“Incredible Singing Cat” is vocalized anxiety

Singing cat is an anxious cat

There are some singing cats on YouTube. The star, ‘signing cat’ is the one in the video below.

It is by pure chance that the sound this cat makes has hints of the sound of a person signing. All domestic cats have the potential to make this sound but not all do. There are a lot of variations on it but, at root, it is the dame vocalization. It is a vocalization which is not listed in the books.

The answer as to what the sound means can be found on the cat’s face and demeanour, I believe. Also, you’ll notice that the cat licks his nose in between ‘singing’. When cats lick their nose in this way they are demonstrating uncertainty as to what to do next. It is called ‘displacement activity or behavior’. A human version of it would be to scratch the head or bite nails. This supports my theory that….

Domestic cats making this sound are, in my opinion, demonstrating anxiety to varying degrees. For me it is ‘vocalised anxiety’. Perhaps it is like us saying “oh no..” There is uncertainty in the cat’s mind about the impending outcome. But why is the cat making this sound? I believe it is because (a) he wants what is happening in front of him to stop and (b) it is an emotional, instinctive response.

So what is the guy doing in front of his cat which makes him ‘sing’? He is carrying a video camera. It is my belief that the camera and perhaps the presence of the man himself, which makes the cat anxious. The cat will only ‘sing’ under certain and specific conditions. It may be that the only condition is when this man videos this cat. That is fortuitous for the man because it meant he was able to make a million-hit video!

If you click on this link you’ll see another video of another cat vocalising in a similar way but with a sound that says “No No”. There is the same repetitive nature of the sound, which comes across in the “Incredible Singing Cat” video as a vibrato – a regular pulse of sound and change in pitch made by a human when singing.

Another sign of uncertainty in the mind of a cat is tail swishing from side to side. This mimics a cat climbing and using his tail to retain balance. In the mind of an uncertain cat there is a balance between two decisions and the cat isn’t sure which is the better one. He is in a state of mental conflict. He swishes his tail while he thinks.

Hear domestic cat sounds with full descriptions.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in 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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  • Um... Steve Cash uses a pitch shifter to over dub himself as Sylvester's voice in the "Talking Kitty Cat" YouTube series. This cat is NOT singing... He's hissing at the new foster kitten.

  • When I first saw this, I thought the cat must be in some kind of distress from whatever the man was doing to provoke this response.

    I saw another cat in a different CATegory that had a very unusual meow. It sounded more like when a cat sees birds, and makes a kind of chirping sound. But this went on and on. It might have been classified under "unusual meows".

    There are very creative ways to get cats to do things when we want to photograph or video them, but I usually just try to take advantage of the moment, if I can. They really seem to have an unlimited number of actions that make them the number 1 most searched subject. I think it's still true.

    I just read about a cat that lived in a wall for 5 years in Egypt. A kind older man fed him and gave him water through a small opening. The paw is visible taking the food, in the video.

    Activists were able to get the wall torn down, and the cat quickly ran away. The cat was a kitten when first trapped, so never had any exposure to the world, so it must have been like a "re-birth".

    Although the chances for survival are very low.

    What a kind person to dedicate 5 years to keeping a cat alive in such a situation.

    • There are very creative ways to get cats to do things when we want to photograph or video them

      I think this is a key sentence. The video maker may have been doing something that worried the cat and stimulated the so called 'singing'.

  • The term vocalised anxiety is very apt. Unfortunately the owners of the cats in these videos have failed to recognise that. Or perhaps choose to ignore it for the sake of having a popular video on Youtube :(

    Any cat owner worth their salt knows that lower vocal tones indicate stress or anger and the cat's body language confirms their emotional state. The lip/nose licking is a dead give away when a cat is nervous. In most of these videos, the cause of anxiety is another cat in the room.

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