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Meow! What Is Your Cat Trying To Tell You?
Cat Psychology

Meow! What Is Your Cat Trying To Tell You?

Most of the time, cats communicate their feelings to us through body language. On some occasions, however, cats let us in on their world with c****at sounds. But, when your kitty meows, chirps, purrs or yowls, do you really know what they're trying to tell you? To help you out, here is your crash course in Cat!

"If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much." – Mark Twain.

Cat sounds

Although cats tend to be rather secretive and mysterious, they do like to vocally express their feelings more commonly than we tend to believe. In fact, cat vocalization is so complex that, next to birds, they possess the widest range of vocalizations among all house pets. So, if you listen to your kitty more closely, you may be able to begin unraveling the complexity of its language.

The most common cat sounds are meows, purrs, hisses, chirps, growls, and yowls. Don't let yourself be tricked, though! Your cat is very well capable of making a lot more and distinct sounds to reflect her feelings too. The good news is that most of the time, you will be able to decipher your cat's emotional state by analyzing their body language, as well as the sounds they make. To help you get started, here are a few things you need to know about each of the basic cat sounds.

a close up of a cat with its mouth open
a close up of a cat with its mouth open

1. Meow

Interestingly enough, meowing in adult domestic cats seems to be a sound reserved for communications with hoomans, not with other cats. Wild cats first start meowing as kittens, which is how they for their mother. As the kittens grow up and mature, they eventually stop meowing completely.

In domestic cats, however, this juvenile vocalization doesn't fade away with age, possibly because we treat them as our eternal offspring and they remain dependent on us forever. Thus, domestic cats continue meowing or us whenever they need something; food, attention or assistance. They also often use meowing as a way to greet us.

The tone and length of a cat's meow seem to be connected with particular needs. Some cats use short, sharp sounds when they're asking for food, while long meows often indicate annoyance or worry. Constant meowing can sometimes indicate anxiety, illness of injury; especially if it's out of your cat's ordinary behavior.

2. Purr

Purring might just be the World's most favorite cat sound! A soft, deep, rumble purr is sure to melt anyone's heart! Cats often purr to express contentment and enjoyment, usually while they're enjoying a nice scratch or a cozy nap on the warm spot. However, purring is not always necessarily the expression of a positive emotional state. Sometimes, cats can also purr because they're annoyed, agitated or they're in pain due to injury or disease. Other times, purring is just one of many ways your cat is demanding your attention.

Did you know that purring aids your body? "Recent research has shown that the soothing sounds of a kitty can aid your body […] because their purrs fluctuate between 20-140 Hz, a frequency range which has been proven to be medically therapeutic." - explained Kelli Bender. Purrs help lower stress, blood pressure, effects of dyspnea and depression. They promote healing of infections, bones and muscles.

a white kitten laying on top of a red pillow
a white kitten laying on top of a red pillow

3. Chatter and chirps

Chattering is one of the more interesting and puzzling cat sounds. Cats often chatter their teeth (thus making the 'chattering' sound) when they're watching birds or rodents. Chattering can be accompanied by low chirping or even squeaking. It remains unclear why they do this exactly, but there are a few theories out there. Some behaviorists believe this to be a sign of built-up frustration in cats, as they remain unable to jump out and – catch that birdie. It is also possible for this behavior to be a way to prepare jaw muscles for the prey killing.

4. Chirps and chirrups

Chirps are also bird-like vocalizations, but it's a slightly more exciting sound than chattering. Cats usually chirp and chirrup when they're excited or provoked about something, often small prey. It might also be a result of frustration build-up, similar to chattering. Mother cats also often chirp when they are trying to get the attention of her kittens too.

5. Hiss

We are all very well familiar with a cat's hissing sound. Hissing is a threatening sound, which a scared cat uses in an effort to intimidate the source of fear. Hissing is nearly always accompanied by very obvious changes in the cat's body language. A scared cat will have ears flattened to the back of the head, eyes wide open and pupils dilated and round.

Cats generally find direct eye contact threatening. The more fearful the cat, the wider the eyes and the pupils. The cat may either try to escape or stand very still. The tail is held under the body or waving from side to side in a threatening mode. While scared cats will often hiss, some may also remain quiet. Hissing can be accompanied by spitting and clawing too. It is very important to offer a place to hide for scared cats, or even a chance to go to a higher position.

a gray cat standing on top of a green table
a gray cat standing on top of a green table

6. Growl

Growling, often accompanied by hissing and snarling, is a threatening sound. Cats often growl to assert territory or express anger. It can also indicate that your cat is scared, thus trying to intimidate the immediate threat. A growling cat will express similar signs of fear, as described above.

7. Yowl

Yowling is a distinctly stretched-out meow, and it's usually associated with discomfort or worry. Unlike meowing, yowling is often used for communications between two or more cats. Cats yowl when they're trying to assert territory, when they're expressing worry, concerns or discomfort toward something in the environment, typically another cat. It can also be a call for mating. Some cats also like to yowl out of boredom. While newly adopted cats often yowl extensively, constant yowling can be a concerning sign, and the cat should be checked for other signs of illness or injury.

8. Caterwaul

Caterwaul is the female's call for mating. This sound is the hollow version of yowling, and it's the way in which your queen is calling out to prospective bachelors. Caterwauling cats will often do everything in their pawer to get out of the house and meet up with the boys too. So, if you didn't spay your kitty yet and you don't want a litter right then and there, then make sure to keep her inside.

9. Scream

Cat screaming can be a rather disturbing sound. Typically, cats scream when they're in the middle of a fight. Fighting cats will typically make long yowling sounds, followed up by screams. Female cats will also scream during intercourse. While female cats will willingly assume to the intercourse, once the mating process starts, the male's penis will create pain for the female, thus causing her to scream in pain and discomfort.

Why are some cats more talkative than others?

While all cats occasionally express their feelings vocally, it is noticeable that some kitties are particularly more or less talkative than other cats. Interestingly enough, as in many other aspects, your cat's breed seems to be closely associated with its vocalization as well. While Abyssinians are thought to be one of the quietest cats out there, the royal Siamese are in the lead for the title of the World's Chattiest Cats. Here is the list of the top ten chattiest cat breeds.

a siamese cat playing with a baby cat
a siamese cat playing with a baby cat

Hopefully you found this guide helpful for understanding the ‘cat’ a little better. Share with us your experiences about your cat’s body language and cat sounds and help us all learn more! Don't forget to check out our guide through cat body language too!

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