Cats Can Talk

I was as skeptical as any sane person would be that morning, fourteen years ago, when I loaded Rodney, my cat, into his carrier to take him down to the holistic veterinary clinic where a psychic was seeing animals. I was having some problems with Rodney that my regular vet couldn't help, and I figured, why not give the psychic a shot? It seemed a little goofy and I felt a little foolish, but what did I have to lose? No matter what, it was sure to be good for a laugh.

I thought at the time, as some of you may think now, that the psychic business is either a hokey sideshow act or a solemn, mystical affair, full of incense-burning Gypsies and weird witches with crystal balls. Boy, was I in for an eye-opener.

Gladys, the psychic, wore no heavy eyeliner, no gold hoop earrings or jangling charm bracelets. She was less gypsy fortune-teller and more midwestern grandmother. Were those ketchup stains on her shirt? I was perplexed.

When I extracted Rodney from his carrier and put him down on the cold metal table in front of her, he didn't howl like a triggered car alarm or jump off the table, his usual reaction at the vet's. Instead, he sat perfectly still and quietly scrutinized Gladys. He actually seemed startled to see her. She returned his gaze.

"What are you doing?" I whispered to her.

"I'm talking to him," she replied flatly.

You've got to be kidding! I wanted to yell. No incantations? No sweeping arm movements? No speaking in tongues? My curiosity won out over my skepticism.

"What does he say?" I whispered.

"I asked him what his favorite food is and he says chicken."

Good guess, I thought. True, Rodney gobbled up quite a bit of fresh chicken, but what cat doesn't like chicken? Any ninny could have figured that out.

"Now I am asking him what his favorite spot in the house is," she said. Again, Gladys did nothing more than look at the little cat, who returned her gaze, nonplussed.

The answer must have come to her quickly: "He says he likes to sit on the back of an orange chair that overlooks a window. A chair in the den."

"That's exactly right," I gasped. When Rodney was inside the house, he planted himself on the back of the peach-colored armchair in the den.

"The window in the den overlooks the yard with the little white dog," Gladys said.

"What dog?" I asked.

"Across the street from your building is a little dog behind a fence. Rodney likes to go over there and tease that little dog. He walks back and forth in front of the fence to make the dog bark."

I cast a fish-eyed glance at him. There was, indeed, a small white terrier behind a fence across the street, but I never dreamed Rodney went over there. "You torment that dog, do you?" I snarled at him.

"He's very full of himself," she continued. "He says women are always commenting on the pretty yellow markings on his head. He loves women. He's been told that he's quite handsome."

My jaw made a nasty clattering sound as it hit the linoleum floor. My boyfriend's secretary had been visiting our condo only the weekend before, and she had made a huge fuss over Rodney. She had praised the three little stripes on his head and used the very word handsome.

I took a deep breath and cut straight to the punch: "So why does he go door to door caterwauling?" I asked.

"He only howls at the windows where there are other cats. He thinks that if he calls them, they will be able to come out and play. He's lonely.

The answer was so obvious, I felt pretty foolish. Not once had it occurred to me that he was meowing not at the neighbors, but at the neighbors' cats.

"But . . . . but . . . .how can I make him stop before we get kicked out of the condo? I can't bear to keep him cooped up inside, but when I let him out, he screams," I whined.

"Get another cat. He's lonely. He doesn't want to be the only cat," she snapped. She had no way of knowing Rodney was the only cat at home; nonetheless, I wasn't thrilled with her prescription. One cat seemed to be more trouble than I bargained for -- the little furry foghorn had already gotten us booted out of our last apartment; now the homeowners association in our new condo threatened to give me and my pint-sized Pavarotti our walking papers . . . again. How was I supposed to consider a second cat?

"Did you know your neighbors feed him?" she continued.

"What? What neighbors?"

"The neighbors with the two little girls. He goes in their house. Several of your neighbors let him in to be fed." I knew the neighbors with the two little girls, but I had no idea they were having my cat over for dinner.

"That's why he hasn't seemed very hungry lately?

