Cat Sounds – Feline Vocal Communication


Cats have a whole range of vocal sounds that most owners learn to appreciate. Cat chat can be very meaningful, even though cats also use a variety of other communications media, other than sounds, such as body posture and scent marking.

Getting To Know The Feline Repertoire

Almost all cats use some form of vocal communication, but some do more often and more intensively. Certain cat breeds are more talkative than other. Siamese cats are well known for being the vocalists of the cat world, while Persians tend to be quieter.

The most famous feline sound is the meow, which has many versions of different lengths, pitches and pace. Other familiar cat sounds are the aggressive hisses and growls, the howls of females in heat, the chirp and chatter of hunting cats and the famous purr.

The Meows

The Purina Encyclopedia of Cat Care notes that meows are directed almost exclusively at humans. In the cat-to-cat context these sounds are made most often between mother and kitten and not between adult cats.

The pitch of the meow can help you understand its meaning. The lower the sound, the more agitated the cat is – good examples are often heard in veterinary clinics! If the sound is high toned, than the cat is probably quite happy to convey his message. A welcome meow is usually quite high pitched.

With time, most owners learn to tell the different “cat words” that their feline friend says. Repeated messages such as “I’m hungry” “pet me” and “open this can”, can become very identifiable.

Other vocal expressions

Cats have a wide collection of sounds other than the meow. Hisses, growls and screams, chirps and chatters, and of course the famous purr are familiar feline vocalizations.

Hisses, growls and screams are frightening sounds usually made by a scared cat. The cat feels threatened and wants to discourage the perceived foe from attacking by using intimidating body posture and vocalization. These are very strong words in feline talk. Should a cat ever say them to you, take heed. The next means of communication will probably not be a spoken one and might be quite painful!

Chirps and chatters can sometimes be heard when a cat looks at potential prey without being able to reach it. Many owners of inside-only cats hear this sounds while their kitty is bird watching. The sounds are often accompanied by rapid clicking of the teeth.

The purr is the most soothing and endearing sound our cats make. Exactly how this sounds is produced has been a mystery for many years. Most cat experts say that that purring is produced by rapid contractions of the muscles of the larynx.

Cats are not the only animals that purr. Other nocturnal solitary predators such as civets, mongooses and even hyenas are known to purr occasionally. Among the large cats, the cheetah is the only one with a true purr.

Silent Cats

Not all cats are very vocal. Some perfectly healthy cats rarely mew. Some cat breeds are more prone to spells of silence, but sometimes, individual cats of the more vocal breeds are also not very talkative.

When a cat that is normally vocal loses her voice or become hoarse, it could indicate an inflammation of the voice box. This medical condition, known as laryngitis, may be caused by throat infections, tonsillitis, inhalant allergies and pulmonary disease. Sometimes, a stress-induced behavioral problem that involves extensive yowling or mewing may cause laryngitis.

If you suspect that your cat is losing her voice, make an appointment with the vet. A medical examination is in order to identify the cause and provide proper treatment.

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