Have you ever wondered about the different sounds your cat makes and what they could mean? Cats communicate not only with each other, but with their humans as well.
Whether they’re feral or domesticated cats, they have a language that’s quite remarkable. They’ll tell you when they’re happy, when they’re irritated, and, sometimes, when they might need to go to the vet.
Here are just a few examples of different noises that sometimes come from your cat and the possible meanings behind them. Knowing what they mean can help you gain a better understanding of your pet. It may also help alert you if something’s wrong.
Communication In Cats And Kittens: Meowing, Purring, Hissing, And More
If you have an indoor cat, you’ve heard the noises. The meow, the purr, the hiss, the growl, and other sounds your pet makes all have a meaning. Some of these sounds are music to your ears. Others might be signs of a potential problem.
When cats meow, it’s usually because they want your attention. But meow sounds can mean different things at different times, depending on pitch and duration. Meows are usually not a form of cat-to-cat communication.
A cat’s meow is usually reserved for humans. This is especially the case with older cats.
Short meows, for instance, are often nothing more than a cat’s way of saying, “Hi.” When meowing occurs in a sort of rapid-fire fashion, your pet is probably more excited to see you than normal. When your cat is meowing in this manner, that probably means you’ve been away from home for a few hours and your cat has missed you.
If the meowing has a low pitch though, that’s likely a sign of frustration. Your cat may be a little irritated. It could be because you’re late with dinner or you’re not playing with them enough.
Meows that are high pitched and very loud can be an indication of anger or pain. The cat may be bothered by your dog, or you might have stepped on their tail by mistake.1
This is the only cat noise that occurs during both inhalation and exhalation. It’s also one of the most beautiful sounds a cat can make, and a purring cat usually means a happy cat.
There are some instances, however, where it means your cat isn’t happy at all and something is not right. A purr can mean a cat has some sort of injury. Purring is a cat’s way of helping to heal and self-soothe if they’re anxious or afraid. You’ll likely know by the context whether your pet is content of if there’s something wrong.2 If you have any concerns, its best to take your cat to the vet.
A hissing cat is an unhappy cat. Hissing means that your cat senses some sort of threat. It’s a sign of fear, but also a warning that your pet will attack if need be. When cats and dogs don’t get along, you’ll often hear cats hiss when dogs get too close.
When a cat feels really threatened, however, they will often spit. This means the cat is prepared to attack. If a cat hisses and spits and that still doesn’t eliminate the perceived threat, then a fight is probably imminent.3
Growling is another sound cats make when they are angry or want to scare off a potential threat. Kittens, as well as older cats, may growl when cornered. They’ll hunch their body and puff out their tail and the rest of their fur. A low-pitched growl is usually a warning, telling the threat it needs to back off.
If the dog or other threat moves on, then your pet probably won’t launch an attack. If it doesn’t, however, then the cat will probably take some sort of action.4
Cat Language: What Are Chirrups, Chatters, And Caterwauls?
There are other sounds that cat owners will hear their animals make on a regular basis. Chirrups, chatters, and caterwauls are just a few. Here’s a look at what each of them mean.
Chirrups, or chirps, like meows, are sounds that a cat makes when they want your attention. Your pet might want to show you something, and will stop chirping when they see you’re walking where they want you to go.
Kittens learn a version of chirrups known as trills. That’s the way they communicate with their mother.5 When a cat wants to say, “Hi” to you, they’ll typically trill. It’s almost like they’re trying to roll Rs – that’s how they sound.
Have you ever seen your Maine coon at the window with a twitching tail, making an almost tweeting like sound? That’s chattering. Your pet is probably chattering at potential prey, such as a bird. A feline is a natural hunter, of course. The chattering could be the result of a rush of adrenaline, or it could be a way to express frustration because your pet can’t get to that prey.6
The name of this noise is a pretty good description of how it sounds. Say “yowl” out loud and you’ll realize your cat has probably done it in the past. Yowling can mean a lot of different things. It could be a warning to other cats encroaching on your pet’s territory. It might be a mating call.
In some cases, it can be a sign that your pet is lonely. Cats can get separation anxiety just like dogs do.
Or it could be an indication that your cat is sick or in pain. If your cat doesn’t normally make this sound, you should take them to the vet to get checked out.
Female cats will often make a caterwauling noise when in heat. It’s similar to a yowl but typically longer lasting. Caterwauling will usually attract any male cats in the neighborhood, so make sure your female stays inside while in heat.7
This is a good time to remind you that spayed or neutered cats help keep down the population of unwanted felines.
Understanding Cat Behavior And Knowing When To See Your Cat’s Veterinarian
If your cat makes odd noises – ones they don’t usually make – that could be a sign you need to take them to the veterinarian. But there are other indications that your cat may not be feeling good.
Changes in affection – Some cats who aren’t feeling well will suddenly become either more aloof or more affectionate than normal. This is a subtle sign of a problem, so pay close attention and have your pet checked out to be on the safe side.8
Open mouth – Kittens and adult cats do not normally walk around with their mouths open. This usually means a cat is having some sort of problems breathing. If this happens to your pet, get them to the vet.9
Changes in feeding/drinking habits – If your cat isn’t eating or drinking as much as normal, this could be a sign that something is wrong. There could be a lot of reasons, such as kidney or dental issues. This is another case where you need to bring your pet to the veterinarian’s office.10
Learning To Understand Your Cat
As you can see, there are a lot of subtle ways that your cat communicates with you. Most of these sounds are endearing and a sign of feline happiness. Others can sometimes mean trouble. Be as observant as you can so that you know the difference.
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