- Cats meow to communicate with you. Different noises can indicate a variety of needs and wants.
- Some cats meow more than others. Elderly cats may do this because of cognitive dysfunction.
- You can try communicating with your cat by using an uplifting tone to indicate friendliness.
Wondering about the cat’s meow? No, we’re not talking about the 2001 Kirsten Dunst flick. The English language is riddled with phrases relating to cats — “the cat’s pajamas,” “it’s raining cats and dogs” and “the cat’s meow,” to name a few. The third originated in the 1920s and means that something is enjoyable or desirable.
But cat owners know that a real cat’s meow can sometimes be neither enjoyable nor desirable. Cute at times, excessive meowing can be a headache for guardians of these furry friends. Here’s what your cat’s meow is trying to tell you, and what to do if it becomes too much.
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Why do cats meow?
The answer is domestication. Before cats began living alongside humans as pets, they communicated with each other using their sense of smell or by urinating or rubbing against trees, LiveScience reports. Now, the common household kitty meows to get its owner’s attention.
Kittens meow to get their mother’s attention when they’re young. Older house cats do the same with their guardians, but feral cats tend to outgrow meowing. Cats also don’t meow to other cats — that function is reserved for their two-legged friends.
If your cat is meowing, it’s trying to communicate its wants and needs, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Cats meow for a number of reasons, but most commonly to greet people, get attention, ask for food or to be let in or outside.
What is my cat trying to tell me?
If you own a cat, you can probably distinguish the different types of noises they make. The loudness, length and quality of meows and yelps have a variety of meanings.
According to wikiHow, here are examples of what cats commonly try to tell you:
- Short meow: This is a greeting or “hello” from your furry friend. Multiple short meows in a row aren’t a cause for concern; it just means your cat is excited to see you.
- Mid-pitched meow: usually a plea for food or water.
- Long, drawn out meow: a persistent demand from your cat. They want something, and you haven’t given it to them quite yet.
- Low-pitched meow: signals a complaint, like displeasure or discomfort. If this meow is loud, it’s an urgent plea for something your cat needs.
- High-pitched yelp: Your cat is experiencing pain, anger or fear and is trying to tell you.
- Chattering: could mean your cat is excited but could also be expressing anxiety or frustration.
- Chirrup: sounds like a mix between a meow and a purr and is a greeting often used by a mother cat to call her kittens.
Why do cats yowl?
If your cat’s vocalization doesn’t match any of the above, it could be a yowl. According to the ASPCA, a yowl is a more drawn out and melodic sound. Cats typically yowl at one another during breeding season if they’re looking for a mate.
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How to know if your cat is meowing too much
Some breeds, like Siamese cats, meow and yowl more than others. Still, there are times when frequent — or increased — vocalization is not normal. Elderly cats often meow if they become disoriented, ASPCA says, or if they have a form of cognitive dysfunction. You should take your cat to the veterinarian if they are excessively meowing.
According to BeChewy, owners should always be aware of changes in their cat’s vocalization. Cats use their voice to communicate with us, so meowing at a different frequency than normal or in an unusual pitch could be their way of showing you something is wrong.
Can you talk to your cat?
Yes, talking to your cat may seem silly, but it’s a good way to acknowledge them. ASPCA recommends using an uplifting, raised tone to indicate friendliness and affection and a lower tone to show you’re upset or displeased with them. Be consistent with your commands and the tones you use to talk to your cat, and they’ll learn to respond accordingly.
There are productive ways to discourage your cat from bad behavior, but you shouldn’t scold or hit your cat for meowing too much. This can cause them to be afraid of you, and it won’t actually have an impact on the frequency of the meowing.
If your cat’s constant meowing is a nuisance, try teaching them patience by not responding when they meow for attention, says the ASPCA. When they’re quiet, reward them with a pat. You can also try feeding your cat on a consistent schedule so they learn when it’s time to eat rather than meowing to get food.