Categories: Sounds

When your cat talks, what does she usually say?

When your cat talks, what does she usually say? When a domestic cat ‘speaks’ she is usually requesting something using the meow sound which varies tremendously in volume, tone and frequency depending on the individual cat and the circumstances.

Therefore the answer to the question is pretty straightforward. The domestic cat will usually say, “I want some food”! Normally there is no need to make the request. The sound is also used to make other requests. It is a learned sound. Feral cats do not meow between each other so it is a sound that cats make towards their human owners.

Cats will make a request in the form of a meow to be let inside, to be let outside, to ask their owner to come outside to join them, for food as mentioned, or anything else. This of course is not the only sound that domestic cats make.

The cat purr is an interesting sound which does not just convey to those hearing it that the cat is content. Dr Morris calls it the human equivalent of a smile. Essentially a purr is a sign of friendship either when the cat is content to be with a friend or when the cat needs friendship as when he or she is in trouble. This would explain why cats sometimes purr before being euthanized at a veterinary clinic.

A mother purrs to her kittens while they are feeding telling them that she is in a relaxed co-operative mood while her kittens purr which tells her that everything is all right.

The cat meow and purr are the usual sounds made by domestic cats. Domestic cats make many sounds that don’t fit into the main categories. For example, my cat squeaks sometimes. Sometimes he’ll bark like a small dog. It is not a real bark but it is the best description I have for the sound. What do these sounds mean? I think they are close range sounds which (a) express contentment to be with their human companion and (b) tell their owner that they are reassured by the presence of their human. Cats make a strange sound to express anxiety.

Another less common sound is hissing. Hissing is a sound which is very similar to the sound made by an angry snake. Therefore, when a cat hisses it is to give the impression that she too is a venomous and dangerous animal which gives a reason to pause to a predator of the cat. This provides a window of opportunity to the cat to escape. Incidentally, the tabby cat when sleeping looks like a coiled snake.

As growling and caterwauling are not usual sounds I won’t discuss them here because the question refers to domestic cats’ usual sounds. However, there are many pages on cat sounds on the site. Please search for them using the custom search facility.

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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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