The Cat’s Meow: Interpreting your Cat’s Language

cat-meowIf you have cats, you probably know that not all meows are created equally. In fact, you’re probably capable of interpreting your cat’s mood, simply by the sound of his meow!

Cats lack the facial expressiveness of dogs, they’re quieter and harder to interpret. But that doesn’t mean you can’t interpret your cat’s mood by paying attention to the sounds he makes. Most cat owners are aware that there are a variety of meows – different in pitch, volume, tone – and they mean different things.

Kittens are typically more “talkative” than adult cats and domestic house cats are more vocal than feral cats. Additionally, some breeds of cat are known to talk more than others, like the Siamese and the Burmese.

You can interpret what your cat’s meows and sounds mean simply by paying attention – what is he responding to? What is his body language?

To get you started in interpreting your cat’s language, here are some typical noises our kitties make and what they might represent:

Purr: There aren’t many sounds more soothing than the purr of a happy cat. Did you realize, cats may also purr when they’re nervous or in pain to soothe themselves? Research has shown purring is a form of self-healing for cats. For example, one of my Sphynx cats purrs while he’s getting a bath although he clearly doesn’t enjoy it!

Growl: A growl is a warning to stay away. Cats make this low grumbling sound when they feel threatened, whether by humans, animals or other cats.

Chatter: Have you heard this strange stuttering sound when your cat has seen a housefly up high on the wall? Chattering could signal excitement or frustration over prey that is out of reach. It will be accompanied by rapid teeth-chattering.

Watch these two cats chattering in unison at a bird they’ve spotted through the window!

Hiss: No doubt we’ll all encountered a hissing cat a time or two! A hiss is a cat’s response to fear and a warning for others to back off. Some cats will even spit when they hiss. When you hear a cat hissing, it’s best to give him some space.

Caterwauling: This wailing noise is the unmistakeable sound of a cat in heat.

Fortunately, this kitty was spayed soon after this video was made:

Yowling: Cats will often yowl when they really want your attention or to announce when they’ve “caught” a toy.

These are just a few examples of the many ways our cats use their voices to communicate with us. How does your cat “talk” to you?





  1. Joyce

    Jan 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    When that cat was youling–my cats came running !!! They had big eyes like “what in the world was that ?”

  2. BJ day

    Apr 25, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    I had one cat that would “chew” my eye
    Lashes to wake me up, while sitting on my chest…
    to wake me up
    Her name was smokey…she was grey with a blaze and four white feet. What an angel of a cat she was. She adopted me with a chirp and a jump up in my lap. She also had three kittens in my lap! She was 16 yrs old when I had to put her down. They gave her back to me warm, it hurt so much!

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  3. Patsy

    Jan 23, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    My young cat rarely meows, instead he chirps ‘prrup’. It sounds like a little bird, and he seems to have bird in his ancestry, lol. He will fly across the room from the table to my shoulders and then sit there like a parrot 🙂

  4. James

    Jun 10, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Just to get more specific about the “chatter” as it’s referred to in this article; I grew up on a ranch and found a love for felines. I could go on all day about why, but to the point. From my experience and to the best of my knowledge the chatter is actually like a “bird call” cats use to attract their prey. I’ve seen multiple cats I’ve adopted use this method successfully on many and countless occasions. I even had one cat that could do *almost* a perfect squirrel call or “squirrel bark” as I’ve heard it referred to before.
    That’s all. I just wanted to share my experience along the lines of this article.

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