When your cat wakes you up or interrupts a work session with a meow, you may be wondering what they’re trying to say!

Cats are very expressive and make a huge range of noises, from purrs to growls to meows.

They use these noises to communicate, both with humans and other animals around them. Some breeds are noisier than others – for example, Siamese cats are notoriously vocal, while Persians and Russian Blues are often much quieter.

Understanding the different types of noises cats make can help you better understand how your cat feels and what they want. Here are 10 of the most common noises cats make and what they mean.

cat sounds

Meow

Meows are the sound you’ll likely hear the most from your cat. Cats start meowing when they are very young, as a way to communicate with their mothers. Cats living in the wild will stop meowing as they get older. However, domestic cats will continue meowing throughout their lives as a way of communicating with their owners.

There are many different types of meows that you’ll hear from your cat. Generally, a meow means that your cat is asking for something. A short meow is often used as a greeting, while ongoing meows typically mean that your cat is excited or that they want something!

Over time, you’ll likely be able to figure out exactly what your cat is asking for, whether it’s food, water, or attention.

Purr

cat sounds

A cat’s purr is a low, rumbling noise that sounds slightly like a motor. This is a noise that is often associated with joy, relaxation, and contentment. However, there are many different reasons why cats purr.

Cats do purr when they are feeling relaxed or happy. Cats often purr when their owners are petting or grooming them as a way to express affection. However, cats also purr when they are anxious or painful.

Purring can be used as a form of self-soothing in times of distress.

When your cat is purring, observe to see whether they are relaxed or tense. If your cat is purring but they seem restless or uncomfortable, it could be an indication that they aren’t feeling well, or that something in their environment is stressing them out.

 Distress Call

cat sounds

This noise is made primarily by kittens who are less than a month old. It is similar to a meow, but is very high pitched, loud, and can be very drawn out. These calls are to let their mothers know that they are cold or hungry. They also will make this noise if they are trapped or they are separated from their mothers.

Chirps/Trills/Chirrups

These adorable noises are slightly shorter and more high-pitched than your average meow. They can sometimes sound melodic or bird-like. This is another sound that cats learn from their mothers as kittens.

These little chirps or trills are often used as an excited greeting and an expression of joy and excitement. In some cases, this noise means that your cat wants your attention.

Howl/Yowl

cat sounds

Yowls are long, drawn-out meows; they are often lower in pitch and express discomfort. Yowls are used to communicate with humans as well as with other cats. Your cat may use a yowl to tell other cats to stay away from their territory, but they also may yowl if they are interested in mating.

If your cat uses a howl or a yowl to communicate with their owner, it is typically an expression of discomfort. Some cats will yowl when they are bored and craving attention or affection.

It’s also normal for cats to yowl when they are adjusting to a new home.

If your cat is yowling repeatedly, it may be an indication that they are feeling sick and may need to go to the vet.

Chatter

If your cat is watching birds or squirrels outside, you may notice them making a fast chattering noise. This noise is somewhat similar to chirping or trilling, but is distinctive in that chattering involves your cat’s teeth.

When your cat chatters, it usually means that their hunting instincts have been activated. They rarely make this sound around humans or other cats – it’s reserved for potential prey.

Chatter can mean excitement at the possibility of a kill. If the cat is inside, it can be an expression of frustration as they are not able to reach their prey.

cat sounds trilling

Hiss

A hiss is a very distinctive, aggressive sound that indicates that your cat feels threatened. Cats will often hiss at other animals if they get too close – it’s a way of telling them to back off.

Some cats will also hiss at humans that they don’t trust yet, or even at loud household objects like a blender or vacuum. Many cats will also spit when they hiss.

Some cats are more sensitive and more likely to hiss than others. For example, cats that have spent years on the street are often more attuned to perceived threats and therefore more likely to hiss than cats who have had a comfortable life inside.

Caterwaul

A caterwaul is a very specific noise that female cats make when they are in heat. This noise is similar to a yowl but is shorter and even more shrill. If your cat starts making this noise, they will likely try to get outside to find a mate as soon as possible.

To prevent your cat from caterwauling, it’s important to get them spayed as soon as they are old enough.

Scream

This alarming noise sounds similar to a human scream and is reserved for situations of extreme pain or stress. Female cats make this sound when they are mating, as the mating process is very uncomfortable for them. You also may hear this sound when two cats get into a serious fight.

The best way to prevent these uncomfortable scenarios is to keep your cat safely indoors. If you do decide to let your cat roam outdoors, have them spayed or neutered. Not only will this prevent a loud and uncomfortable mating process, but it will also prevent an unexpected litter of kittens!

Growl/Snarl

If your cat hisses, it may also be accompanied by a snarl or a growl. Cats often growl at each other when they are feeling territorial.

If your cat growls at you or another human, it’s typically a sign that they are feeling angry or uncomfortable. When this happens, give your cat some space to cool off – they may just want to be alone.

cat sounds

Every cat is unique and has their own distinct meows and noises. When you understand what different cat noises mean, it’s easy to make sure that your feline friend is happy and their needs are met.

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