OUR furry friends have quite an extensive ‘vocabmewlary’.
Check out some of the main categories of sounds that cats use to communicate with us and in some circumstances, with each other.
“Meow” is an all-purpose word. Your cat may be saying “meow” as a greeting, an announcement, a command or an objection. Some people have watched their cats walking around the house meowing to themselves.
Chirps and trills are how a mother cat tells their kittens to follow them. Aimed at you, it probably means your cat wants you to follow them, usually to their food bowl. If you have more than one cat, you’ll often hear them communicate with each other this way.
Purring is a sign of contentment (usually). Cats purr whenever they’re happy, even while they’re eating. Sometimes, however, a cat may purr when they’re anxious or sick, using their purr to comfort themselves, like a child sucking their thumb.
Growling, hissing or spitting indicate a cat who is annoyed, aggressive, angry or frightened. Leave this cat alone.
A howl or yowl (they sound like loud, drawn-out meows) tells you your cat is in distress – stuck, looking for you or in pain. Find your cat if they’re making this noise. However, in unneutered and unspayed cats, these sounds are part of mating behaviour. And if your cat is elderly, they may be suffering from a cognitive disorder such as dementia and may howl because they’re disoriented.
Chattering, chittering or twittering are the noises your cat makes when they’re sitting in the window watching birds or squirrels. Some experts think that this is an exaggeration of the ‘killing bite,’ when a cat grabs their prey by the neck and works their teeth through the bones to snap them.