By Alexandra Fluffy
In an evolutionary leap that biologists thought impossible only a few years ago, the common house cat (Felis domestica) has evolved into a new species, surpassing human beings in both intelligence and sophistication.
The new species (Catta sapiens or simply catta) emerged sometime in 2012–13 when human beings weren’t looking.
“Most likely it happened when people were watching the popular TV series ‘Scandal’ or ‘Duck Dynasty,’ said Sharon Mishima, formerly a Japanese Bobtail cat and now a Japanese Bobtail catta who teaches feline philology at the British Shorthair Institute in London. “Wait now for the exquisite irony. In the very same time span, people also failed to notice that they themselves had regressed 2.5 million years, once again becoming early hominids characterized by toolmaking and tree-climbing.”
With their advanced linguistic skills and knowledge of feline history, cattas have now provided the key to understanding the archaic meow language of their ancestors. "Meow" itself is a term derived from two ancient roots: the “me” or “meh” sound expresses something like the rolling of eyes in humans, while “ow” is a remnant of the early feline word “owow,” meaning hell or hellfire.
“The closest English equivalent to ‘meow’ would be ‘What the hell,’” said Mishima, then admitting to some embarrassment at using an English phrase as an example as opposed to one from her native Cattanese language. “I sometimes forget that we no longer have an English-speaking audience, as people have reverted to a system of communication dependent on yips and yows.”
Mishima elaborated on the many variations of meow as used by cats from 8000 BC to 2013 AD, when the vast majority of furry felines were enslaved by people and confined to houses.
“Meow belongs to a category of what we call ‘complaint’ languages, in which every sound, indeed every audible breath, expressed a version of the thought, ‘Why must we languish in this primitive state?’ or ‘Why are we condemned to live among these people?’ or ‘How is it that we find ourselves trapped in a condominium that looks like a showroom from IKEA?’”