Next to birds, cats possess the widest range of vocalizations of any domestic pet. From purrs, meows, chirps, or growls, cat vocalizations are actually communication from your cat to you. If you listen closely, you just might understand what your cat is saying to you and better understand your cat’s emotional state of mind. In this article, we are going to discuss 9 different cat vocalizations your cat is saying to you and what they mean.
Meow is perhaps the most commonly heard cat sound. The meow of an adult cat is almost exclusively used to communicate with humans and rarely with other cats. As kittens, cat’s meow to get attention from their mother, but this juvenile vocalization fades away in wild cats as they mature. But our house cats tend to think of themselves as an infant forever and maintain this endearing vocalization throughout their adult lives. How lucky for us humans. So do different meows mean different things?
They actually do! For example, the frequency of meowing is an indicator of a cat’s frame of mind. A rapid-fire meow means, hey, pay attention to me, I am talking here! This could mean attention, food, or perhaps access to a room. A longer meow can indicate annoyance, worry, or objection to something. This version will usually have a throatier quality to it. Sometimes though a meow simply serves as a welcome home hello. Whereas incessant meowing could indicate illness or injury and may require a trip to the veterinarian. Lastly, a meow can also signify loneliness so try to keep your cat company.
In cat vocalizations, the purr is perhaps the most attractive cat sound, the purr is a soft, deep, throaty rumble, most often made when your cat is in a good mood. Gently petting your cat while it sleeps in your lap is a sure way to bring forth this motoring sound of utter joy. Cats may also purr when they are injured or in distress.
The key to identifying this type of purr is body posture. If your cat’s ears are back and body tense, the purr indicates concern over something. Purring acts as a way for a cat to self-soothe, feel calmer, or relieve pain. This is like a human crying or laughing to feel better. Some veterinarians have observed cats lying alongside each other and purring when one is injured. This behavior is termed “purr therapy”, but scientific studies on this subject are limited. Beyond calming an injured kitty, some limited research suggests that a purr may have bone healing properties.
Sounds crazy right? Well, domestic cats purr at a frequency of 26 hertz, the same frequency that scientists use in vibrational therapies to promote tissue regeneration. So how does vibrational therapy work? When the body is exposed to high-intensity pressure, bones and muscles become stronger. So theoretically a cat’s purr can have a healing effect.
It is thought that in their natural setting, cats spend a lot of time lying in wait to hunt, so purring stimulates the bones so they don’t become weak or brittle. Maybe your cat is trying to heal you, next time it decides to sit next to you and purr.
3) Chirp, thrill, or chirrup
Learned in kittenhood, these birdlike utterances are slightly more declarative than a meow. Originally used by mothers to tell kittens to pay attention and follow her. Your cat may chirp to get you to pay attention as a way to get you to check out something she deems important.
Chirrups and squeaky little trills might also happen when a cat is excited and happy. You might have heard your cat chatter its teeth while staring out a window at a bird or squirrel.
In cat vocalizations, the chatter is thought to be an indicator of a cat’s predatory excitement and stress of not being able to get to the prize. Some claim chatter is a mimicked bird or rodent call.
There is no mistaking what a hiss means. The sound of a steak sizzling on the grill. It means your cat feels threatened and is ready to fight if it needs to. For example, a big jolly dog may get too friendly with your feline and is sure to provoke a hiss.
Along with the threatening sound, the cat arches its back, flattens its ears, puffs its hair, tail twitching, and opens its mouth with fangs ready to strike. When your cat takes on this pose, back off, and do what you can to remove the perceived threat. Hissing depends on the individual cat’s perception and level of comfort. Some friendly and outgoing felines might hardly ever hiss, while a shyer reserved cat will resort to it whenever it is unsure of a situation. Abused, stray, or feral cats are much more likely to hiss than a well-adjusted sociable pet.
Unlike the soft sound of a meow. A yowl is a longer, more drawn-out moan that signals worry, discomfort, territorial concern, or a complaint. The yowl is often used in cat-to-cat communication. A cat can get jealous when you spend too much alone time with another cat. Cat yowls to voice her displeasure. Other reasons a cat may yowl include meeting a new cat that isn’t to its liking or relocating to a new home.
Some cats yowl out of boredom. Be sure your cat has ample toys and gets enough attention from you. Sometimes all it takes to end a case of yowls is just an extra play session each day. If your cat yowls incessantly, check for signs of illness and take your cat to the vet.
A caterwaul sound that you don’t hear too often among cat vocalizations if your cats are neutered or spayed. A caterwaul is uttered by females in heat when calling out to available mates. This abbreviated, hollow-sounding version of a yowl is quite unique.
If you ever see your cat in a fight, you may hear a few screams. These shrieks often come after a long, ominous yowl, and usually after a paw swat or vicious bite. A scream means your cat is angry or afraid.
9) Snarls and Growls
Often accompanying the hiss are random snarls and growls. This usually indicates fear, anger, or territorial threat. If your cat is growling, leave it be unless it’s in imminent danger from another cat. A snarling or growling cat will have the classic defensive body posture – puffed-up hair, arched back, ears back, and tail twitching.
By taking the time to learn about cat vocalizations, you can better predict your cat’s mood, intentions, and needs. As a result, you and your cat will build a stronger bond. So the next time your cat starts meowing, take a moment to listen and see if you can figure out what it’s trying to say. You just might be surprised by what you learn.