5 Cat Sounds and What They Mean

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

20 September 2016

The cat human relationship is one based on servant-hood and masterdom. Our cats have a wide vocabulary and will use various cat sounds to let us know exactly what they want. If we listen carefully to the noises and vocalisations our cats make, we may find that they've been meowing orders at us for quite some time. It's time we perked up our ears and get busy with their demands!

Look at me right meow

Contrary to popular belief a ‘meow’ is rarely used when interacting with other cats. It is a feline vocalisation that is reserved especially for you, dear human. Meow is a multipurpose noise, it could be a greeting or an order, a call for attention or food. Just as a mother can tell if her child is really hurt or not just from the sound of their cry, so you will learn to interpret your cat’s calls. If uttered in rapid fire it’s likely to translate to “Hellooooo, I’m here! Mum, mum, mum look at me!”, but a softly spoken “mew” is more likely to mean “Where is my food human?” 

Kittens are the exception when it comes to the Laws of Meow. They use its power to communicate with their mothers, but as they grow they almost exclusively meow for their human servants. A long drawn out meowww could imply worry or anxiety and is more common in older cats who have increasing levels of anxiety. Offer them some reassurance with extra attention and removing them from stressful situations.


Is your cat purring? Kudos to you human! You are clearly excelling in your role as a cat servant. Purring is one of the most adorable cat sounds that you’ll hear your pudda make. It means that they are happy and content. Read more about the power of purring here and keep up the good work.

I thought I adopted a puddy cat?

Yep, we agree, it seems unnatural for a cat to mimic a bird's trill but this is a good cat sound and one your cat will make if he is happy or excited. They get it from their mummas! Mother cats will often use a soft trill to get the attention of their offspring. Your puddy tat will often use it as a way of saying “It’s been half an hour since you played with me”.

Hisssss off

Just in case the message isn’t clear from the arched back, on end fur or pulled back ears, your cat will amplify its annoyance or anger with a hiss. Think of it as the feline equivalent of a teenager stomping to their room, exclaiming ‘It’s not fair!’ as they go. Just as you would with a teenager, step away and remove yourself from the situation.

Yowl you doing?

Yowls have two purposes and can be directed at both humans and other cats. If directed at another cat, yowling is the vocal equivalent of spraying, sending a signal that they're single and ready to mingle. On the other paw, a yowl can be translated as a sign of distress if directed at a purr-ent. If you hear your cat yowling, your caternal instinct will kick in and you’ll go running. If the yowling is persistent, make an appointment with your vet. It could convey something more serious like anxiety or illness.

Chirping and Chatting

Any cat worth their weight in biscuits knows that all bird sightings deserve a good chirp or chat. These adorably audible cat behaviours are brought on by excitement, so you'll often catch your cat chirping or chatting while they bird watch from a windowsill or their cat enclosure.

Now that your are well versed in cat sounds, find out more about human-cat communication here and keep your kitties purrin' with some fun in the sun in a secure and spacious cat enclosure or cat run from our fur-bulous range right here


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