Did you know that cats meow to people, but not to other cats?
Ever wondered what you cat is trying to tell you? Understanding your cat is an important part of your relationship. By looking at their vocal patterns, you can begin to recognise your cat’s communication techniques. Explore the meaning behind your cat’s meow and find out what they’re trying to tell you.
What does meowing mean?
Cats speak to each other through scent, facial expression, complete body language and touch. Meowing however is a language developed exclusively for humans. The only meowing done amongst cats is done between a mother and her kittens. Kittens use their tiny meows to get attention from their mother, which is why once they’re grown, the meows stop.
Cats meow to people for similar reasons. Your cat depends on you and has learned that you do not respond to scent messages or body language. They use meowing as a way to communicate and scientists believe they have refined this language to specifically converse with humans.
What do the different sounds mean?
There are dozens of meow sounds in the cat language that vary in pitch, length and volume. A short, high-pitched meow is your standard ‘hello’, while a drawn out mrrrooowww is a demand for something like ‘open the door NOW’. By paying attention to the different meow sounds, you’ll be able to find out what your cat's trying to say.
Pleasant sounding meows are generally used as requests for food or attention, whereas unpleasant meowing is usually reserved for demands or to express annoyance. It should come as no surprise that ‘cat people’ understand these often subtle differences in tone and pitch better than others.
Decipher your cat’s language:
Short meow or mew: Standard greeting. “Hello!”
Multiple meows or mews: Excited greeting. “Great to see you!”
Mid-pitch meow: Plea for something. “I’d like to eat.”
Drawn-out mrrroooow: Demand for something. “Open the door NOW.”
Low-pitch mrrrooooowww: Complaint of a wrong you have done. “Hey – my bowl is still empty!”
High-pitch RRRROWW!: Anger or pain. “That’s my TAIL you just stepped on!”
Is your cat a chatterbox?
Excessive meowing is often because the cat has learnt that this type of nagging behaviour will get them what they want. In this situation, the best thing to do is to ignore their cries. Your cat is used to getting what they want when they meow, so only give them food when they’re quiet. Make sure you give them plenty of attention when they are quiet and none when they meow excessively.
About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre
The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.