The Cat’s Meow

“Newly Adopted Kitten” by Ben N (CC BY 2.0)

A small kitten will meow at its mother to signal to her that he is hungry or cold. But as he grows his meows will change to the more advanced manners of communication such as tail and ear flicking that older cats do. Adult cats do not meow at each other. They will hiss, growl, or yowl at one another to indicate anger or fear or a desire to mate. Cats have modified their behavior with humans however, since we are unable to understand the nuances of each ear twitch cats will actually meow at humans during kittenhood and throughout adulthood.

A cat’s meow is an active effort to acheive communication with humans. Often cats will meow to get attention, food, or to be let outside. They will often meow if they are lonely as well so that you spend more time with them. Cats also make other noises as well such as purring and thrilling/chirrups to indicate that they are content. Thrilling has also been suggested to be form of greeting to humans as it is a blend of a purr and soft meow. Maine Coon cats have been known to chirp at birds as well. These noises that they make are not actual communication in the sense that we think of. Humans use words to get ideas across but meows are not like that. Their tone, pitch, length, and frequncy is not exact words or demands but merely a noise they have learned will elicit a response from their owner. Through the thousands of years that cats ghave been at our side, they have evolved responses to interact with their human counterparts.

“Cat” by Stefan Muth (CC BY-SA 2.0)

So what noises can cats make? There are over 100 different noises that our feline compnaions can make. This impressive becuase dogs only make about 10 noises and cats specifically use the majority of these noises to interact with humans. Aside from mewoing, growling, hissing, purring, thrilling, and chirping, cats can also caterwaul which is a wail that they make when attempting to attract a mate. To hear these interesting noises check out this website.

Another reason a cat will meow or be vocal is when it is in pain. A cat’s pain tolerance and ego are high so if the cat is crying and groaning frequently, will not walk around or does so infrequently, is not eating/drinking, or appaers to be in distress a visit to the vet would be a a good idea. Cats meow to indicate needs, desires, fear, and pain. It is important for humans to pay close attention to and learn what they sounds and behaviors indicate so that they may interact more effectivley with their pets.

“Cats” by test_t51 (CC BY 1.0)

Housecats and ferals meow….so do large cats? Well, it depends on the species. Lions roar and purr. A tiger cannot roar or purr but they chuff. Caws are aggressive calls, such as a low growl of  a lynx that are done to fend off other lynx in their territory. This caw is an aggressive display that prevents a physical  altercation that would ultimately result in the death of one cat, it is less energetically costly to caw at a threat to estabish stregth and dominance. Lynx are also known to wail and bark. The variety of sounds that not only housecats but lareger, exotic species can make demonstrates the extensiuve evolutionary development of feline vocalization. While we may not understand every noise, cat lovers everywhere continue to learn and interact with their fluffy companions.

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