Means they are excited, sometimes about a bird.
That’s for longing. It can be for a mate, or they could miss their old home.
They’re nostalgic, then?
We are the cats inside, Burroughs wrote. Talk about a man who loved cats.
Who cannot walk alone, and for us there is only one place.
Notes: For a beautiful photo essay of Japan’s largest cat island, Aoshima, you can click here.
An excellent article about philosopher Timothy Morton can be found here.
The Burroughs quote is from his novella, The Cat Inside.