Cat Sounds

by Michael

Photo by Sappymoosetree

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Photo by Sappymoosetree

Cat sounds can seem strange or familiar. I've lived with a moggie cat for a long time and provide for a couple of moggie strays who come in to say hello and stay and eat a while. I have also met Ken and Helmi Flick's cats, two British Shorthair cats and two Maine Coon cats (see Ken and Helmi Flick's Cats). The Maine Coons have very different voices and make different cat sounds to British Shorthairs. The Maine Coon cats are called Quin (black smoke) and Zak (blue bicolor) and the British Shorthair cats, Sky (blue) and Nox (black).

Then we have the Bengal cats; my neighbor lives with one, Daniel. They can make there own special cat sound too.

There is apparently a cat sound that the Bengal makes that is perhaps peculiar to the Bengal or wildcat hybrids, I am not sure. It is a kind of puffing sound. I think that it signifies that he wants to be the boss, the alpha cat. The sound is directed at other cats or humans. Sometimes animals can boss humans. It might also act as a defensive measure.

The Savannah cat has a particular brand of hiss. All domestic cats hiss. It was learned over millions of years as a successful way to see off enemies. It is intended to mimic a snake. A snake's hiss is recognized by humans and other animals as something representing danger. Cats can also growl a bit like dogs. This can happen when they are being aggressive towards another cat.

See another page of cats sounds including lots of recordings of vocalisations by cats domestic and wild.

My cat will ask in the classic meow for her breakfast or any other meal. Sometimes she can remain silent and simply look at me intently and throw her head back a bit. She might make a slight trill at the same time. Here is a video with variations on the classic meow and more besides. They are my cats plus some audio tapes.

How far can and do we go when communicating with our cat?

She also trills at the stray boy cat who comes in. This is odd. I am not sure what it signifies. But Helmi Flick's Maine Coon cats, Zak and Quin both trill with their mouths closed. I think they do this when they are excited or showing interest in something. This might explain my cat's trill. The stray boy used to hiss back as a defensive measure. He now just saunters by. Maybe they are getting to like each other.

Maine Coons also meow, of course. The meow I heard from Zak was a kind of plaintiff one, rather quiet and very pleasant. But Zak's meow is completely different to the meow of the British Shorthair cat. Both Helmi's British Shorthair cats had the same super quiet meow, almost silent. Indeed sometimes it was absolutely silent; nothing coming out of the mouth. Cat sounds without a sound. It was an extremely charming thing to see and just as effective as a meow with sound.

I've mentioned, above, some cat breed traits as I have heard them or know them. Individual cats will make their own cat sounds that differ substantially. Timmy's meow is stronger and more demanding than my cat's meow for example.

A special kind of cat sound is chattering. We usually see and hear this when the cat is at a window looking at birds, getting a little excited. She makes a peculiar chattering sound. This is her practice session in preparation for when she catches the bird (or so she thinks) and sinks her teeth into the spine of the bird, in exactly the precise spot to severe the spinal cord and kill the prey. Here is a video on it. At the beginning you'll see and hear a cat calling.

All the above are deliberate cat sounds. Cats dream and when they do so they can make a sound as if they are anxious (probably catching prey). Or they can snore like humans. Well mine does.

The simple meow can take on a whole range of levels of demand. My girl will ask politely at first with a standard meow. If I ignore that she'll ask again more firmly and finally she will positively sound irritated. I can sense that very strongly and it gets me up to provide what she is demanding.

If a vocal sound doesn't get the right reaction from their human companion, cats can make sounds or noise deliberately by disturbing objects or, for example, scratching something important. This latter ploy invariably works and is an effective combination of sound and destruction.

And finally on domestic cats (unless someone has a comment to make), the cat's purr. This has proved a bit of a mystery. It is more than just a sign of contentment. It is a cat sound first used by a kitten when he/she is breast feeding. The kitten purrs to indicate all is well and milk is being received. Mother purrs back. Cats can purr when frightened too. See Cat's Purr for a bit more.

Here's two highly interesting wildcat sounds which are explained in the video and which I hadn't heard before:

The photo is published under a creative commons license:

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Cat Sounds

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Feb 07, 2012 Savannah Puffs, too NEW
by: Anonymous

My Savannah, Maumau (we were kind of short on imagination when we named him) puffs, too. He does it when he sees our old domestic shorthair Max on the other side of a window, which would be consistent with trying to assert dominance. He also does it when he's just plain Disgusted With Everything. I haven't ever heard or seen him hiss or growl.

His other really odd habit, presumably from his wild side, is that he likes to take a mouthful of food out of his dish, carry it several feet away, then spit it out and eat it. That's fine if it's just kibble. Kibble can be swept up. It's when he takes his beloved "kittysoup" (canned food mixed with hot water) in his mouth, goes over to the living room carpet, spits it out there and tries to eat it that it becomes a problem. He also spits the "kittysoup" out on the kitchen floor if he's really excited. Gah!

