We’re all accustomed to the standard “meow” a cat lets out now and then, but a cat’s “vocabulary” extends far beyond this simple sound. Some cats are extremely vocal, chirping, trilling and meowing to anyone or anything that will listen. Other cats are much quieter and will only make noise when they want attention or something is amiss.
Different sounds usually mean different things. In kittens, meows are often used to indicate hunger or fear to their mothers and later to get attention from humans. Trilling, yowling, growling and crying are typically used between cats and sometimes people, and they can communicate different feelings, desires or warnings.
If your cat is driving you crazy with its constant cries, trills and meows, you might be wondering what on Earth it could want. Here are some tips for getting to the bottom of your cat’s vocalizations.
It’s just vocal
Some cats are just naturally more vocal than others. Usually, they’ll be this way from an early age, letting out chirps, trills and meows when they just want to say hello or for no particular reason at all.
If your cat is a talker, talk back! It will appreciate the attention and conversation.
It’s trying to tell you something
Cats use their meows to communicate that they want something. These meows can sometimes be warnings meant to draw your attention to something related to its needs, such as empty food and water bowls or a full litter box.
If your cat is meowing and seems restless, check all the basics to make sure all your cat’s needs are being met.
Your cat may also get extra vocal when it wants attention or is feeling bored. Petting or playing with your cat can give it the love it desires. However, if the vocalization is constant and attention-seeking, you may want to only give your cat attention when it’s being quiet to discourage excessive meowing or whining.
It’s in heat
If you have a female cat that is not spayed, and she begins to yowl all day and all night, sounding like she is distressed or in pain, she might be in heat. Female cats use a loud yowling sound to attract male mates. This is known for causing frustration among cat owners due to its loud, consistent sound.
To put a stop to the yowling, you’ll either have to wait for the cat’s estrus period to end or have her spayed to prevent the vocalization in the future.
Male cats may also yowl during mating season to find mates, but typically only when they smell a cat in heat.
Hunger is another very common reason for cats to meow. If it’s nearing your cat’s designated meal time, your cat may wake you up with meows or roam through the house vocalizing until it can send its message to you.
Some cats turn into tiny beggars when human food is around, as well, and will meow to indicate they want a piece of your chicken or a lick of your ice cream. Don’t encourage this meowing by giving your kitty a table scrap, or it may continue to meow incessantly in the future.
It’s in pain
Increased vocalization from a usually-quiet cat that sounds strained, pained or distressed may indicate that your cat is in pain or feeling sick. Vocalization is often one of the first indicators of an injury, disease or other medical problem.
If your cat’s vocalization is accompanied by increased lethargy, changes in appetite or physical symptoms of an injury or medical condition, take it in to the vet for a check-up.
Cats experiencing anxiety or depression due to sudden changes in routine or household status may begin vocalizing to express distress. Loneliness can also cause excessive vocalization.
If you can find the source of your cat’s distress, try to implement ways to alleviate it. If not, your cat may require calming supplements or a trip to the vet to find a solution to its anxiety. If your cat is lonely, try to spend more time at home or hire a pet sitter to play with your cat when it’s home alone.
Don’t avoid your cat’s meowing
If your cat suddenly begins vocalizing, there’s reason for you to suspect that something is amiss. Don’t ignore these meows; take time to investigate and find the root cause, whether it’s medical, household or stress-related.
After you look into your cat’s meowing, you’ll be able to distinguish between meowing that indicates an issue and meowing that is attention-seeking or learned behavior. If you know that your cat’s meows stem from the latter, you can pay less attention to them so you don’t encourage what could be frustrating behavior.