Adult Cats Only Meow At Humans

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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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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