My husband and I have undoubtedly yelled that word to each other more often than any other. And more often than not, the answer we get back is an equally loud “I’M TALKING TO THE CAT!”

Our house is not large, but we never can seem to hear each other — only vague language-like muttering that we think may be a sign that one of us is trying to contact the other. Often, no. It’s just one of us talking to one of the cats in another room. (Other times, of course, it is my husband talking to me or I to him. However, I have the uncanny ability to focus intently on what I’m doing and tune out any background noi…I mean speech…even mid-conversation — sorry, honey — and he just plain can’t hear me when I speak normally. So, we exchange a lot of exasperated “WHAT?!”s, followed by a pointedly soft “you don’t have to yell” or maybe a helpful “look my way when you’re talking” or “I can’t hear you when the water’s running” or just a glance rich with meaning, usually “are you still talking about that dumb thing that happened to you today?”)

When Mike and I were first dating, I used to think it so strange that he would always acknowledge his cat as he walked by. C.C. never blinked one way or the other. I’m certain he never felt snubbed if he heard no “Hi C.C.” or happy if he did. But I easily fell into the same habit. One, because the cats (now plural) are so darn cute that they merit some fawning, and two, because I work alone all day, it beats talking to myself. I also think it’s true that if you don’t have kids, your pets take up that slack — I need something to mother, and the cats are so childlike. Why just a couple of weeks ago, Julius threw up on our bed (while we were sleeping in it), and C.C. peed on me yesterday from the sheer terror of having to be crated to go to the vet. They cry when they’re hungry, come for comfort when they’re lonely, snuggle on top of us to sleep, lash out in frustration if Dad gets them all worked up before bedtime, fight over toys or turf, bug the crap out of us when they want something…the only thing they won’t ever do is grow out of any of this. Or learn to take out the garbage.

But that’s OK. We love them anyway. Especially because no matter what we say to them, how loudly, how softly, or how many times we say it, they never, ever yell “WHAT??!!”

Lots of people talk to animals….
Not very many listen, though…. That’s the problem. 
                           ~ Benjamin Hoff,
The Tao of Pooh