I'm sure this is already a story somewhere, maybe in Africa. Apologies to whichever shaman I've plaigarized.
Once upon a time in the animal kingdom, cats had the power of speech and a full vocabulary. There was nothing they loved more than hanging out, nibbling on a basil bush, and chatting all day long. They'd talk about the weather, talk about food, but most of all, they'd talk about each other. Over time, they became cliquish. The orange tabbies hung out with the orange tabbies and gossipped about the monochromes. The calicoes considered themselves above the fray and mostly talked politics while nibbling on a very rare bit of parsley they had located and appropriated for their own use. No one knew what the long hairs talked about. Everyone assumed it was armed insurrection.
One day in the garden, things came to a crisis. One of the long hairs kept glancing over her shoulder at one of the orange tabbies who would point, and then resume gossipping with his fellows. The long hair trotted over to the knot of tabbies, bushy tail swishing back and forth. Some words were exchanged. The tone of the conversation escalated and escalated until the long hair took a swipe at the tabby with one fluffy paw that hid a set of freshly sharpened claws. Before long, the other long hairs had come rushing over, and it was a full on melee between the two groups. Following this, the black and whites got into it with the calicoes, and the skinny exotics went after the Angoras. Tufts of multi colored fur flew hither and yon. Enraged cries filled the air. Ears were torn and claws were broken, until eventually bit by bit, the fighting stopped.
There on the hill stood Coyote. He said to the now-still assemblage of felines, "So, given the power of speech, this is what you do with it? You talk and talk, each one trying for advantage over the other, each one trying to gain the greatest level of wit. For what does it matter who comes up with the best and fastest replies if it leads to no greater understanding of each other? You have ruined this gift." And with a wave of his paw, he took all their words away but one- "Meow," which in their language roughly translates to, "I want..."
Forever after, the cats would be trapped in their limber bodies, able to think, but not express themselves. Their conflicts were not wholly erased, but where before tensions would be long simmering until they boiled, now they could be solved by a hiss and a swipe. Without the crystallizing element of language, their thoughts became dull and sluggish. So now, the cats you see today, while fluffy, pleasant, and eager to please; mostly inform you about what they need and want, right now. Every now and then a flash of their former intellect will make it's way up through the evolutionary muck, but they lack the words to share this thought with you and the world. If your cat gives you a particularly questioning "Merow?" this is that little bit of their former feline selves being remembered despite the sludge of intervening generations without speech. If they do things you don't understand, they're just frustrated and seeking another way to communicate with you. So Coyote made it.
Dogs on the other hand never learned to talk because they're stupid.
which is how I explain Mallory randomly peeing on stuff. He's pissed off (literally) about something. the other day in the taxi a passenger told me it smelled like cat. "yes, I have a cat." I said. "No, I don't let him pee all over everything."
How embarrassing. I went home and washed all the clothes I was wearing, and more importantly washed the backpack I was carrying, which I was sure was the source of the odor. The next day back in the taxi and I still detect it, but try to tell myself it's all in my head. I put down the book I'm reading, Howard Zinn's fabulous manifesto, A People's History of the United States. I look at the book. I give it a whiff, and sure enough, it appears Mallory is not a fan of Mr. Zinn. I bet in a past life kitteh was a Fortune 500 CEO. I'm a little disappointed actually. This time I was sure I'd make it to the end of the book without driving myself off a cliff.