Adult Cats Only Meow At Humans

Cat meowing I want

Cat Meow. Photo by rhibiki.geo

When the domestic cat meows it is at us not other cats. I’d be interested to know if someone has observed their cat meowing at another cat. I feel it should be happening but personally, I haven’t seen it.

Whenever my cat meets another cat (a stranger), he will usually hiss or growl or yowl but never meow. When I watch two sibling cats, who are semi-stray, together, they never make a sound towards each other. When I turn up, one meows at me and the other hisses at me. My late lady cat, Binnie, never meowed at Charlie and vice versa. The point I am making is that adult cats make a range of meow sounds towards us but not to each other. However, kittens communicate by meowing to their mother and between themselves by “screaming” when play-fighting.

This seems to support Dr Morris’s theory that people keep cats in a permanent state of kittenhood in respect of the human-cat relationship because we act as a surrogate and permanent mother. This seems to kick-in the kitten’s inherent vocalisations towards her mother.

ASPCA say that cats meow at people to request something. What else?! We are aware of this and we respond. But why don’t cats meow at other cats to request something from another cat? You would think that they should as a form of communication that goes beyond scent exchange (allorubbing) and body language, such as the tail up greeting.

I have not found an answer but the answer could be that cats don’t want anything from another cat because the domestic cat is a domesticated wildcat and the African/Asian wildcat is self-sufficient and a solitary cat. The only time the wildcat wants something from another wildcat is when they want to mate and procreate at which time they yowl at each other.

In the human-cat relationship the cat has learned to use different types of meow to get his way. This appears to be a refinement brought about by the 9,500 years of domestication.

You may remember a recent article describing how some adult domestic cats have learned to meow like babies to push the maternal instinct button of the female, caretaking human. Cats probably learned that trick by watching how babies get attention when crying. They wanted a bit of the action and learned how to get it. That is my guess.

An interesting point worth making is that we don’t know how much our cat meows or yowls when we are out of the house and at work unless we have set up a video recording system of some sort (Marc has, for example). It might surprise people to find out that their cat yowls a lot when they are away particularly if they are miss their human companion. I think it is wise to set something up to check what is going on when you are away. It might be enlightening and good for your cat’s welfare.

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Adult Cats Only Meow At Humans — 45 Comments

  1. Mine are quiet when I am away but they always run to the laptop if I talk to them through skype. I did this yesterday and got home to find they had peeled some keys off the keyboard. Hmm.

    Gigi gives me a hard time when I am about to leave. She cuts me off and meows at me because she clearly doesn’t want me to leave. It’s funny because she is very un-cuddly yet very vocal. She’s a very special cat. They all are. Gigi also gives me a hard time if I don’t deliver her biscuits by 8pm, bedtime, so I have no problem keeping to a schedule with her around. She also makes sure I get up at the required time. She clearly likes me alot and wants me around and communicates in a purely vocal way. Lilly is less vocal and jumps on my lap or makes little noises and Molly doesn’t make a sound but insists on cuddles in the kitchen at certain times – I am supposed to follow her in there and then she flops over for full cuddles.

    Gigi does not meow at the others, only me, and Molly if Molly is a bit rough when they wrestle but that’s it. I’m glad Gigi talks to me because I like it. She’s very sweet. Very expressive. But most of all, we understand eachother very well it seems.

    • Molly sounds like Monty– expecting us to follow him to where he flops down for attention. Instead of cuddles he wants to be stroked with your bare foot. But other than my cat being completely strange (and my husband too– he started the whole foot petting thing) it is the same. Monty doesn’t meow for foot petting, he just flops down in the desired place for it.

      • LoL – too funny – foot petting – Lilly allows that but Molly I have to get down on the floor with here for cuddles. She leads me to the same spots usually and flops down. If I go to the toilet in the night she always waits til I’m done and then leads me into the kitchen for a cuddle session. It’s our private time together. I am proud of Molly for coming out of her shell and trusting me. She lets me walk past her now without jumping up and running.

        • The kitchen is for cuddles! Funny how a cat will get ideas into his or her head and then it has to be that way always.

          • yes and very occasionally in the bath tub except there’s a static electricity problem there – she is very fluffy so we get electrocuted. I prefer the kitchen floor 🙂

  2. I’ve never known cats meow to each other either.
    Even in a cattery, take Kays Hill for example, it’s all quiet as you go in but once the cats know someone is about they all start meowing for attention.
    I suppose they learn it as kittens when they meow competing against each other for the mother cat’s attention. It seems that’s the only time a cat meows to another cat, as a kitten, to their mother.

