The Cat’s Meow and 9 Other Sounds: What Your Cat is Trying to Tell You
Does your cat make some curious sounds? From purring to yowling to chirping, our cats are vocally gifted, and they’re not just meowing to meow—there are very clear reasons your kitty has taken the time to mew or chirp. In fact, cats primarily meow to talk to you. They don’t waste too much time meowing with other cats since they’re more astute when it comes to reading one another’s body language.
Studies show most cat owners do understand their cats pretty well. But “pretty well” amounts to about half of the time. Luckily, our cats work hard to help us get it right. A South Korean study shows that domesticated cats have higher pitched meows that are more pleasant to human ears (even though it may not always seem like it). And only domesticated cats continue to meow beyond kitten-hood.
Because your cat has been working hard to help you understand her, we wanted to give you a little extra boost to assist you in understanding your kitty’s communication.
To help you understand your kitty’s vocalizations, we put together this guide for you.
It may surprise you that wild cats only meow as kittens to communicate with their mothers, and as they age, this endearing vocalization disappears. Our housecats see us as an extension of their ‘parents,’ so they maintain this habit as they become adults. Meowing lets us know that they need food, water, attention, or for you to do something for them like open a door or help them on the bed.
As your cat gets older, you’ll notice she probably meows more frequently and with a little more distress. This is because she feels a little more vulnerable and needs a little more help. A kitten’s short meows indicate that your kitten wants to play or wants attention.
If you notice your cat meowing long distressing, repetitive meows, you may want to stop by the vet. Otherwise, long solitary meows let you know your cat is annoyed or worried.
Isn’t it lovely when your cat purrs? Of course, purring means your cat is comfy, happy, and relaxed. This soft, thrumming rumble shows that your cat is enjoying her time with you.
When your cat chirps, a short, birdlike sound, your cat is saying, “Hey! Check this out.” Mother cats use this sound with their kittens to get their attention and teach them to follow her lead.
Watch out when your cat hisses. This surely means she’s angry about something. With her ears slicked back and all of her teeth showing, a hiss can announce that she’s about to attack or swat at whatever is causing annoyance or an immediate threat. If you have a curious puppy or dog get too close to your cat, your cat will hiss, and if your pup doesn’t back up, he’ll likely end up with a scratch on his nose.
Chattering is similar to chirping but with a little vibrato. You’ll hear this sound if your cat is hunting or trying to get her prey to respond to her. Domesticated and wild cats both make this sound. Your cat may do this if she spots a bird or squirrel while peering out of the window.
The yowl is the howl of the cat world. This extended, drawn-out meow shows your cat is unhappy about something. She could be grumpy about another cat or a dog coming into her space, she could be feeling the effects of aging, or she could be indicating that she’s looking to mate. Sometimes cats yowl out of boredom, too, though.
- Trills and Chirrups
Kittens learn to trill from their mommas. This unique sound is like a rolling R with an “o” sound at the end. Cats use this sound for a multitude of reasons: from greeting other cats to expressing joy, trilling helps your cat connect to her kitten days. If your cat trills and chirrups, make sure you give her your undivided attention.
- Growl or Snarl
These may sound like your kitty is clearing her throat, but if you hear your cat snarling or growling, stand clear! These sounds mean your cat’s irritation has progressed beyond just a yowl or fearful body language to the point where she may strike or scratch whatever is bugging her.
The most blood-curdling sound cats make is the scream. This sound is unpleasant for a reason—it announces that your cat is either in a scuffle, fight, or in danger. If you hear your cat screaming, try to find her right away and eliminate any danger she faces.
How to Entertain Your Cat
— Meow for now —