If you have ever engaged a cat in conversation, you will know that it’s rarely one-sided. Even though cats cannot speak English, they will communicate with a range of meows.
Your cat thinks that you are also a cat. This means that it assumes that you can understand it. It may be saying hello, asking to be fed, or let outside. Different pitches and meows have various meanings.
Understanding what a cat’s meow means plays a big part in bonding with your pet. A language barrier may separate our species, but you can still effectively communicate with cats.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Do Cats Only Meow at Humans and Not Other Cats?
- 2 Do Some Cat Breeds Meow More Than Others?
- 3 My Senior Cat Never Meows Back at Me
Do Cats Only Meow at Humans and Not Other Cats?
It’s true that cats do not meow to each other. The one exception to this rule is mothers and kittens. Kittens will meow to get their mother’s attention, announcing that they’re cold or hungry.
Likewise, a cat will trill or chirp at their young to gain their attention. This could be a message such as, “follow me” as she leads them to food. Alternatively, it may just mean, “listen up” as she is about to impart an important life lesson.
Instead of meows, cats communicate with body language and scent markings. The position of a cat’s body and tail sends a very clear message to fellow felines. Likewise, scent says more than a thousand words. This is why cats often rub heads, or show each other their bottom.
It may look as though they are affectionate or rude. The truth is, the animals are releasing important scents. These smells provide information about the cat’s mood, health, and age.
Why Do Cats Meow at Humans?
Humans are baffling to cats. When they look at us, they see a giant, hairless cat that is strangely non-aggressive. This is why cats learn to respect and love their owners, if given enough time.
All the same, the dynamic is a little confusing for your pet. After all, you do not communicate in the same way as the other cats they know. You don’t express yourself through scent, or by positioning your tail. How on earth is your cat supposed to know how to communicate with you?
Throughout their domestication, cats have learned to meow to gain a human’s attention. Cats have developed a meow designed exclusively to manipulate humans.
If your cat hits a certain pitch, they know they can appeal to your nurturing instincts. Think that you own your pet? Think again. Your cat is a genius, and is playing you like a fiddle!
My Cat Meows Back at Me Every Time I Speak
Have you ever walked into the middle of a conversation, and wondered what was being discussed? Have you ever zoned out while people were talking, and wondered if you were being addressed? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you have insight into your cat’s life.
When you speak, your cat acknowledges this – but they have no idea what you’re saying. Cats can learn up to 100 human words, but they’ll only memorize ones they consider essential.
Use words like, “dinner” or “treat,” and your cat will likely react. Start quoting Shakespeare, however, and they’ll quickly grow bored.
All the same, your cat wants to communicate with you. It’s one of the ways that they show affection toward their owners. When a cat meows, it’s their way of answering back and keeping the lines of communication open.
Do Different Meows Mean Different Things?
As discussed, cats have carefully engineered their meows for maximum impact upon humans. It’s believed that cats create 19 different variations on the traditional, “meow” sound.
Only you will know what your cat is saying when they meow. Pets are unique, meaning that every bond with their human also varies. This summary from Modern Cat will provide guidance on your cat’s many verbalizations. In terms of meows, however, there are four main categories:
- A short, quick meow (almost a kitten-like, “mew”) is your cat saying hello. If they repeat the sound in quick succession, they’re particularly excited to see you.
- A single meow is your cat asking for your attention. Maybe they’re hungry or thirsty. Perhaps they want your attention. Maybe they need your help with something. Whatever the reason, this is your cat gaining your attention.
- A single meow followed by long, drawn-out meows is your cat escalating their request. If you did not respond to the initial meow, they would become increasingly vocal and irritable. This meow is designed exclusively to influence human emotion.
- High-pitched, ear-splitting meows mean that your cat is hurt or angry. If you just stepped on their tail, you’ll know why they made this noise. If it comes from seemingly nowhere, however, see a vet. It suggests that your cat may be sick or injured.
If you take action based upon these suggestions and the meowing stops, remember the sound. You can prevent it from becoming too persistent by acting upon it in the future. If the mewing continues, however, consider seeing a vet. Your cat may be in pain or discomfort.
Do Cats Understand Human Meows?
If you meow at your cat, the worst that can happen is that they appreciate the effort. You may not be able to make yourself completely understood, because you’re not a cat.
You speak wildly different languages, and all manner of subtleties may be lost in translation. Despite this, your cat will likely acknowledge that you are attempting to converse with them. They will probably meow back.
A cat is more likely to understand a meow that they relate to. A short, high-pitched meow will likely be responded to in kind. After all, your cat will assume that you are just saying hello.
A more elongated meow that denotes hunger may confuse your pet, though. You are the keeper of the food, after all. They will probably wonder why you are telling them.
Do Some Cat Breeds Meow More Than Others?
The sex of your cat will not necessarily affect how much they meow. There is no discernible difference between how chatty male and female cats are.