      • What you don’t know Michael you go to a lot of trouble to learn!
        I don’t think we will ever know everything there is to know about cats and to me their air of mystery is a wonderful thing 🙂

        • Yes, they keep that little bit of mystery to themselves and it makes them more interesting and loveable. The more you think about them and know them the more the mystery fades.

          Probably like you, I believe I understand the domestic cat pretty well now, after these years of writing about the species. The mystery is still there.

  3. Monty has started to meow more and more. He often imitates me in activities I am doing, so I think he is imitating vocal behavior as well. The fact is, I am talking pretty much all the time when we are here alone together. Yesterday we both were outside on the back porch while I created some materials for my tutoring student. During that time I talked to Monty and to myself. It helps me think if I talk through what I’m doing when I’m creating something, whether a song or a worksheet. (I’m an auditory learner, so I understand things best if I hear them. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

    Monty was playing with a little stone, batting it around and then carrying it around in his mouth. He was making little meow sounds while he did this. Later in the back on the grass he was walking around with that stone in his mouth meowing. I thought, “Is it stuck in his little mouth?” No, then he dropped it. But frequently while we played with it he would meow and while I was working I heard little meows but they did not seem to be directed at me, and he didn’t seem to want anything.

    I now have a cat who talks to himself because I talk to myself. He talks to himself and wants to be petted with your foot. That’s not weird at all.

    • I think he is imitating vocal behavior as well…

      I don’t think people realise how much our cats observe us and copy us. There is a lot going on, to which the average cat owner is often blind.

      Monty is with you, learning from you and probably copying you to a certain extent. It is a form of companionship and community.

  4. lol no not weird at all……if you say so Ruth lol
    I must say we’ve not had a cat who talked to himself like your Monty does, even though I do!
    Our Walter talks a lot but Jozef doesn’t usually say much. I suppose they are like us, some of us talkative, some quiet.
    Bryan used to sing! Last thing at night after Babz had been in to say goodnight to us he would sort of hum a little tune before putting his head down on the bed, we said he was singing his prayers lol

  5. I think it worthwhile going over the observations again. I suggest that a kitten and mother will meow to each other. This relationship is then transferred to the cat/kitten’s new lifelong mother, it’s human friend who takes care of it, and feeds it just like it’s biological mother. I haven’t thought about it until now but I seem to remember a feline mother will call to it’s kittens, perhaps with a slightly different vocalisation than that used with humans but similar.

    • I think thats true a mom cat will call her babies by meowing to them whereas as her kittens grow this seems to cease.

      • I wish I’d filmed another minute and it would have shown Jasper falling backward off the table. He tries to be Billy Bad-Ass and some of the cats won’t put up with it.

    • Elisa, the guy at the back, on the box, is agitated. You can tell because his tail is wagging horizontally. The other cat is also slightly agitated.

      There is a bit of yowling. I sense this is not communication by meowing but a state of slight animosity and yowling.

      That is my assessment. There may be some low level meowing but the overall situation is slightly antagonistic accompanied by some low level yowling.

        • Yes 😉 My feeling that these two are yowling in mild kind of way and this video is not evidence that cats meow at each other! I am not sure it is that important but interesting and thanks for showing me the video.

          • I wish I had had my phone with me outside tonight. Monty meowed to my sister’s cat, Kobe. It was not a yowl and he was not agitated. He was calling to him. My sister had opened the window over the back porch on her upper flat and Monty came out and looked down at Kobe on our back porch. I heard a meow at that point and I think it was Monty. Kobe looked upset and went back in. Monty tried to find a way to see Kobe and get to him. He jumped up on the railing of our porch, walked around looking up and with his back to me, his eyes focused up on the upper porch, he meowed. It sounded like a greeting or as if he was calling to Kobe.

            On a previous occasion I was inside the screen door, Monty was on the back porch. I kept hearing meowing so I checked on Monty. I assumed he wanted in, but he didn’t. Finally I realized the meowing was Kobe on the porch above. It’s like he was calling down to Kobe– a meow, not a yowl. I realized it was him because the meow was a little differen than Monty’s.

            My sister and I are both very vocal. Maybe our cats have learned this from us and talk to each other. If it happens again I will try to get a video.

            • Oops, I just noticed I mixed up the cats again. Kobe was on the upper porch looking down at Monty on our back porch. Kobe only has outside time on the upper porch.

            • We would [hope it’s okay if I speak for every soul here] love a video of that if you can capture it, Ruth! I know, from my own experience what you are talking about! And I love your videos, btw. 🙂

              • I think Monty really wants a cat companion. Kobe is not so keen on him though. Monty really sounded like he was calling to him to come back. Next time both cats are out I will try to capture the interaction, maybe with our video camera instead of just my phone camera.

