Why Cats Meow and What Their Meow Means

cats meow



If you think your cat is trying to have a chat with you when they meow, you’d be right. Domestic cats evolved to meow to communicate with humans, not other cats, and their meows can mean different things.


Do cats talk to humans?

Over time, cats have learned that meowing to humans will often positively result in a desired resource. For example, your cat might meow for food, attention, petting or to be let outside. As humans, we communicate to each other verbally, and cats have learned a few verbal tricks of their own along the way.


Do cats talk to each other?

While cats do vocalise to each other in chirps, growls, and trills, they generally don’t meow to each other. Kittens are more likely to meow, and this is mostly directed towards their mother. The mother cat is very attentive to these meows as it’s usually the kitten’s way of saying they need something or are in a spot of trouble.

As a kitten matures into an adult cat, they meow less and instead use body language, visual marking, and scent communication. When cats do vocalise with each other this tends to occur because a situation has escalated. A cat will growl, hiss, or spit when the visual, scent marking, and body language cues they’ve displayed, haven’t kept an opponent at bay.



What does it mean when my cat meows?

Your cat’s meow can have many different meanings, and it can be challenging to decode the various meows your cat uses to communicates with you. 

Try carefully observing your cat and considering things from your cat’s perspective. This will help you start to develop your meow interpretation skills. Over time with observation, many cat parents can distinguish their cat’s specific meows for affection, food, play, or alone time.

The various vocalisations that a cat makes also reflects their underlying emotional state.


How to decipher your cat’s different meow sounds?

  • Take note of the situation in which each meow occurs
  • Take note of the time of day when your cat meows
  • Observe your cat’s body language and posture when they meow
  • Listen out for the subtle differences in the tone and pitch of your cat’s meow


What if my cat meows differently?

It’s good to remember that a cat might also meow if they’re feeling sick or are confused, especially if they’re an older cat. Look out for any behaviour or symptoms that are out of the ordinary for your cat. A meow that is out of the ordinary could be cause for concern and may warrant a check-up with the vet.


What if my cat meows at night?

If your cat meows at night, you can help keep the peace by indulging them in an interactive play session just before bed, followed by a tasty food reward. Dim the lights to help encourage them to settle. You can also explore offering some puzzle feeders or interactive toys to keep them busy while you snooze.


Is every cat meow different?

If you feel like your cat’s meow is just for you, you’d be right. It’s interesting to know that cats all have different meows, and just like humans’ voices, they all sound slightly different. Also, some cats tend to be more vocal than others, and some breeds have more of a tendency to be vocal. such as the Siamese.


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Meet our expert
Dr Fiona Patterson, Veterinary Advisor
Making the decision to become a veterinarian at just 10 years old, Dr Fiona Patterson has always had an inherent desire to improve the lives of animals.