When cats meow, it is such a familiar sound for me. I’ve been around cats most of my life so I’m used to hearing cats meow, but I never really thought about why cats meow.
I just assumed when cats meowed, it was a natural communication method between cats, but research has proven that when adult cats meow, it’s not for other cats.
So, what do cat meows mean then? If it isn’t to communicate with another cat, why do cats meow? Are cats trying to communicate at all? Are cats trying to communicate with us and tell us something? So, why do cats meow?
Learn everything you need to know about why your cats meow and what it means.
Let’s get started!
Why do cats meow?
When cats meow, it is a form of communication to humans to indicate that cats want or need something. After birth, kittens communicate with the mother cat by meowing but will stop meowing if the mother cat stops responding to their meow.
This happens when the mother cat decides it is time for the kitten to become an adult.
However, if there is a human presence, the kitten will continue meowing into adulthood because it will understand that meowing is a way to get a human’s attention and it will have learned that meowing is a way to communicate its needs to humans.
Cats do not communicate with other cats by meowing. When cats communicate with other cats, they hiss and growl, but they do not meow. Meowing was developed or adopted by cats as a way to communicate mainly with their pet owners.
Why do cats meow to humans?
Meowing is a form of communication used by cats to get your attention and usually to tell you that they want something or are in need of something.
Cats have adapted to keeping their meow going into adulthood because cats understand that if they meow to a human, that human will typically fulfill their needs. Most believe this is an adapted advantage by cats specifically for humans.
If humans weren’t around, then cats would likely not be walking around meowing all the time considering they don’t use that form of communication with other cats.
If your cat is just seeking attention or wants food, the meow will be more pleasant and soft. If your cat is angry or agitated, the cat will meow more loudly and the meow may sound very unpleasant.
Here is a list of the common ways cats meow:
- Quick Meow – This is just the cat’s way of saying hi.
- Several Meows – If your cat meows and then meows over and over, it can mean the cat is just excited. This is especially true if you just got home and haven’t been around your cat for a while.
- Low-Pitched Meow – The cat didn’t like something you did and is letting you know about it
- Medium-Pitched Meow – This is the meow you will most likely get when the cat is hungry.
- High-Pitched Meow – Think of this as the sound you would hear if you accidentally startled or stepped on your cat’s foot or tail. If your cat is meowing like this, the cat is either agitated, angry, or could be in pain.
- Long, Drawn-Out Meow – This is a way cats demand something. If your cat is giving you a long, drawn-out meow, they are demanding something. You just have to figure out what. 🙂
Do cats understand human meows?
Cats can’t distinguish your speaking from your meowing. So, if you are meowing to your cat, you will get your cat’s attention, but it isn’t because it understands your meow.
The cat just knows that you are speaking and if you are directing that speech toward them, then they will respond to you because of the speech and not because of the meow specifically.
Cats aren’t much more different than dogs when it comes to understanding what their human counterpart is saying.
Cats will be able to pick up the tone of your voice and whether you have a friendly or angry tone, but they don’t understand the words you are speaking.
If a cat has been around you long enough, it will start to understand certain communication based on the sound of your voice, but it doesn’t really know what the words are that you are speaking.
Why do kittens meow?
Kittens learn to meow after they are born as a way to communicate with their mother to let her know where they are, when they are cold, and when they are hungry.
The mother cat will also meow to the kittens to let them know where she is since kittens are born blind.
If the kitten is in the presence of humans, the kitten will continue this same communication method with their human owners into adulthood.
Do cats meow naturally?
As mentioned above, cats DO NOT meow naturally to each other when they have reached adulthood.
If you are around two cats, just observe them. You may hear some hissing and some growling, definitely a lot of noise.
This is especially true if the cats aren’t regularly social, but you will not hear any communication among the cats through meowing.
Cats communicate with other cats through facial expression, body language, scent, and other vocal communication, but not through meowing.
Bonus: 6 Crazy Sounds Cats Make!
Aside from meowing, cats do make other sounds that are more natural to them and used more to communicate with other cats. Here are the other sounds cats make and what they mean::
- Caterwaul – A sound a cat makes when it is in heat.
- Chirrup – It isn’t quite a meow or a purr, just a sound in-between the two.
- Chatter – A chatter is like a stuttering meow sound. This sound is typically heard when a cat spots potential prey like a bird that they can’t get to. It can mean that they are either frustrated or excited or maybe even a little of both.
- Hissing – Hissing can be a soft or a loud sound depending on the situation and your cat does this most times when they are afraid, especially with other animals like dogs.
- Growling -This sound is used by cats as a warning of potential threats. A cat uses this sound when it is afraid or angry, but may also make this sound when it is territorial. Cats will direct this sound toward humans and other animals.
- Purring – When a cat purrs, it can mean many different things (check out this article to see why your cat purrs).
Just to recap on why cats meow, they meow for many different reasons as you’ve found in this article. Your cat may just want some food or attention or maybe your cat is just trying to tell you what an awesome job you are doing as a cat parent.
Cats meow naturally to us because they do understand it is a communication tool for humans.
Cats meow so we can do something for them. They do kind of sound like divas. 🙂
If your cat’s meow is unusual, you should always consult a veterinarian in your area if you suspect a problem. But cats meow in many different ways and for many different reasons, so just educate yourself and watch out for any unusual behavior.
Love your little furry friend and they will love you back.
If you liked this article on why cats meow, check out a similar article that answers the question, “Why does your cat purr?”
If you want to continue learning more about cats, check out other articles about cats here.