Click here to learn more.
If you’ve ever lived with a vocal cat, you’ve almost certainly asked yourself this question. After all, who could resist wanting to know what your feline friend is thinking as she meows plaintively at your sleeping face early in the morning or weaves her way between your legs while crying herself hoarse?
Most of the typical in-the-wild feline sounds—like hissing, spitting, growling, and that hair-raising high-pitched screaming thing cats do when they’re fighting and mating—are self-explanatory: They’re angry, scared, or hoping to impress. But the plain-old “meow” can seem confusing to us humans.
Behaviorists say that cats meow at humans because they want something and, most important, because meowing gets results.
And that’s undeniably true. Meowing works. But why?
Interestingly, some experts say that the sound “meow,” as we know it, developed at least in part because we humans associate it with the needy cry of an infant. But it’s also undeniable that kittens meow when they want something. So it’s no stretch to assume cats didn’t learn to associate meows with requests.
But cats can meow at varying frequencies, pitches, tones, volumes, and lengths. A meow imploring you to open the back door, for example, can sound completely different from the excited, “I’m about to be fed” meow, which is totally different from the meow that happens right before you scratch her right behind her ear at bedtime.
As anyone who’s ever heard two different cats meow knows, no two feline voices are ever exactly the same. But beyond the vagaries of voice box machinery, most of the variation comes from the cat’s own personality. And there’s no predicting how the interaction of any given human-cat personality pairing will affect meowing. After all, when some cats learn that meowing brings them satisfaction, the very act of meowing can become satisfactory in its own right.
So what do you do when the vocal requests get continuous or turn into an obsessive, repetitive behavior? It’s always a good idea to take kitty to the veterinarian’s office to make sure nothing is awry. If the veterinarian doesn’t find any physical problem, you may want to seek out a certified animal behaviorist or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to get the answer you need.
But rest assured, the vast majority of vocal cats are not pathologically afflicted. Quite the opposite, most are simply voicing their healthy demands—pleasurably.
More on Vetstreet.com:
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank You For Signing Up
for the Petwire newsletter, sending you all the pet news each week directly to your inbox.
Get the latest pet news, tips, tricks, and expert advice sent right to your inbox!
For the next four days, patrons of the café will be able to meet 16 adoptable kitties as they sip on espresso…
The last Friday in April is dedicated to undigested cat fur. To celebrate, we found photos of the cutest kitties…
A new film features 11-year-old Cory Gould, who has Asperger syndrome, and his incredible knowledge of dog breeds.
Disco, who knows more than 80 phrases, songs and sounds, is a YouTube star who's beloved around the world.
We polled Vetstreet readers and veterinary professionals to see if they drift off to sleep with their cat or dog…
Want to make some enemies in your vet’s waiting room? This funny new video from Dr. Andy Roark shows you how.
The silky-coated Burmese is a compact but heavy feline who loves to show off his impressive athletic skills.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.