Back to school: take a crash course in cat language.

Cats are incredibly talkative creatures. Did you know that they can produce over 100 different vocal sounds? Many of those sounds are types of meowing, but cats can make various other sounds too. Are you having a hard time deciphering what your cat is trying to tell you? Read on to find out!

Meow

Cats mostly meow to communicate to humans. Did you however know that cats almost never meow at other cats? Some cats are very vocal while others barely make a sound. Breeds like the Siamese are very vocal while the Persian for example is a very quiet breed. Of course, quiet Siamese cats and loud Persians exist too. Each individual is different.

There are dozens of different types of meows. Pleasant sounding meows are usually used as a friendly greeting or a request for food, while unpleasant sounding meows tend to be used as a demand, for example: open the door! Or: stay away!

Here is a short list that might help you to decode your cat’s language. However, we aren’t licensed cat translators, so your cat just might have a different way of expressing itself:

  • Short, high-pitched meow:
    greeting. “Hello, human!”
  • Multiple high-pitched meows:
    excited greeting. “Hi human! I’m so happy to see you!”
  • Regular meow:
    gentle request for something. “Can I please have a treat?”
  • Long, drawn-out mrroooww:
    demand. “Open that door NOW!”
  • Grumpy, low-pitch mmrroowwrr:
    a complaint. “My food bowl is still empty!”
  • Loud, high-pitch MMRROOWWWRR:
    anger or pain: YOU JUST STEPPED ON MY TAIL!

 

Let’s have a look at some other vocal sounds that your cat might produce:

Purr

The purr just might be the greatest sound that your cat makes. Note that not every cat purrs equally often or evenly loud. Some cats purr like a tractor, while other cats’ purr barely registers above a low gurgle.

Cats purr for various reasons. Mostly cats purr because they are happy or content. This is the purring that you hear when your cat sits in your lap or when you pet your feline. However, cats sometimes also purr when they are stressed or in pain. This is sort of a self-soothing mechanism. You can distinguish this purr from the happy purr by observing your cat’s body language.

Trill/chirp

This sound is used by kittens to attract their mom’s attention. So once the kitten grows into adulthood, it will chirp to attract your attention. It can be a greeting (hi there, human!), a declaration (look at this!), a sign of playfulness (come play with me!) or just a declaration of sheer happiness.

Chatter

The chatter occurs only in very specific situations. It is that strange noise that your cat makes when it looks outside the window and spots a bird. Cats will chatter when they are confronted with something that they desperately want to hunt but they cannot reach – usually birds.

Yowl

Yowling is pretty much the cat equivalent of howling. There are various reasons why your cat might yowl. One of these reasons is boredom, for example when you are asleep at night so your beloved feline is not getting any attention. Another reason why cats yowl is when they are feeling uncomfortable, for example when they feel scared, threatened, or when they are about to throw up.

Hiss

Contrary to poplar belief, cats do not hiss when they are angry – they hiss because they are frightened or feel threatened. Hissing is a warning for you to stay away. The best response from your end would be to leave your cat alone. If a cat hisses when you touch a certain spot on his body, please take your feline to the vet to make sure there are no health issues.

Growl

While hissing is a warning to stay away, growling is even a step worse. When a cat growls, he really means business and is ready to attack. A growl means that your cat is seriously angry and it would be best to stay away. Kittens might hiss or growl at each other when roughhousing to let each other know when the other kitten is being too rough. When adult cats growl at each other, it’s usually best to intervene before a fight breaks loose.

Caterwaul

Female cats in heat will make a sound that is called caterwauling to attract prospective mating partners. This sound is very similar to yowling, yet it sounds more hollow and is usually shorter.