Many owners claim that their cats can talk pointing out how expressive their beautiful kittens are. And in a way they are right. Although cats do not talk like we do, they do have various forms of communication. One of their main forms of communicating is through the impressive ability of vocalization that they develop. Although, we know their body movement as their primary way of expressing themselves, one could say that their vocalization comes second. Cats emit different sounds that, depending on the context, can have different meanings.
If you want to learn and better understand your feline, in this article we cover 11 sounds that cats make and their meanings.
How many sounds can a cats emit?
It is difficult to answer the question of how many sounds cats can emit, even for some experts in feline ethology. Currently, it is estimated that cats can emit more than 100 different vocalizations. However, there are 11 sounds that are most used by felines in their daily communication.
It is important to highlight that each feline is a unique and singular individual, therefore, each household can have its own “dictionary of cat sounds”. That is, each cat can use different sounds to get what they want. They will also use these different sounds to communicate their emotions, thoughts and moods to other members of their environment.
1. Meow sound meaning
The Meow is the most common sound which a cat emits. The ‘Meow’ is also the sound cats use more directly to grab the attention of their owners. There is no simple translation of the ‘Meow’, the possibilities are very broad. However, by the tone frequency and intensity of this sound we can interpret more or less what a cat is trying to say. One must also notice the body language of their cat, body language plus the released sound, will work together to help make meaning of what the cat is trying to say.
If your cat keeps meowing in the same pattern for a long time and is sitting or standing near its feeding trough, it is very likely that it is asking for food to satisfy its hunger. If a cat is meowing near a door or a window, it most likely means they want to go outside. If a cat is meowing excessively and grunting with a tense body posture, we can assume the cat is stressed, feeling aggressive or angry. In addition, cats in heat also emit a very specific meow.
2. A cat purring meaning
The purr is characterized as a rhythmic sound emitted in low volume, which can have different frequencies. Although the purring of domestic cats is famous, wild cats also vocalize this characteristic sound. Felines purr for different reasons, according to their age and their experience.
A “mother cat” uses purring to soothe her kittens during labor helping to guide her kittens during their first days of life. Kitten’s eyes have not yet opened when they are just born, therefore they need to follow the sounds of their mothers purr to know where she is. Kittens vocalize this sound when they feel pleasure in suckling breast milk and when they are afraid of unknown stimuli.
In adult cats, purring occurs mainly in positive situations, where the feline feels comfortable, relaxed or happy, such as during eating or being caressed. However, purring is not always synonymous with pleasure. Cats can purr when they are sick, feel vulnerable or are in a threatening situation.
3. Cat chirping
The trill or chirp is a sound where the cat emits a sound with its mouth closed. It is an ascending and very short vocalization, of less than 1 second. In general, this sound is more used by cats and their kittens, to communicate with each other during lactation and weaning. However, adult cats can also “chirp” to greet their loved ones in a friendly way.
4. Cat snort
Felines use snorts as a form of self-defense. They open their mouths completely and exhale sharply. They do this to frighten potential predators or other animals that invade their territory and threaten their well-being. Sometimes, the air is expelled so quickly that the sound of the snorting is very similar to that of spitting. It is a very peculiar vocalization of felines. This sound can begin being emitted from a cat’s 3rd week of life, specifically when it is feeling threatened.
5. Cat mating call
When the mating and breeding season arrives, almost all animals with vocalization abilities emit “sexual calls”. In cats, males and females intensely vocalize a prolonged lament to communicate their presence and attract their partners. Males can also emit this sound to warn other males of their presence in a certain territory.
6. A grunting cat
A grunting cat is a warning signal that cats emit when they are angry or stressed and do not want to be disturbed. These vocalizations can be short or prolonged, but the meaning remains the same. If your cat growls at you, it is better to respect its space and leave it alone. However, if they do this frequently, it is essential to consult your trusted veterinarian, as this may be a symptom of illness. Cats, if grunting excessively, could be doing this to express pain.
7. My cat is crying out in pain
This is similar to the grunt. Cats emit a scream when they get hurt or when they have just finished mating. If you notice that your cat might be hurt, we recommend taking your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible to make sure they are healthy and okay.
8. Cat distress call
A distress call is vocalized almost exclusively by kittens during their first weeks of life. These calls simply translate to “mom, I need you”. The sound is similar to a meow, but a kitten emits it very sharply and at a very high volume to communicate urgency or imminent danger. They release this sounds if they are trapped, very hungry, cold, etc.
9. A howling and screaming cat
These howls and screams are high-pitched and prolonged that kind of appear as the “next step” after growling. This sound is release when grunting doesn’t work, and the cat still feels bothered. At this level, the intention is no longer to alert, but to threaten the individual. It is somewhat of a summoning for a fight. These sounds are more common among unsterilized adult male cats.
10. Cackling of cats
cackling is the popular name for the type of acute vibratory sound that cats emit. At the same time as this vibration, there is a jaw trembling that takes place. This sound is emitted in situations when extreme excitement and frustration are mixed, for example: when observing a possible prey through glass.
11. Cat murmur sound
The sound of the murmur is very special and resembles a mixture of purring, grunting and meowing. In addition to being pleasant to the ears, a murmur also has a nice meaning. This sound is released to show gratitude and satisfaction for having received a meal or a pleasurable caress.