Adult Cats Only Meow At Humans

Cat meowing I want
Cat Meow. Photo by rhibiki.geo
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

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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46 thoughts on “Adult Cats Only Meow At Humans”

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

    Reply
  2. 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.

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    • 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….

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      • 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.

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        • 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.

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  3. 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.

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        • 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.

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          • 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 😉

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  4. 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.

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  5. 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 🙂

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

      Reply

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