Jul 07, 2011 Replicating cat sounds
by: Kaleigh

I know, I sound crazy, but I've tried several times to reproduce a purr (since humans have no sound that serves a similar function) by collecting a small amount of spit near the back of my mouth and blowing a little air through it. As I wrote this, I've actually managed to make a similar sound twice, although admittedly it sounds monotonous (cats' purrs change slightly in pitch depending on whether they're inhaling or exhaling) and has a slight "growling" undertone, but it's the closest I could get.

I've also found that by using a miniscule amount of saliva, drawing back my lips in a "flat smile" (showing my teeth, obviously), I can simulate a hiss.

Finally is arguably the second most difficult, the meow. Typically, it's just a squeaked "meow" or "nya" (I've often made a "nya" sound around my cat as a playful reminder that I can't understand what she's saying). It can be a slight challenge to get right (in my opinion), but once you figure it out, you can pull off all kinds of "mews" and "mrows".

Jul 22, 2010 cat puffing noise
by: Anonymous

My little adopted cat, Rufus, does this when he's really upset, when I'm trying to trim his claws, for example. As far as I know, he's a regular tabby, and not part Bengal. Having heard that some big cats chuff, I began calling it this, but think the noise is different than a chuff. It sounds kind of like a person going, "Hmph!" with a lot of air, and is not one but a pair or series of puffs, usually when Rufus is backed up and feeling defensive. If the chuff is ignored, he will slap at the person "bothering" him or make a biting motion, as though to warn more severely. He also now associates the word "chuff" with that sound, and when we're playing with cat toys, will do it if I say, "What if he chuffs at me? Are you going to chuff?" and then act as though I'm going after the toy he has. When he chuffs in this context, I say, "Oh, no, he chuffed at me!" and fake being alarmed, and we do this a few times. It's obvious he isn't making an agitated puff in that case, and it's not backed up by slapping. He clearly sees this as a game. I've never had another cat do this, and I've had cats for most of 40 years.

May 27, 2010 strange stray cat blues
by: MB

Yesterday my cat was hissing out the back door at a neighbor cat, or maybe one of the ferals my neighbor takes in - then that cat emitted a prolonged screeching scream, nothing like I have ever heard from a domestic cat. It sounded like a noise a lynx might make, or some other wild animal.

I stared it down, said "my territory" a couple of times, and hissed at it, and it ran off. OK, so I talk to cats.

This critter was normal cat size (12-15 lbs) with a bushy medium-long coat ticked sandy like an Abyssinian, face a little bit like a Bengal - especially the shape and the nose.

Do Bengals make noises like that? Are we introducing wildcat genes into the feral cat genetic pool?

Oct 22, 2009 Some More on Cat Sounds
by: Michael

Here is a list of cat basic sounds, courtesy Wild Cats Of The World and my own experiences:

  • Spit: This lasts up to about 0.02 seconds and is intense. Leads to hiss sometimes. One cat that I noticed that made this sound is the Sand Cat. See (hear) Sand Cat Hissing and Spitting (scroll down)
  • Hiss: Low intensity, varies in duration, signals attack or defense.
  • Growl: Low in tone, closed mouth, used like spitting & hissing. Signals aggression & attack.
  • Snarl: Defensive sound similar to growl
  • Gurgle: 0.5 secs in duration - not all cats gurgle - close range friendly vocalisation.
  • Purr: We know this one - for close range use - variable use but normally mother to kitten and human to cat friendliness.
  • Prusten: short low intensity sound - soft - 4 cats do it: tiger, clouded leopard - snow leopard and jaguar. Function same as gurgle and puff.
  • Puff: short sound - close range friendly - lion and leopard (and Bengal cat?)
  • Meow (mew): We know this one well.
  • Roar: Lion, leopard and jaguar - long range communication.
  • Grunt: female calling cubs and alone adult called group.
  • Wah Wah: short burts - close range could be a form of displacement action like us scratching our head.

Mar 26, 2009 Very Entertaining!
by: Joanne Crownshaw

I enjoyed listening to the cat sounds, I am not the only one - Three... well, Er - dogs in the house sprang out of their beds and set off hunting frantically around the house for the meowing moggies. Barking mad!

Flower vases was tipped over and I of course was left with more than the usual cleaning up to do.

Dec 19, 2008 Wildcat Roar
by: Anonymous

Apparently a male lion's roar can be heard up to 5 miles away. Some wildcats can't roar, the Cougar or Mountain Lion for one. The Cougar apparently makes sounds like a domestic cat but I guess a bit louder!

3 thoughts on “Cat Sounds”

  1. Bengals are a trip down sound strangeness way. Mine never meowed until she was four. Makes a little trill sound that she uses like “Hello!” (in the English sense). Howls like a dog after jumping into a window, barks, chirps…all the Bengal repertoire. Snores too. But I’m posting about her chattering. Initially just for birds, she’s adapted it to any talking with people. If you’re going out and you say, “Bye, I’ll be back in a minute”, she always chatters something. Ditto if you sneeze. If she’s sleeping in the sun and you ask if she likes it, she’ll chatter back at you. And now, she’s started doing it in her sleep. Every now and then she does it so enthusiastically that she actually bites her lip with one of her fangs. That’s a Bengal though. Just when you thought you’d seen every odd kitty thing they can do, they come up with something else.


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