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12 Cat Noises and What They Mean

Cats are masters of communication, but not always with words. They rely on a rich vocabulary of meows, purrs, and other sounds to express themselves. Understanding these feline vocalizations can help you decode your cat’s mood and needs.

From the friendly meow to the hair-raising yowl, each noise offers a window into your cat’s world.

Why Do Cats Meow?

Cats meow primarily to communicate with humans, expressing a range of needs and emotions. Unlike other vocalizations, adult cats typically do not meow at each other, reserving this sound for interactions with people.

Cats meow to signal hunger, ask for attention, indicate discomfort, or simply to greet their owners. The tone, pitch, and frequency of a meow can provide clues about what the cat is trying to convey.

For instance, a high-pitched, short meow might indicate excitement or a friendly greeting, while a prolonged, low-pitched meow could signal annoyance or demand.

Understanding the context and variations in meowing helps cat owners better respond to their pet’s needs and build a stronger, more communicative relationship.

Some Main Sounds Cat Makes and What They Mean

1. Meowing

Meowing is the most common cat noise and is primarily used for communication with humans. Unlike other vocalizations, adult cats typically do not meow at each other. Cats meow to express a variety of needs or desires, such as hunger, attention, or discomfort.

The tone, pitch, and frequency of a cat’s meow can give clues about what it is trying to convey. For instance, a short, high-pitched meow might indicate excitement or greeting, while a prolonged, low-pitched meow could signal annoyance or demand.

2. Purring

Purring is a soothing sound that cats make by vibrating their vocal cords. While purring is often associated with contentment and relaxation, cats also purr when they are in pain, frightened, or even close to death.

Purring has a therapeutic effect and can promote healing in cats. The vibration frequencies of purring may help in the healing of bones and tissues, reduce pain, and alleviate breathing problems.

3. Hissing

Hissing is a defensive noise that cats make when they feel threatened or scared. It’s often accompanied by body language such as arching the back, puffing up fur, and flattening the ears.

Hissing serves as a warning to other animals or humans to stay away. This noise is a clear indicator that a cat feels cornered or frightened and needs space.

4. Chirping

Chirping, also known as chattering, is a unique sound cats make, typically when they are observing birds or other prey through a window. This sound is believed to be a mix of excitement and frustration, as the cat sees potential prey but cannot reach it.

Some experts think chirping may be an instinctual behavior, mimicking bird sounds to attract prey.

5. Trilling

Trilling is a high-pitched, rolling sound that cats often use as a greeting or to get attention from their owners. It is a sign of affection and contentment. Mother cats frequently trill to communicate with their kittens.

When your cat trills at you, it’s usually a friendly gesture inviting interaction or expressing happiness to see you.

6. Growling

Growling is a deep, guttural noise that cats make when they are angry, scared, or feeling threatened. It’s a clear warning to stay away. Growling can be directed at other animals or humans and is often a precursor to more aggressive behavior if the threat does not retreat. Understanding growling can help prevent confrontations and injuries.

7. Yowling

Yowling is a loud, drawn-out cry that is often associated with cats in heat. However, cats also yowl to communicate other distress signals, such as feeling lonely, disoriented, or in pain.

Senior cats may yowl due to cognitive dysfunction. It’s important to pay attention to yowling as it may indicate that your cat needs attention or medical care.

8. Caterwauling

Caterwauling is an eerie, wailing sound that cats make, often during mating season or when they are in distress. This sound is louder and more intense than regular yowling.

It can also occur when cats are engaging in territorial disputes or feeling extreme fear. Caterwauling is a sign that the cat is experiencing strong emotions.

9. Snarling

Snarling is an aggressive sound that is usually accompanied by baring teeth and defensive posturing. Cats snarl when they are extremely threatened and ready to defend themselves.

This noise serves as a final warning before a physical confrontation occurs. It’s crucial to respect this vocalization to avoid escalating the situation.

10. Murmuring

Murmuring is a soft, rhythmic sound that cats make, often when they are relaxed or being affectionate. This sound is less common and is typically heard when cats are close to their owners, similar to the sound a mother cat makes when nurturing her kittens.

It’s a comforting noise that indicates a strong bond between the cat and its human.

11. Bleating

Bleating is a unique, sheep-like sound that some cats make, especially breeds like the Siamese. It’s usually an expression of excitement or eagerness, often heard when the cat is about to be fed or is playing. This sound is less common but can be quite distinctive and endearing.

12. Chuffing

Chuffing is a sound made by some big cats and, occasionally, domestic cats. It’s a soft, breathy snort used as a greeting or to express contentment. Chuffing is rare in house cats but can sometimes be heard in friendly interactions, particularly in breeds known for their vocal nature, such as Bengals.

Why do Cats Make Weird Noises?

Cats make a variety of weird noises as a form of communication and expression. Each sound serves a distinct purpose, whether it’s directed towards humans, other cats, or their environment. For instance, meowing is primarily used to communicate with humans, signaling needs such as hunger, attention, or discomfort.

Purring often indicates contentment, but can also signal pain or distress. Hissing, growling, and snarling are defensive or aggressive noises that warn others to back off.

Chirping and chattering usually occur when a cat spots prey it cannot reach, expressing frustration or excitement. Trilling and murmuring are friendly sounds often used in greetings or to express affection.

Yowling and caterwauling, which are louder and more intense, often occur during mating or when a cat is distressed. Understanding these noises helps cat owners respond appropriately to their pet’s needs and emotions, fostering better communication and a stronger bond.

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