I cast a wary glance in his direction. Rodney had settled into a squat on the cold table. He was calm, he was smug, and there was no mistaking the expression on his little furry face: He was smiling. He was finally getting the best of me, as he always thought he should. By this time, the strangeness of the communication had worn off and I was asking questions freely, like a foreign ambassador with a really fast translator:

"Ask him why he pees on my clothes," I said.

"He doesn't want you to go away and leave him alone. Peeing on your clothes is the only way he can express his anger." This was too true to be believed. I had a promotional modeling job that sometimes took me away for weekends, where I'd wear a specific uniform. When I got home Sunday night and emptied out my suitcase, I'd pile all my travel clothes on the floor, mingling my uniform with a week's worth of other dirty laundry. Then I'd get distracted by other chores. Later I'd find the pile strewn all over the floor. Rodney would have singled out my uniform from the pile of laundry and peed only on it. Eventually I learned not to leave my laundry on the floor, so he resorted to peeing directly into my freshly packed suitcase. That way I wouldn't discover until I unpacked my bag in Palm Springs that everything I brought was soaked and my uniform reeked to high heaven.

"He seems to know the uniform I wear when I go away. How could he possibly know what clothes I wear to work?" I asked.

"He just does," she replied.

"Why does he freak out every time I leave? He even seems to be afraid of the dark. Ask him why he has screaming panic attacks at three a.m. Ask him where he came from," I urged.

"He says he lived in an industrial part of Van Nuys, where there were a lot of strays. Men would put food out in the alley for the cats. There were piles of cardboard boxes and machinery and a lot of grease on the ground. He got shut up in the warehouse at night and was very cold and hungry. Howling was the only way he could get fed."

"So, he really is afraid of the dark? And he gets claustrophobic?" I asked.

"Only at night, he says."

"Poor little guy," I cooed, and patted his head. This explanation shone a whole new light on our dilemma. It couldn't have made more perfect sense. I had found him in the North Hollywood pound, on feline skid row. The little operatic kitten had serenaded me even as I'd entered the room. When I'd peeked in his cage, his nose was so obtrusive, I felt as though I were looking down the barrel of a shotgun. He wasn't my type. I was looking for Marlon Brando in fur, not Woody Allen. But when I'd lifted him up, he made an unprecedented move. He'd wrapped his minuscule arms around my neck, like two possessed pipe cleaners. Reaching his tiny face toward mine, he had kissed me on the lips. It was the most deliberate kiss I've ever received in my life. That's how the little orange salesman closed me. Oh sure, he was just a loudmouthed, needle-nosed, redhead, a common model I call the Honda Civic of cats, but he had a certain je ne sais quoi.

"What does he think of me?" I asked.

"He loves you. He says he loves his mother."

Lately he had been showing some aggressive behavior around my boyfriend. If Benjamin touched me in front of him, Rodney would frantically attack him and run out of the room. So I had to ask: "What does he think of my boyfriend?"

Her response was: "He's very jealous. He thinks he should have you all to himself. Sometimes he wishes your boyfriend would just go away." Ah, I thought, I sometimes feel that way myself.

After I paid the psychic the $35 -- a measly price for turning my world upside down -- I reached out to put the little cat back in his carrier, noticing that my relationship with him had already changed. I was more careful with him than usual. He wasn't just a little noisy pet anymore. He was an intelligent creature with distinct thoughts and feelings of his own, a creature who could observe and act on his observations, a creature who could reason.

In the car, for the duration of the ride home, the air was thick between us. I had never seen Rodney so smug and pleased, truly tranquil for the first time. He had finally gotten to say his piece, and I had witnessed the most miraculous event of my life -- I had found a human being who could talk to a cat. Frogs and whistles! What a world! Everything I ever believed had been changed in an instant.


This article was excerpted from:

 Straight from the Horse's Mouth by Amelia Kinkade. Straight from the Horse's Mouth
by Amelia Kinkade.

Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. Copyright 2001. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Amelia Kinkade

About The Author

Amelia Kinkade has been listed in The Top 100 Psychics in America. A full-time animal communicator, she is sought by veterinarians, animal rescue organizations, and animal lovers all over the world. Visti her website at www.ameliakinkade.net.