Cats Meowing: What Are They Telling Us?
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
When you own a cat, you become quite adept at reading her behaviors and postures. For example, if her tail forms the shape of a question mark, it means she’s ready to play, although if her tail is rapidly moving back and forth, it means she is agitated and you’d better steer clear.
Now what about her meows, how do you interpret those? Cats have the ability to make many types of sounds, all with different meanings. Continue reading to find out what your cat is trying to tell you and what all those different meows actually mean.
Why Do Cats Meow?
As kittens, meows to their mother tell her they are hungry, cold, or scared. But as they become adults, cats tend to vocalize less amongst themselves and instead communicate via scent, facial expression, body language and touch. So why do humans hear so much meowing from our cats? Because they are ‘talking’ to us! The meows of domesticated or indoor cats are geared solely towards their human owners because they are learned responses. As cats ‘talk’ to their humans, many learn that a certain type of meow might get them what they are after, be it food, affection, attention, etc.
Sounds Cats Make
Let’s take a look at the types of vocalizations cats make to find out what they mean.
- • Yowling – Adult cats usually use this form of communication during mating season, but a yowl can also mean discomfort or worry.
- • Hissing – Soft or quiet, a hiss means the cat feels threatened and is ready for a fight. Back away!
- • Growling – Similar to dogs, a growling cat means he or she is stressed, fearful or angry. A growl and hiss are often heard together.
- • Chattering – Typically heard when a cat spots a bird or squirrel outside, a cat’s chatter expresses her excitement at seeing potential prey.
- • Meowing – A communication technique solely for humans, used to tell us hello, I’m hungry, I want to play, or that something is wrong.
It’s been said that shorthaired cats are more talkative than longhaired cats, and certain cat breeds are predisposed to be more vocal than others (Siamese and Burmese cat owners are well aware of this). Since every cat is different, it’s important to monitor your cat’s vocalizations and look out for changes in behavior. If your cat’s meowing becomes excessive or abnormal, take her to the vet to determine if there is an underlying health issue that is making her uncomfortable.
By paying attention to what your cat is saying, you will soon identify vocal patterns that will help you correctly interpret her message. You’ll no longer have to question your cat’s meowing and will be rewarded with purrs and leg rubs from your furry friend.
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