Behavior
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9 Weird Cat Sounds and What They Mean

Trills, chirps, barks and even “bleats” — cat sounds go far beyond the usual meows. Here’s what’s behind some of the strangest cat noises!

Phillip Mlynar  |  Jul 21st 2017


Children’s books teach us that cats make one sound and one sound only: a polite meow. This isn’t true. As anyone who’s ever owned a cat knows, our talkative kitties are capable of communicating in a fantastic array of sounds that transform and mutate far beyond the basic meow.

Here are nine of the more bizarre cat sounds out there — plus some secret revelations about what those noises really mean. 

Cat Sound #1: The Clickety Chirp

You all know this cat sound: Your cat posts up at the window, spies some birds frolicking outside and decides the best way to terrorize them is by broadcasting a sound that mixes mimicking the avian enemy — the chirp part — with a repetitious clicking noise. Apparently, no battle cat in history has yet to realize that the birds always seem completely unfazed by this form of attack.

Cat Sound #2: The Friendly Trill

I like to think of the trill — a shorter and shriller version of the standard meow — as a cat sound who enthusiastically says, “Yes!” I’ve deduced this from my own feline, Mimosa, who lets out a series of trills every time I approach the spot on the kitchen counter where her bag of treats and toys are kept. Unfortunately for Mims, the bag is next to the spice drawer, so her treat dreams are raised and then cruelly dashed every time I cook.

Cat Sound #3: The Bark

According to internet lore, there exist a few rare cases of cats appearing to make a noise like a dog’s bark. Science claims the noise is possibly due to the similarities between feline and canine larynxes, tracheas and other such biological things. But the real reason cats make the noise has more to do with the ego: If your cat is barking, he’s obviously casting shade on the primitive language of a dog.

Cat Sound #4: The Bleat

Ignore all that inter-species posturing above: When kittens bleat like baby goats it’s quite wonderful.

Cat Sound #5: The “Mom”

Also, zoology and biology be damned! If you gleefully refer to yourself as your cat’s mom or dad, the next step is teaching your cherubic little one to say your name — just like this “talking” tabby, Peanut.

Cat Sound #6: The Midnight Whine

I first came across the midnight whine while in an unfortunate roommate situation. The cohabiting human had two cats of the medically obese variety. Her solution was to use one of those automatic, timed feeding stations. Unfortunately, the contraption was broken — as in no food was ever dispensed at night. Cue two previously quiet and polite felines howling and whining about their hunger pangs all through the witching hour. It was truly the stuff of literal night terrors.

Cat Sound #7: The Demonic Growl

Danger! When your cat expels a guttural growl from the deepest depths of her stomach, you know something is seriously amiss with the world around her. Usually, that something is either your very presence or something you’ve forgotten to do, like, you know, not having offered up any treats for over two hours now. Never take your chances with cat sounds like these.

Cat Sound #8: The Cartoon Scurry

You know those cartoons where a character runs frantically on the spot for a few seconds to bowling ball sound effects before bombing off in a new direction? Yep, cats can do that, too. It usually happens during a play session or, say, when you mischievously flick a drop of water at her. The sound of a cat’s frantically scurrying claws on hardwood floors never fails to raise a smile.

Cat Sound #9: The Sleep Siren

It’s exhausting work being a cat, what with having to fit in 16 hours of sleep sessions and naps each and every day. Naturally, sometimes your blissful dreams about bathing in an oasis of wet food gravy become so vivid that you’re moved to get vocal. The noise comes across as a slightly muted whine mixed with a few of those patented cat chirps.

Read more about cat sounds on Catster.com: