Why Do Cats Meow?

cat meowing

Why Do Cats Meow?

Last Updated by Caitlin

Whether it is a short meow or a long drawn our meoooow, your cat is trying to tell you something. But what? Aren’t they just saying the same thing, just differently? No, you don’t need a secret cat decoder. Just think of each different meow as a different phrase.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why do cats meow

Your cat is meowing specifically to communicate with you. The reserved nature of most cats can make it hard to decode what they want but felines spend more time with the humans who are best at communicating with them. You won’t hear cats meow at one another. Instead, they use other types of vocalizations. They may make hissing and growling sounds, or softly touch one another’s noses. Cats sometimes make very sweet trilling noises. You have probably also heard cats make funny chirping noises when they watch birds. The meowing is just for you.

Now that you know your cat’s meow is for you, all you have to do is figure out what they are saying. Easy right? Below are some of the special kitty messages your cat may be trying to give you.

Feed me right meow

This meow is the easiest to translate. It’s the easiest to translate because your cat will most likely be near their empty food dish when using this meow. In your cat’s eyes, an empty bowl is the first stage of starvation. Your cat is telling you that they want food and they want it now. Cats use low pitched meows when they want something. The meow will stop once they are fed.

Of course, just because your cat is telling you it wants food, doesn’t always mean that you should give it. Cat’s can’t tell time so they may meow by their bowl before dinner time. Don’t let their meowing manipulate you. Try to keep to a normal feeding schedule. If you give in and give them dinner early they will continue to do this earlier and earlier. They will learn that if they meow long enough by their bowl you will give in. Overfeeding can result in your cat gaining weight. Weight gain in cats can lead to other health-related issues.

You can give a small treat to see if that satisfies the request for food but the best way to avoid early feedings is to distract your cat with playtime. Some cats enjoy laser pointers, fishing toys, or feathers. It’s important to find a toy that your cat enjoys. Cat trees and tunnels are also a way for your cat to play. Different cats will respond to different types of play.

I want that

This meow will sound more melodic than usual and often accompanied by unwavering, hypnotic eye contact as if your cat is trying to hypnotize you into handing over what he wants immediately.

One of my cats, a Himalayan, was the most chill, quietest feline and rarely ever meow-ed…except for when he heard the lid of his favorite wet cat food being pulled open. No matter where in the house he was hiding, he always managed to hear the sound and would be in the kitchen in record time, eyes opened hypnotically wide and meowing the sweetest meows I’d ever heard.

And this would happen every single time. So it didn’t take long to understand the meaning behind this particular meow: sheer impatience.

Talking to themself

If your cat is meowing but doesn’t seem to respond to your responses – chances are, she’s deep in conversation with herself. An audience is not necessary. Some cats – like some humans – just like the sound of their own voices. If you’ve got an especially talkative cat breed like the Siamese, you’re going to hear a whole lot of her lectures and theories on life, cats, and everything in between.

And of course, some cats meow to themselves as a way to reassure themselves. It can be a sign of loneliness so make sure that your cat knows you are there for her, and help to build her confidence through play and cognitive stimulation (for example, through the use of puzzle feeders). Yes, cats need confidence, too!

Give me all your attention

The younger your cat is, the more likely his attention-seeking meows will sound sad and plaintive, little heart-breaking mews that are impossible to ignore. For older cats, look more for the frequency of meows – rapid-fire, insistent meows most likely mean hey, look at me and play with me and pet me and love me. Got an attention greedy cat? Not all cats like nor need constant attention, but if you’ve got a super social cat breed like the Abyssinian or a Siamese, her meow most likely means you should stop whatever you’re doing and pet her, play with her, or just adoringly admire her existence.

This doesn’t mean you need to quit your job, but if you’ve got an attention mongering cat on your hands, make sure to schedule in lots of time to show your cat plenty of affection and attention. Another good way to cut down on the attention-seeking meows? If you’ve got a very active cat, take her for regular walks on a leash and get her an interactive cat toy or two.

