It is impossible to hear the word “meow” without thinking about our furry feline friends. After all, the cat is the only creature in the world that makes this sweet and musical meowing sound.
The meow is cute and endearing, and cat owners tend to take it for granted. But why do cats meow? Have you ever wondered about the reason? What is going on in that furry little head when your cat opens her mouth to talk in her special, feline way?
The first thing to understand is that cats save most of their meowing specifically for communicating with their human companions. While kittens meow to communicate with their feline mothers, adult cats generally rarely meow at one another.
Instead, they use other types of vocalizations such as hissing and growling, and, even more importantly, body language such as softly touching one another’s noses. Cats sometimes make very sweet trilling noises. You have probably also heard cats make funny chirping noises when they watch birds.
Loud howling and yowling sometimes indicates that a female cat is in heat, or that a male cat is responsive to a female cat in heat.
But the cat’s meow? Well, the vast majority of your cat’s meowing noises are especially for you. What an honor!
Now all you have to do is decipher what they mean. Below are some of the special kitty messages your cat may be trying to give you.
The “I’m Hungry!” Meow
In your cat’s eyes, a half-filled bowl is as good as empty and she’s on the brink of starvation if you don’t fill her bowl. Pronto.
Of course, this doesn’t always mean that you should. While you should make sure that the water bowl is always full, if your cat is constantly pressuring you to hand over more food and she’s approaching cat obesity, try to divert or distract her with more playtime. This will not only distract your cat from obsessing about food, but also give her valuable exercise.
How to recognize the “I’m hungry” meow: Every cat has his or her own meow language, but the “I’m hungry” meow is usually the easiest to decipher since your cat will most likely be standing sentry by their empty food bowl or the place they know the cat food is kept to make it painstakingly clear they need to be fed. Now.
The “I Want That Now!” Meow
One of my cats, a Himalayan, was the chillest, quietest feline and rarely ever meow-ed…except for when he heard the lid of his favorite wet cat food being pulled open. No matter where in the house he was hiding, he always managed to hear the sound and would be in the kitchen in record time, eyes opened hypnotically wide and meowing the sweetest meows I’d ever heard.
And this would happen every single time. So it didn’t take long to understand the meaning behind this particular meow: sheer impatience.
How to recognize the “I want that now” meow: More melodic than usual and often accompanied by unwavering, hypnotic eye contact as if your cat is trying to hypnotize you into handing over what he wants immediately.
The “Talking to Myself” Meow
Some cats – like some humans – just like the sound of their own voices. If you’ve got an especially talkative cat breed like the Siamese, you’re going to hear a whole lot of her lectures and theories on life, cats, and everything in between.
And of course, some cats meow to themselves as a way to reassure themselves. It can be a sign of loneliness so make sure that your cat knows you are there for her, and help to build her confidence through play and cognitive stimulation (for example, through the use of puzzle feeders). Yes, cats need confidence, too!
How to recognize the “talking to myself” meow: If your cat is meowing but doesn’t seem to respond to your responses – chances are, she’s deep in conversation with herself. Audience not necessary.
The “Give Me All Your Attention!” Meow
Got an attention greedy cat? Not all cats like nor need constant attention, but if you’ve got a super social cat breed like the Abyssinian or a Siamese, her meow most likely means you should stop whatever you’re doing and pet her, play with her, or just adoringly admire her existence.
This doesn’t mean you need to quit your job, but if you’ve got an attention mongering cat on your hands, make sure to schedule in lots of time to show your cat plenty of affection and attention. Another good way to cut down on the attention seeking meows? If you’ve got a very active cat, take her for regular walks on a leash and get her an interactive cat toy or two.
How to recognize the “give me all your attention” meow: The younger your cat is, the more likely his attention seeking meows will sound sad and plaintive, little heart-breaking mews that are impossible to ignore. For older cats, look more for the frequency of meows – rapid fire, insistent meows most likely mean hey, look at me and play with me and pet me and love me.
The “Hello! I’m Happy to See You!” Meow
Some cats rub against your leg when you get home from work. Some cats ignore you completely. And others meow their greeting.
If you’ve been gone for awhile, your cat may want to vocalize how very happy they are
to finally be fed to see you by giving you a kitty hello.
How to recognize the “hello” meow: If your cat is saying hello, her individual meows may be quite short and perky. She may also meow quite a few times, in an excited way.
The “Where the H*ll are You?” Meow
Ever have those moments when you’re reading a book, watching a movie or getting some work done when you hear your cat meowing loudly in some far-off room?
You rush over, thinking Kitty has been hurt and find him calmly standing around, looking at you like “Good. You came. What took you so long?”
That’s ’cause Kitty has a certain meow designed to summon you over. After all, she has more important things to do than look for you.
How to recognize the “where the h*ll are you” meow: It’ll sound urgent, high-pitched and a little demanding, and poses two questions in one little meow – where are you and why aren’t you at my side?
The “I’m Feeling Stressed” Meow
Yes, it’s true: cats get stressed. It may not be obvious since she lives on kitty treats and 16-hour sleep days, but cats are sensitive creatures, and there are many different possible roots of such stress.
Some of these include moving house, changes to the house (such as dramatically moved around furniture or decoration), loss of a person to whom the cat was attached, and a human’s illness. Once you have figured out what the root of your cat’s stress is, you can go about trying to help you cat in adjusting to the changed circumstances.
It is also very important to ensure that your cat has lots of affection, attention, and quiet time. These things will help to calm your cat, and sooth her feelings.
How to recognize the “I’m stressed” meow: A longer, more plaintive-than-usual meow can mean your cat is stressed, worried or anxious. Also look for other signs of cat stress like excessive licking or grooming as well as other abnormal behavior accompanying the meows.
The “I’m Lonely!” Meow
Contrary to the usual stereotypes, cats need lots of interaction and can feel very lonely when you are away. Make sure to enrich your cat’s life in fun, positive ways, and to give her lots of ways to keep herself occupied during the day. You can put out puzzle feeders for her to work out, and always leave toys out. Cat entertainment videos and getting a second cat can also help sooth kitty loneliness.
How to recognize the “I’m lonely” meow: Much like the attention getting meows, younger cats’ meows can sound sad and plaintive, little heart-breaking mews that are impossible to ignore. For older cats, look more for the frequency of meows – rapid fire, insistent meows most likely mean hey, look at me and play with me and pet me and love me.
The “I’m Old and a Bit Confused” Meow
Remember that cats suffer many of the same effects of aging that humans experience. Elderly cats can suffer from cognitive dysfunction and confusion. Make sure to stay sensitive to your cat’s needs. If you find that a lot of the meowing happens at night, consider using a nightlight to help your cat feel reassured and in greater control of her surroundings.
How to recognize the “old and confused” meow: If your cat is getting on in years and meows randomly at things and situations she never used to give a meow over, the chances are it’s likely she’s just a bit confused. But it can be due to another, more serious cause as well…
The “I’m Not Feeling Well” Meow
If your cat is meowing more than she usually does, or if her meows seem more urgent or are different in character in some way, make sure to have her checked out by the vet. Cats don’t necessarily cry out if they’re in pain – they can just as well become silent or resort to more insistent, more frequent meows.
Some possible medical causes of excessive meowing can include:
- Urination problems
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney disease
- Overactive thyroid
Those are just a few of the possible medical causes that could be behind your cat’s massive amount of meowing. Your vet will be able to examine and test your cat and find out for certain what is ailing your kitty.
You should be especially vigilant when it comes to elderly cats since excessive meowing can be a result of an overactive thyroid or kidney disease. Make sure to clear any strange meowing patterns with you vet just to be sure.