August 20, 2010

Deciphering Meows: What Is My Cat Trying to Say?

Filed under: Cat behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:44 am

feline stressWhile humans obviously rely on language to communicate, other members of the animal kingdom use a range of calls that help them to communicate.  This is also true for your cat.  While you may think that a “meow” is a meaningless sound, there are a range of different meows that cats use to communicate.  In fact, if you take the time to learn them by listening very carefully to your cat, you may be able to understand exactly what your cat is trying to say.

Cats clearly communicate with each other using meows and other subtle methods of communication.  Relying mostly on body language, cats can understand messages about danger, rank, mating, and aggression.  Indeed, your cat may use a combination of posture, tail movement, eye contact, and even smells to communicate a variety of ideas.  The very astute observer may have already considered how rare it is to see cats meow at each other except in very specific circumstances.

cat meowing soundNevertheless, when attempting to communicate with humans, cats seem to exclusively use the meow in combination with certain body positions.  Depending on the tone, pitch, volume, and rhythm of the meow, your cat may be trying to tell you something different.  Over time, many cat owners become familiar with particular meows, like the one that tells you they are hungry, for example.  But here is a list of different cat vocalizations and the possible meanings associated with them.

  • The standard meow may simply be a way for your cat to get your attention and say hello.
  • Low-pitched grumble indicates danger or a perceived threat.
  • Purr or warble is used to show affection.
  • Low-pitched howl combined with purring is a sign of distress, discomfort, fear, or pain.
  • Howls denote sadness, pain, fear, or stress.

About Dr. Amber Reed

has written 281 posts in this blog.

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