There's an old legend that animals speak on Christmas Eve -- depending on the legend, it may often be about their owner's funeral or the injustices inflicted upon them by their owners. And it's usually considered very unlucky to overhear them speaking. The legend has its roots in the Nativity story about the animals in the Bethlehem stable bowing before the infant Jesus.
Our cats talk all year -- and from talking to other "staff" of adored pets, dogs and horses do too. If you are attentive, you know what your pet is telling you with that tone of 'mew' or 'rrruff' or the snuffly whicker made by a horse who knows you've come to feed him.
Cheswick, for instance, makes it quite clear when he thinks it is time for us to go to bed, especially if one of us has snugged down before the other is quite ready. He'll sit in the office doorway and 'merow,' and if that gets him nowhere, he'll hop atop the desk and sit, feet neatly together, tail wrapped around them, and stare at the tardy human, punctuating the icy blue-eyed glare with increasingly insistent 'merowp's.
If that doesn't work either, he'll go from the desk to the top of the chair, then into the lap, and back to the desk. He won't be distracted with petting, either. It is time for bed, and you might as well give up. Once the errant human is in the bed, he settles down very quickly.
McMurphy is less opinionated, but more vocal day-to-day. He watches the outdoor cats from windows and doors, and then wanders through the house yowling plaintively, as though he'd lost his last friend.
Always an indoor cat, he is sure that the outdoors would be far more interesting and lurks near doors in case he has a chance to make a dash for freedom. Of course once he's escaped, the outside cats that he so desperately wants to meet offer him nasty hisses and low growls, and he grows more and more agitated as he darts from grass to tree to sidewalk until finally Tony -- whom he adores -- can get near enough to pick him up and return him to indoor safety.
The outdoor cats talk to us too. Harry Potter is the most vocal and will yell all the way down the driveway on his way to the food dish. He wants petting, he wants more petting, he wants attention and now! "Let me tell you about the day I've had," he'll say. "Don't get into that car and leave me -- I'm not done talking!"
Each cat has a very distinct personality and voice if you pay attention -- as do all animals, I believe. We love watching their quirky preferences -- Cheswick, for instance, can hear the top of a yogurt container being removed from anywhere in the house, even if he's in a deep sleep. He'll always show up to demand his share -- which, being the suckers we are, he gets. McMurphy, on the other hand, could care less about any human food. Cat food, and plenty of it, please.
Both cats adore Tony. Maybe it's because he rescued them from a dumpster, maybe it's because he has a way with any animal. At least once during any day, first one cat and then the other will sprawl across his lap and gaze adoringly into his face while purring loudly. You can hear them: "I loooooovvveee you....pettttt mmeeeeee....I loooovvveee youuuuuuu." (It's just disgustingly sweet.) They tolerate me, but I'm definitely "staff" status, not preferred, and they'll come into my lap only if the chosen one is not available.
By the time we got home on Christmas Eve it was past midnight. I can report, however, that both cats informed us that it was past our bedtime and they were not happy. We didn't need spoken words to understand exactly what they were saying -- and their pleasure when we were all tucked in also was obvious, although not in words you'd find in any dictionary. We heard them nonetheless.