Feline owners are often perplexed by the sounds their kitties make. Sometimes, it seems as if they are just trying to say a warm hello. Other times, the meowing has a frustrating tone to it, even though the kitty couldn’t be happier. Thus, it’s high time we delved further into the matter and answered one huge burning question: what do cat meows mean?
Some cats, like most foreign breeds and the siamese, are quite talkative and always have something to say to their owners. Other kitties, such as Persians, tend to be quiet most of the time. Still, if you have a cat, you definitely would want to know whether it needs something — so let’s see what those vocalizations are all about.
What do cat meows mean to humans?
Weirdly enough, cats don’t necessarily use meowing to communicate with other cats. They primarily use meows to talk to humans, either to ask them for something or to express their frustration. In essence, they are so smart that they know we cannot understand their other vocalizations.
So, by default, they resort to all sorts of trills, meows, hisses, etc., to help us know exactly what they need. That, in turn, helps us at least know something is going on with the cat.
However, the problem is — most meowing is so subtle that it’s difficult to determine the exact meaning. Furthermore, all cats have different nuanced variations, so we really have to pay attention and notice all the changes in the tone. Still, by definition, there are four broad categories of meows:
- Vowel patterns, i.e., meowing in all its glory
- Frustrated chirps and chatter
- Angry, warning hisses and growls
- Soft purrs and trills — a bit like murmur.
We’ll talk a bit about these, but also mention some other types of meows, like chirrups, that might have left you wondering if your cat is happy or plotting revenge against you.
What do cat meows mean: Different sounds kitties make
Now, there are plenty of meows cats use, but the regular kind that we most often hear (no particular menacing or excited tone) tends to be used when the cat wants some attention. Additionally, cats will softly meow when they want to let their owners know they need some food. In that case, bring them food as soon as possible, as the meowing can and will get more frustrated as the cat grows hungry.
On an entirely different note, meowing is sometimes a sign of a lonely or sick cat. If the cat needs us to pet it, it will let out a shorter meow. Then, if we ignore it, it might prolong it a bit so that we get the message. It will seem as if it’s trying to say, “Come on, now, you know you want to cuddle me!”
On the other hand, older cats tend to meow desperately due to anxiety. Given they are not as flexible as before or able to do all the things younger cats can, it’s fairly understandable why they’re “meowing.”
What do cat meows mean — predatory and mating sounds
Cats often chatter because they’re predatory animals. If we see a cat watching an animal from afar, and it cannot get to it for some reason, it’s bound to chatter for a bit.
Chatter usually sounds a bit strange. The cat chatters its teeth, which is quite different from regular meowing. Most of the time, it sort of sounds like a rodent or a bird call — but it depends on the cat itself.
Whatever the exact sound might be, expect cats to chatter their teeth when they’re excited about getting an animal but cannot seem to find a way to spring into action. More often than not, this sound has a frustrated tone to it.
Regular meowing isn’t at all a reason for concern, as cats will most likely yowl if they’re in extreme distress. They will produce a long moan full of frustration that is almost like something we would produce when we’re sad or worried. However, figuring out the reason they’re yowling is a bit tricky.
Yowling isn’t only reserved for mating. Sure, a cat will yowl to say she needs to mate as soon as possible. But, she can also yowl if she’s uncomfortable or wants someone to stay away.
That’s why it’s crucial to check with a vet why your cat might be yowling. Sometimes, they even yowl out of boredom, but you mustn’t rely on that notion. If the cat is extremely sick and her health has started to deteriorate, it will yowl long and hard.
Caterwaul is a sound that’s quite similar to a yowl, but it’s a bit shorter and a lot more hollow-sounding. We often hear it during the mating season, as unspayed cats are desperate to get a bit of male attention. So, they’ll produce this sound until someone shows up. In return, the males often start yowling and try to get to the lovely furry lady.
Once the male finds his female counterpart, the mating begins, which is when we can often hear a cat scream. Sometimes, it eerily sounds like a child screaming and has kept many people up at night, wondering what on Earth was going on outside.
But why do cats scream? Are they in pain? Technically — yes. You see, male cats have barbed genitalia. They aren’t born with them, and won’t develop barbs if they get neutered before they’re six months old.
The purpose of having barbed genitalia is quite simple — female cats don’t ovulate before intercourse. So, the barbs are actually quite useful for “stimulating” the female. These make her release an egg!
Unfortunately, the whole process is quite painful for female cats, which is why they scream. Additionally, the barbed genitalia prevents the cat from escaping, proving yet again how strange nature is.
What do cat meows mean — Friendly sounds
Of course, cat owners all over the world know that the ultimate goal is to make their cats purr with joy. Purring is a sure sign the cat likes us and would like us to never stop cuddling it. It’s a hypnotic rumbling sound that sort of feels as if the kitty is vibrating.
Still, in some cases, purring can also be a sign of agitation. Sometimes, cats get quite nervous, so they will tense up and purr. However, in order to differentiate good purring from bad, we have to pay attention to its ears. If the ears are back, tension is rising. If not, just keep stroking that coat!
Chirrups, chirps, and trills
We’ve put all of these sounds together, as they all sound as if your cat has suddenly transformed into a bird. Kittens learn how to trill, chirrup, and chirp in their childhood, as their mothers often use these sounds to make them pay attention.
To that end, cats, later on, produce the same ones to make us notice them. Additionally, these sounds may also signify the cat is happy about something, excited, or would like to show us something interesting (mostly frustrating chirps).
All in all, these cute utterances aren’t menacing or a sign we should leave the cat alone. In fact, trills usually mean the cat is saying a friendly hello. The sound is somewhere in between a purr and a meow.
What do cat meows mean — dangerous sounds
Hissing, snarls, and growls
Most of the time, stray cats are the ones that love hissing at strangers and showing they will fight them off if they approach them. However, if your domesticated cat is hissing at either you, your children, or your other pets, it’s a sign that they are threatened. Something in your body language probably doesn’t suit them. On the other hand, if you have a dog, it’s fairly obvious why the cat is hissing.
Of course, hissing is easy to recognize, as it sounds as if we’ve just lit up the barbecue. Additionally, it comes with a vast array of other body language signs we ought to be mindful of. Cats usually arch their backs and flatten their ears when they’re hissing. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon to see that their hair is all puffed and that they’ve prepared their fangs for whatever danger that’s coming their way.
To protect themselves, cats might also add a few other sounds to their repertoire to make the hissing all the more dangerous. Though not as menacing as the growls a tiger or lion would make, snarls and growls are quite common. They have a higher pitch and could mean that the cat is angry, scared, or even territorial.
Whatever the reason may be, though, a hissing, growling cat should be left alone. Unless it’s our cat and we have to feed it or something else, we ought to step away and let the animal cool off.
What do cat meows mean? As it turns out — a lot of things!
To be perfectly honest, each cat is different, and there are many variations of all these meows. However, knowing at least the basics will allow you to . After all, cats are quite different from dogs, and they have a whole repertoire of not just sounds but moods as well! Although this is by no means a list of ALL the sounds a cat could make, now you do have some information and will be able to recognize what your kitty wants.