The breed of the cat, however, may have an impact. The following breeds are famous for loving the sound of their voice:
- Oriental Shorthair
- Maine Coon
- Japanese Bobtail
- Turkish Angora
All of these cat breeds make lovely pets. Just bear in mind that they tend to be vocal. If you are looking for a strong, silent pet, another breed may be a better choice. A vocal cat will commentate their entire life with meows.
My Cat Will Not Stop Meowing
Excessive meowing usually has its roots in distress. Consider any of the follow explanations for a cat being excessively verbal:
Hunger or Thirst
As discussed, your cat may start with a polite request to be fed. If they’re hungry, however, they will not stay polite for long. The meow will become increasingly drawn-out and angry the longer they have to wait.
Many cats prefer not to tell their humans when they’re sick or in pain. However, they may not any control over it. If a cat is in serious discomfort, they will let out involuntary cries.
Alternatively, they may act against their nature, informing their owner in the hope of a resolution. It’s time for a trip to the vet.
Cats give the impression of being ice-cool, but cats can be easily stressed. If something in your cat’s routine has changed, they will make their displeasure known. Soothe your cat, and try to get to the root of their anxiety.
If you allow your cat to roam, they’ll meow whenever they want to be let out. They will also meow outside the door, when they want to come back in.
A cat flap will prevent you from playing butler whenever your cat wants a change of scenery. An electronic flap can be synced to a microchip in a cat collar. This will prevent strays and other neighborhood cats gaining access to your home.
If your female cat is unspayed, they will enter heat throughout the year. Age is no barrier to this – there is no such thing as feline menopause. A cat in heat is incredibly vocal.
They will continuously yowl, hoping to be let outside to find a mate. If this idea does not appeal, get your cat spayed.
Arguably the most common reason for excessive vocalization in cats is attention seeking. Forget what you have heard about cats being cold and aloof.
They love attention from their owners, and they want their humans to play with them. It just has to be on their terms. If your cat is continually meowing, spend more time with them. They may be bored, or lonely.
Sometimes, a cat will accept that they need a human’s help. Maybe their favorite toy is stuck under the sofa, our of a paw’s reach. Perhaps they want to eliminate, but their litter tray is soiled. If there’s a job that a cannot do, they may ask you to do it for them.
Senior cats can sometimes become somewhat discombobulated. As they grow older, their brains start to struggle. This is known as feline cognitive dysfunction, or cat senility.
Speak to a vet if your older cat starts to meow excessively, especially at night. If caught early enough, feline cognitive dysfunction can be slowed down – or even reversed.
Controlling a cat’s excessive meowing can a tricky balancing act. On the one hand, you should not leap to attention every time your cat meows. This is sending a message that they’ll get whatever they want, whenever they want it.
Sure, we all want our pets to be happy. But do you want to be woken up at 3 am because your cat decides it’s playtime?
Despite this necessary caution, do not automatically ignore meowing. Check that nothing is wrong. Take a look at your cat, ensuring you cannot see any obvious signs of injury.
Take a look at their environment, ensuring their path to their litter tray is not blocked. Have they been fed on time, or are you messing with their schedule?
If you’re certain, your cat is just being cheeky, wait and reward when they quiet down. As we have established, cats are very smart. They’ll quickly learn what gets results.
My Senior Cat Never Meows Back at Me
Meowing is learned behavior in cats, especially those that live among humans from an early age. Felines quickly learn that meowing is an effective form of inter-species communication.
More often than not, kittens learn the behavior from their mother. They watch the older cat meow at their human, and food suddenly appears as a result. That is a lesson worth learning.
If a cat never learned this behavior as a kitten, however, they may not start meowing as an adult. Formerly stray cats, for example, may only have spent time with fellow felines. As a result, they never learned how to communicate with humans.
Equally, it’s possible that your cat is just quiet by their very nature. Like humans, some cats are chattier than others. This is nothing to worry about, unless a vocal cat suddenly stops communicating. This could be a warning sign of sickness, and should be investigated by a vet.
Senior cats tend to be more verbal than their younger counterparts. Older cats get confused and often find themselves with more aches and pains. If your senior cat is quiet, take it as a compliment. Essentially, it means that your cat is comfortable and trusts you.
They are settled in their routine, and don’t feel the need to make demands. If you have spent many years with your cat, you can share long, companionable silences.
To encourage your pet to meow, chat to them directly a little more. Leave pauses in the conversation for an answer, like you would with a human. Eventually, your cat will realize that you’re addressing them and start to answer back in kind.
Never be shy or embarrassed about talking to your cat – whether that’s using words or meows. Your pet may not fully understand what you are saying, but they’ll appreciate the effort. This can only be good for your bond.
Pay attention to your cat’s other forms of communication. They will be telling you a great deal, without you even realizing it. You need to learn what they are trying to say.