If you own a cat or have spent any time around cats, you know that they make many different sounds. The different types of meows can depend on your cat’s breed, size, and age. But there are some cardinal meows that are universal to all cats.
Make sure you also pay attention to body language when you’re trying to decipher your kitty’s mews. Ears back with wide eyes vs. ears up and slow blinks even with the same vocal sounds can mean two very different things.
Four Categories of Meows
There are four distinct meow types that you will hear your cat vocalize.
Murmur Patterns (purrs and trills)
A purr is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding sounds for most cat owners to hear. This means that they feel secure and content. Gentle pets during maximum relaxation periods often bring on this sound.
However, if your cat’s ears are back and her body seems tense while she’s omitting this motor like sound, this can indicate a worry-purr. A worry-purr can be compared to when you nervously whistle or hum.
Chirps and trills are a little different than a purr. They sound like a meow and a purr mixed together and they are usually soft and short. They are originally made by mama cats to alert their kittens to follow or pay attention to her. Your cat may use these noises to let you know that she needs assistance or to pay attention to her.
These are often heard when a cat is jumping up onto your lap. This is her way of telling you, “look out! I’m coming up!”. You may also hear this type of meow when your cat is excited or happy. Usually, happy or excited trills will be higher pitched a bit louder.
Vowel Patterns (oooooo, eeeee, aaaaooo, etc.)
Depending on body language these types of meows can mean many different things. A long-drawn-out moan type yowl can be assumed to be directed at a predator or another cat, or a demand for something. These might mean, “stay away from my house,” or “open the door!”
If the meow is lower-pitched this could be a complaint or a plea for something. Your cat’s body language should be chipper with ears up and wide eyes. These can mean, “isn’t it dinner time yet?” or “my litter box is dirty!”.
High-pitched meows accompanied by a puffed-up tail, retreating to a private space, or rolling over on their side may indicate anger or pain. This is the meow that you hear when you accidentally step on your kitty’s tail or close the bedroom door in her face.
Articulated Patterns (chirps and chattering)
As mentioned before, chips usually indicate a cat is excited or happy. This could be because they are getting fed wet food or they found their favorite toy. These types of meows are usually paired with perky ears and tail, and wide eyes.
Chatters are a little different and usually display a cat’s predatory excitement. This meow sounds like teeth chattering, or a strange clicking sound. It is usually heard when a cat is staring out the window at a bird or chipmunk. There are some claims that the chatter is a kind of bird/rodent call. But there is no proof of this theory and cats typically rely on their stealth to get their hunting done.
Strained Intensity Patterns (hisses and growls)
A cat’s hiss is unmistakable. It sounds like a hot burger on a grill. This indicates that your cat feels threatened and is ready to protect herself. You will notice your cat’s body language change as well. Most cats will display an arched back, twitchy tail, ears back, puffed fur, and an open mouth.
The reason for this sounds usually is not hard to decipher in most cats. However, if your cat is not well socialized or was abused or stray at one time it may be a bit harder. Like we said, this is because a cat feels threatened. If your cat is hissing for seemingly no reason, look for any new items in the area that may seem strange to your cat. Getting down on their level may help to put things into perspective.
Growls and snarls are typically used along with a hiss. They can indicate greater threats and that your cat feels scared, angry, or territorial. They may even end in a yowling sound. Unless your cat is in direct danger when making this sound, you should leave her alone. Intervening with a cat making this sound typically ends in bloodshed.
Not all cats are talkative and this can often be attributed to their breeding. But remember, this is not a sure thing and you could end up with a super talkative Maine Coon or a quiet Siamese. Typically, Asian originated breeds are thought to be more talkative as well as shorthaired breeds. Longhaired felines are thought to be on the quiet side.
If you are looking for a quiet cat first look for a longhaired kitty. Some breeds you can look for are; Abyssinian, American Curl, American Shorthair, Birman, British Shorthair, Chartreux, Cornish Tex, Exotic Shorthair, Havana Brown, La Perm, Munchkin, Norwegian Forest, Persian, Pixiebob, Ragdoll, Russian Blue, Scottish Fold, Siberian, Singapura, and Somali.
If you’d prefer a cat that wants to chat when you get home from work a Siamese is your best bet. Some other breeds you can look for are; American Bobtail, Balinese-Javanese, Bengal, Burmese, European Burmese, Japanese Bobtail, Ocicat, Oriental, Peterbald, Sphynx, Tonkinese, and Turkish Van.
Why is it always at night?
Cats are known to be very sleepy creatures and they typically sleep 16 hours per day. They are most active at night due to their instinctive hunting brain. Nighttime is when mice and other small rodents are most active, so your cat just knows when to catch her prey. Even if your cat has no interest in mousing or has never had the opportunity, this wild instinct lives on. Your cat may sleep in bed with you for a portion of the night, but most cats do not sleep through the entire night. If your cat is waking you up with her nighttime shenanigans you may have to display some tough love. Shut your bedroom door, put your cat in another room, or get some earplugs. It may take a while for your cat to get the hint that you don’t want to join in on the hunt but eventually the message will be received.
The noises our cats make are entertaining and fun to listen to (as long as they aren’t at 3 AM) but they can also be your cat’s way of telling you that they aren’t feeling well. If your cat is meowing incessantly for longer periods of time and feeding, fresh water, clean litter box, and playtime or attention doesn’t seem to do the trick, she’s probably telling you that she’s in pain or doesn’t feel well.
Although, you shouldn’t count on your cat to vocalize when they are feeling sick since cats are known to be silent sufferers. If you notice any drastic change in your cat’s behavior, attitude, or vocals, a trip to the vet is the first step.