                • Marc is the guy who is the expert on the advantages of multiple cat households. When the person is out all day a second cat must be a good idea provided they are friendly towards each other. I am always with Charlie so I am a cat companion to him…meow…hiss.

  6. My cats only meow to each other rarely the only time I’ve known is if one is about to chase the other and the one being chased will meow to try to make the other stop! Usually once the chase or play whatever it is starts they will revert to chirruping to each other or making little mmm noises 🙂

    • Chiruping and mmming are probably undemanding sounds. Sounds that are just for reassurance while the meow probably demands something. I am guessing.

  7. Hi Leah. After a few months the mother-kitten relationship can change. The mother has brought up the kittens and taught them a few tricks but there has to be separation of the ways. In the wild each kitten looks for it’s own patch so the mother retains control over her own territory and all it’s resources ready for her next litter. The kittens have to find their own place in the world. The mother will actually be very hostile to her own kittens using nasty language and tries to chase them away. When food resources are plentiful like under human supervision this rejection behaviour may be much softened, but the mother-kitten vocalisations have gone.

  8. I see Yellow cat chirping at Shadow when he first arrives in the morning. It is very quiet, but I see her little jaw go up and down like she is saying “ow, ow, ow” loosely translated meaning ” it’s about time you got here handsome. Come eat. She has already put the food down, that weird lady”.

    Bigfoot talks to Marvin, and Marvin talks back. I have no idea what they are saying to each other, but it is followed by tolerated sniffing, then ignoring. It seems like a greeting.

        • The thing about cats, the second you want to photograph (or take a little movie) of them doing something cute they stop doing it. I tried to film a turtle swimming in a pond on Thursday. As soon as I set my iPhone camera to video he stopped moving. “Fine,” I thought, “I’ll photograph him instead.” As soon as I flipped the switch to take a still photo he swam away from me. It’s like animals know. That or God has a sense if humor.

          • Agreed. I have to use a lot of stealth to get a photo of Charlie and persistence. They think you are taking away their soul when you photograph them 😉

  9. Have you seen this video? These two girls had some looong chats! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3U0udLH974

    I have a mother and kitten (well…the “kitten” is 5 now, but you know what I mean) and I have never seen them meow at each other. I also have two boys who came from a hoarding situation (2 Maine Coon cats soon became 40 Maine Coon cats) and they don’t meow at each other, or the girls, for that matter, either. I’m not convinced the meow only means, “I want,” though.

    One of my girls (Heidi, the mother) meows at me whenever I walk into a room and wake her up. It’s a little greeting meow that sounds like, “Mrowowow?” She doesn’t solicit pets or beg for food, she’s just saying hello. One of my boys walks around meowing at nothing (actually, the other guy does it on occasion, as well). Sometimes he has a toy in his mouth, but oftentimes he’s just wandering around singing. My sister had a boy who used to do this, as well.

    I sometimes volunteer for a cat rescue organisation called the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Organisation (VOKRA) and one of the ways we can tell if a cat is not feral is if it meows at us – feral cats don’t meow.

    • Hi Shaz.

      ..feral cats don’t meow.

      That is interesting. Thanks for sharing. Perhaps they don’t meow because they recognise us (people) as cats and as cats don’t meow at each other feral cats don’t meow at us. I guess that might be the reason. On the other hand domestic cats must see us as people or another species and not as cats because they do meow at us. Although feral cats might be silent towards us because of stress.

      The video you refer to is very famous and totally charming. I have seen it before. These cats must be siblings and very close. I don’t think they are meowing. They are chirping and trilling 😉 That is what I say. I guess I would….

      • Those two aren’t siblings, but I agree, they’re mostly chirping and trilling, but there are a couple of meows in there! Of course, the “translation” of that video is super funny.

        I think domestic cats might see us as cats – mother cats – which is why they meow, while the feral cats see us as predators, or something to be feared, but who knows what goes through a kitty’s head.

        • Monty did not meow when I first brought him into my home. He would do silent meows or a meow with very faint vocalization. The more he’s been around me the more talkative he has become. My husband said loud meows would attract predators so he knew by instinct to be quiet. Now he feels safe with me so he meows. Ferals would not meow because the sound would not aid in hunting (scare away prey) and could be dangerous (attracting predators.) Monty still brings that out what I call his “starving baby kitty meow” when he wants something. When all else fails he does that faint feral meow. It’s like he’s saying, “Remember how pitiful I was? How hard my life was? How can you deny me anything knowing what a hard time I had?” And that is how I got an overweight cat.

  10. All of these comments are very interesting and heartfelt_
    I can only reply in an appropriate fashion by simply…Meowwwwing……Thanks

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