Do you recognize any of these six cat meow sounds that kitties make to speak to their humans? Even in a household with six cats, a distinctive moaning meow leaves no doubt that my orange tabby, Tinsel, is lurking nearby with some mock prey in her mouth. "Tinsel!" I call it in response to the trademark, guttural meow-moan. "What've you got for me?"
Within seconds, Tinsel appears from around the corner with an occasional soft cat toy. Obsessed with socks, she loves "hunting" and carrying peers around the house. I consider this Tinsel's ersatz hunting, feeding her predatory instinct while living the life of a strictly indoor cat.
- 1 First, why are there different cat meow sounds?
- 2 1. The 'I Caught It' Moan: "Owwww"
- 3 2. The Mama Cat Chortle: "Rrrruh"
- 4 3. The Growl: "Grrrow"
- 5 4. The 'Feed Me Now, Human': "Meow! Meowww "
- 6 5. The Kitten Squeak: "Meeew!"
- 7 6. The One-Syllable Chirp: "Meh!" Or "Eh!"
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- 9 Read more about cat sounds on Catster.com:
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First, why are there different cat meow sounds?
We cat owners – especially those with talkative cats – hear many vocalizations, but is a cat meow sound just a one-size-fits-all kitty word? Do you have a vocabulary of cat meow sounds with different pitches, pronunciation and rhythms? Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, says Marilyn Krieger. And some breeds even have their own distinctive meows – like the Siamese, known for a voice that sounds like a baby crying.
"Generally speaking, meows and the different meows you hear for people," Krieger says. "They are so capable of so many different types of vocalization."
If we respond to those cat – how does it make him a certain vocal demand – Krieger says, because it produces results. She has two Bengals named Olivia and Jinniyah, and a Savannah named Sudan – each of whom has unique sounds to communicate with Krieger.
I have identified six different cat meow sounds, though, as people 's anecdotes have confirmed, many have been highly individualized that are not necessarily part of all these vocabularies. It's difficult to spell a sound with a made-up onomatopoeia, but I'll do my best.
1. The 'I Caught It' Moan: "Owwww"
Inspired by Tinsel's obsession, this is one of those cat meow sounds that seem to be muffled. Imagine faintly "Owwwww, Mowwwww," and you'll get the idea. Many cats use this when they carry in their mouths plush mice, socks and anything else that feels like prey. I assume they're celebrating their catch and showing it off to their humans.
2. The Mama Cat Chortle: "Rrrruh"
You'll hear these cat if you chat with your cat or if your cat is just being friendly. I hear this sometimes when my cats jump up onto my couch or bed, kind of a greeting. A cat chortle is a birdlike, endearing sound, somewhere between a chirp and a purr. It has a bit of a vibration to it, perhaps spelling something like "Rrrrrrruh."
"It's almost like we're rolling our way in, but it's a soft roll of the Rs," Krieger says. "That's a sweet kind of affectionate type of vocalization."
3. The Growl: "Grrrow"
Growling may be mostly a dog thing, but their own version of the low-pitched, menacing sound. A cat growling is not a happy one, unless it is part of play wrestling. Heed the warning. If your cats are making wavering, growling "grrrrow" noises at each other during mealtime, they're feeling stressed over another cat poaching their food. Krieger says: "You can not fix this problem by not putting each cat's bowl too close to another. Cats are, by nature, solitary hunters and eaters.
4. The 'Feed Me Now, Human': "Meow! Meowww "
Different cats have different ways of communicating their impatience and hunger. In my house, loud and never-ending cat meow sounds like, "Meow! Meoww! Meowwww! "Mean," Get your lazy butt and feed me already, human! "You'll also hear this caterwauling if your cat is asking for something else not listening. The longer you ignore it, the louder and more insistent this meowing gets.
5. The Kitten Squeak: "Meeew!"
Oh, that high-pitched squeaky mew of a kitten meow. It will melt the feline lover's heart! Note that if an adult catches a high, high-pitched meow, it is a screech rather than a cute kitten squeak, and the cat is upset about something.
6. The One-Syllable Chirp: "Meh!" Or "Eh!"
This is a quick, staccato "Meh!" Or "Eh!" That seems to serve as a conversational filler or greeting. My cats often do this when they approach me for affection or just have a dialogue with me. St. Louis-area resident Jaime Ingle has two Maine Coons, Pumpkin and Daisy.
She hears this "Meow eh!" Chirp from Daisy when she gets her up in the morning, as if she is saying "Good morning, Mom!" (As for Pumpkin, she employs a distinctive scratchy "Me-yowww!" While she rubs against Ingle's bequests, begging for treats.)
Amanda Tatala, who lives in the Pittsburgh area, has recognized in her Tiger has short "Mrra!" Meow, which she translates as a recognition-based "Oh, there you are!" Or "Yay, you noticed me!"
"I've noticed he's hungry," Tatala says. "Yay you noticed me … now, something in my dish!" While meows can provide fun listening, take note if your cat 's meowing patterns change, Krieger sureties. It could point to a disease, like senility or a thyroid problem.
"If the cat starts doing an incessant meowing or a different kind of meowing – something that is not used – it may be something wrong, and the cat needs to be examined by a veterinarian," she says.
Tell us: What cat meow sounds do you cats make? What do those mean me in your language?
Thumbnail: Photography by Casey Elise Photography.
This piece was originally published in 2017.
Editor's note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet's office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
Kellie B. Gormly is a Pittsburgh-based journalist and is known as Mother Catresa to homeless kittens and cats. She blogs about her adventures in parenting at mother catresaschronicle.blogspot.com.