A Guide to Understanding Cat Sounds

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Cat sounds can mean a variety of things as they have a wider audio repertoire than dogs. If you live with a cat, it's important to know what they are trying to communicate to you or other pets in your house.

Interpreting the Meow

The most common cat sound is the "meow." However, this is a sound adapted more to domestic living. Kittens use it frequently to indicate they need their mother's help, but in the wild, the meow usually goes away as the cat gets older.

However, cats in domestic homes use it frequently, usually for attention. A higher-pitched meow usually means your cat wants pets, food, water or a game. By watching your cat's body language, you can determine which of those he's trying to communicate to you. He may even use different meows for each request.

A lower-pitched meow usually means that the cat is agitated or frightened. You will often hear this sound when you take your cat to the veterinarian.

Interpreting the Purr

The origin of the purr isn't completely understood, but it is commonly thought to be made by rapid contractions of the larynx muscle. Purring is most commonly associated with a content cat who enjoys whatever he is doing.

However, sometimes cats purr when they are agitated. You can tell the difference by observing your cat's body language. If his ears are back, pupils wide and body taut, he is agitated. If he is struggling to get away from you, he is probably not enjoying the handling.

Fighting Sounds

Cats make a lot of noise when they are fighting or frightened. These usually take the form of hisses, growls, howls or screams. Cats use these vocalizations when they are feeling threatened to warn the offender to back away. If these warnings are not heeded, cats will often attack. This is a good warning when you are handling a strange cat or attempting to place unfamiliar cats together.

A long, forlorn scream or howl can also mean the cat is in pain. However, many cats don't vocalize pain since this is a sign of weakness that may get them attacked in the wild.

Hunting Sounds

When a cat is hunting prey, he will make a chattering sound with his teeth, as if he cold, when he is nearing his prey. Many indoor cat owners may never hear this sound since their cats don't get to hunt. However, you may hear it if your cat spots a bird through the window. It may be accompanied by slight chirps.

Silent Cats

If your cat doesn't make much noise, that's not necessarily a cause for concern. Many cats who haven't grown up in a home are quiet, and some breeds of cats are just less "talkative" than others. However, if your cat was once very vocal and now isn't, it may indicate a health problem and should be checked by your veterinarian.

Cats have many means of communication, only few that relate to humans. However, it's important for you to understand your cat's sounds so that you know how to properly respond when you hear them.


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