I'm happy to see you

If your cat is saying hello, her individual meows may be quite short and perky. She may also meow quite a few times, in an excited way. A high pitched meow in response to your chat or purrs while being pet, is your cat’s way of letting you know that they are in a good mood.

Some cats rub against your leg when you get home from work. Some cats ignore you completely. And others meow their greeting. If you’ve been gone for a while, your cat may want to vocalize how very happy they are to finally be fed to see you by giving you a kitty hello.

Where the heck are you

This meow will sound urgent, high-pitched and a little demanding, and poses two questions in one little meow – where are you and why aren’t you at my side. This meow is often heard from the other room while you are trying to read a book, watching a movie or getting some work done. Your cat will suddenly start meowing loudly. You rush over like a good human, worried that your cat has been hurt and find them calmly standing around, looking at you like “Good. You came. What took you so long?” That’s ’cause cats have a certain meow designed to summon you over. After all, she has more important things to do than look for you.

I'm feline stressed

A longer, more plaintive-than-usual meow can mean your cat is stressed, worried or anxious. Also, look for other signs of cat stress like excessive licking or grooming as well as other abnormal behavior accompanying the meows.

Yes, it’s true: cats get stressed. It may not be obvious since she lives on kitty treats and 16-hour sleep days, but cats are sensitive creatures, and there are many different possible roots of such stress. Some of these include moving house, changes to the house (such as dramatically moved around furniture or decoration), loss of a person to whom the cat was attached, and a human’s illness. Once you have figured out what the root of your cat’s stress is, you can go about trying to help your cat in adjusting to the changed circumstances.

It is also very important to ensure that your cat has lots of affection, attention, and quiet time. These things will help to calm your cat and soothe her feelings.

I'm lonely

Much like the attention-getting meows, younger cats’ meows can sound sad and plaintive, little mews that tug at your heartstrings and are impossible to ignore. For older cats, look more for the frequency of meows – rapid-fire, insistent meows most likely mean hey, look at me and play with me and pet me and love me.

Cat meowing

Contrary to the usual stereotypes, cats need lots of interaction and can feel very lonely when you are away. Make sure to enrich your cat’s life in fun, positive ways, and to give her lots of ways to keep herself occupied during the day. You can put out puzzle feeders for her to work out, and always leave toys out. Cat entertainment videos and getting a second cat can also help soothe kitty loneliness.

I'm confused

If your cat is getting on in years and meows randomly at things and situations she never used to give a meow over, the chances are it’s likely she’s just a bit confused. Remember that cats suffer many of the same effects of aging that humans experience. Elderly cats can suffer from cognitive dysfunction and confusion. Make sure to stay sensitive to your cat’s needs. If you find that a lot of the meowing happens at night, consider using a nightlight to help your cat feel reassured and in greater control of her surroundings.

The confused meow can come before a more serious meow. The meow that says…

I'm not feline so well

You know your cat best. What may seem abnormal to other people may be normal for you and your cat. Take note if your cat’s meowing behaviors change. If they are meowing more than they usually do, or if the meows seem more urgent or are different in some way, make sure to have her checked out by the vet.

Cats don’t necessarily cry out if they’re in pain. They are notorious for hiding illness and pain and usually become silent. However, this is not always the case. Your cat may resort to more insistent, more frequent meows.

Cat meowing

Some possible medical causes of excessive meowing can include:

Urination problems

Urinary tract infections

Kidney disease

Overactive thyroid

Those are just a few of the possible medical causes that could be behind your cat’s massive amount of meowing. Your vet will be able to examine and test your cat and find out for certain what is ailing your kitty. You should be especially vigilant when it comes to elderly cats since excessive meowing can be a result of an overactive thyroid or kidney disease. Make sure to clear any strange meowing patterns with your vet just to be sure.

Now that you’re well-versed in meow, these ten things should help you figure out what your cat’s meow is trying to say. 

2 Comments
  • Anne
    Posted at 19:24h, 10 February Reply

    First off, I found this to be informative. That said, I found it funny how you censored Hell yet not damn. Are those swears not just as bad as each other?

  • Patricia
    Posted at 15:36h, 11 March Reply

    Seems like my cat has most of these.

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