Last updated: June 26, 2017
Before I had a cat myself, I thought cats could only meow and purr – poor little things! They really can’t say much at all, I thought, unlike dogs, who can bark, growl, whine and howl at the moon – noisy blooming things! How wrong I was! This little carnivore is perfectly designed to stalk its preferred prey, usually birds, mice, and rats, and it has the teeth to finish the job. Cats can make over thirty different noises – twenty more than a dog – but it’s not really known what their purpose is. As usual, they are mysterious, inscrutable, and COOL! Let’s examine some!
Different Cat Noises
Duh! Dogs bark, cows moo, lions roar and cats meow! Everybody knows that. This is the signature noise of a kitty-cat. But did you know that cats seldom meow to each other? The only meowing that takes place among cats is between kittens and their mothers. When we own cats we stunt their behavioral growth and because we are too stupid to answer to smells or body language they meow because we have made them into overgrown kittens! If your kitty is meowing too often, though, he may be trying to tell you something, especially if he’s showing other signs of distress. Vet time!
No need to explain this one! Cats purr when they are contented, but it’s a little-known fact that purring de-stresses a cat and may even heal it. It could be described as a survival mechanism since a cat purrs when it is injured or sick. But it certainly makes me feel good!
Usually, cats trill to say hello, to both us and to other cats, but it’s my cat’s response to a tin of tuna! Cats learn to trill from Mommy, who uses it as a way of getting her litter together and making them follow her. If he trills and looks at you then starts to walk away, then turns back and looks again, he’s probably saying: “follow me, human. My bowl’s empty.” If it continues, however, it could be a sign that your cat is sick or hurt, so get the vet on it!
Cats hiss as a warning, and there are some theories that speculate it’s to imitate the noise of a snake, and most creatures will run a mile from one of those. A cat’s hiss means that he’s scared but, on the basis that attack is the best form of defense, he’ll bring out the claws, paws, and jaws if necessary! Cats hiss when they are feeling threatened, and the best policy is just to let them get on with it till they calm down.
Usually when an animal of any kind growls it’s a warning. It means: “don’t mess with me, human. I have teeth and claws and I’m not afraid to use them!” Mine growls at me if I try to take his prey away after a successful night’s hunting in the garden. It’s a long, low moaning sound and because I know the little so-and-so is an absolute marshmallow I take no notice at all, but there are cats who will follow through, so beware! Cats also growl to tell other cats who’s the boss!
Oh dear. No doubt you have heard the noise of the cats’ choir at 3am, so you’re familiar with this distressing sound. It’s distressing principally because it sounds like a baby crying. Cats use this form of vocalization for various reasons. The female in season will call for a mate by using this sound and will continue to do this as long as she’s unspayed. Since a female goes into heat every 2 – 3 weeks if unneutered it’s best to have her seen to as soon as possible. Another possibility is that your older cat is frustration because of disorientation in the first stages of dementia. Poor kitty!
Cats will often make a “Beep! Beep! Sound to get your attention – a bit like a cut-off meow. Sometimes it means “feed me,” and sometimes “pick me up, please.”
If you had a tail and some big clumsy human stood on it, you’d also scream. Other reasons for screaming are extreme stress, thirst, hunger, and fear. Many cats won’t go as far as screaming but will vocalize in other ways. If your cat is screaming because he wants your attention, deny it otherwise you’ll encourage bad behavior.
There is one situation in which actual screaming very definitely takes place and is completely understandable. If you are a female cat and you want to have kittens the most dreadful torture awaits you! The mature tomcat actually has barbs, like tiny little fish hooks, on his penis. This obviously means that once it’s in it’s very difficult to get it out again. Add to that the fact that this feline Casanova begins his courtship by biting her neck and you can see why I say “torture.” The barbs are there to stimulate ovulation because the female only ovulates during intercourse. It also stops her escaping! Well, I ask you ladies – wouldn’t you want to escape too? You can stop the torture by castrating your male before puberty at about six months old.
Chatter and Chirp
This has got to be the weirdest noise a cat makes! It usually it happens if your cat is sitting on a windowsill looking at birds – it’s hysterically funny! Why does my cat chirp, though? It is often used by a female to call her kittens, and as a friendly greeting from a cat to another cat or human. It’s been speculated that it’s a noise of frustration that he can’t get his teeth into those juicy little bird necks or an expression of over-excitement. Some people think that they’re actually talking to the birds in anticipation of the hunt, to lull them into a false sense of security! Yet another theory about chirping is that they are anticipating the hunt when they see the birds the way Pavlov’s dogs used to salivate at the ringing of a bell to signal that food was coming. In other words, bell = food, cat = hunt and therefore food. Nobody really knows for sure, but, like purring, it’s one of those peculiar cat things, and it’s absolutely one of the best things about cat ownership.
If you’re reading this page, chances are you’re owned by a cat. It has been scientifically proven that you are more intelligent than a dog owner, (absolutely true!) but who cares? From chirping to purring to screaming, cats make adorable noises and that’s one of the reasons we love them!