Meowing is among the most common cat noises.
Meowing is among the most common cat noises. Photography by ©Foonia | Getty Images.

9 Cat Sounds and What They Mean

Trills, chirps and whining — cat sounds go far beyond cat meowing. Hear some of the strangest cat noises and find out what's up with those odd cat sounds!
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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, cat sounds transform and mutate far beyond basic cat meowing. Watch and listen to videos of nine of the more bizarre cat sounds out there. Plus some revelations about what those cat sounds really mean.

Cat Sound #1: The Clickety Chirp

This is one of those cat sounds that all cat parents know. 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 cat trilling — a shorter and shriller version of the standard meow — as one of the cat sounds that 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 I keep her treats and toys. 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 these cat sounds occur 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 did not work — 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. These cat sounds were truly the stuff of literal night terrors.

Cat Sound #7: The Demonic Growl

This is among the angry cat sounds out there! 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. These cat sounds come across as slightly muted whines mixed with a few of those patented cat chirps.

Tell us: What are the strangest cat sounds in your opinion? What cat sounds would you love to see covered here?

Thumbnail: Photography by pshenina_m/Thinkstock.

This piece was originally published in 2017.

About the author

Phillip Mlynar spends his days writing about cats, hip-hop and craft beer, often while being pestered by his rescue, a mackerel tabby named Mimosa. When he’s not musing on the feline form for Catster, you can find his music articles at Pitchfork, Vice, Bandcamp and Red Bull Music Academy, and his beer insights over at CraftBeer, VinePair and October. He’s won various awards at the Cat Writer’s Association Communication Contests, some of which are proudly on display at his local dive bar in New York City. Twitter: twitter.com/phillip_mlynar

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72 thoughts on “9 Cat Sounds and What They Mean”

  1. Pingback: Why Do Cats Chirp When They See Birds? – Kotikmeow

  2. Linda Andrews

    The only one of these my cat does is the “Friendly Trill.” It sounds like a dove’s/pigeon’s coo.

  3. I have a foster cat who trills constantly. Other than purring, it’s the only sound he makes. I love it. But my favorite cat sound is ‘mrrrup,’ which seems to mean ‘Hi! Nice to see you!’

    1. My cat makes this lovely sound also. I’m sure it does mean “Hi, nice to see you”, but think it also means, “Thank you”. My little Paisley always makes this sound when I open the door to let her in, place her bowl on the floor & when she jumps up onto my knee.

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  5. One of my cats does the cutest thing when I’m late giving him his food, even if I’m one minute late. He makes sure I have his attention by making intense eye contact, meows, licks his lips, then will “escort” me to the kitchen and won’t leave my side until the food is in front of him.

    1. Nickolas Smith

      My cat also escorts me to the kitchen when she’s hungry. After many intense meows and chirp’s. So cute and interesting.

  6. i don’t use computer much i was getting magazine in the mail i don’t know how it stopped coming and now it on the computer please send thru the mail

  7. Pingback: 9 Cat Sounds and What They Mean – Info Body

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  22. My beautiful calico just turned 2. She does not purr. She was found in a ditch at a few months old. Could her non purring be because she wasn’t with her mother long enough to learn?
    Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Rhea,

      Here are some articles on cat purring that might help answer your question:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/why-do-cats-purr
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-speak-cat

    2. I adopted orphan kitten just a couple days old, he is 4 yo old now and yep he doesn’t purr! I was thinking the same that he didn’t had chance to listen mama cat purr!

  23. I have 2 orange tabby sons both of them say “dwaaaawd” meaning daaaaad or dad. Their way of showing love or affection is either by doing happy dance on or around me or trying to lick my face,arms or feet.

  24. The reason for looking at this site is that I got a 4 week old kitten found in the woods. She is a very normal healthy cat. But she makes a noise that has stumped 2 Vets, everyone I’ve asked, and I have found nothing on the internet that helps me at all.
    Mittens, now 5 months old, makes a very high pitch ringing noise that comes out of her ears. We noticed this the first night we got her. My wife said when Mittens would go by her left ear, her left ear will start to ring. I lifted the kitten up to my ears and can hear this high pitch ringing noise.
    This noise happens constantly. When she is purring, not happy, or sleeping. I will be watching tv, and Mittens will be on my lap, and I can tell when she is looking at me because of this noise.
    She has been to 2 Vets, and she has no issues with her ears, and the Vets have never heard of this condition. They both said they blog with other Vets around the world, and will back to us. They have not.
    The noise is too high pitch to record on my phone.
    Has anyone heard of this condition?
    Going to a 3rd Vet today.
    Thanks

    1. FROM HER EARS?!?!!??
      Unless captured on video (use an external mic instead of relying on the one on your phone), I 100% do not believe you.

    2. I have this same issue with my 5 month old kitten!! I was going to make an appointment with the vet but thought I would google it to see if anyone else had blogged about it. She doesn’t seem to be in pain by it but my left ear rings when she is in close proximity to me and is looking at me. It’s the weirdest thing!!

  25. I thought this was going to be an actual fact based article but it was more commentary. Maybe you should change the title to “what I think they mean”.

  26. My very shy but very sweet and gentle black rescue cat makes the tiniest squeaks you ever heard when she’s greeting you. These teeny noises are just so cute :) but she can also growl loudly just like the cat in the video if there are fireworks or thunder about.

  27. I had to stop playing the sounds because my insecure cats started getting a bit upset with the noises and were looking for the source of the sounds. I’ve had these two adult cats for just 6 weeks and it’s taking time for them to settle in.

  28. I thought i had lost my mind when I heard my cat sigh for the first time. Norman siggs when he gets frustrated or wants to play when we don’t pay attention. My friends thought i was going craxy!! Thank you so much!!!

  29. Pingback: Why Do Cats Purr? Cat Purrs Don’t Always Mean Your Kitty is Happy – My Blog

  30. Google “No More Bath Cat” and then google “Oh, Don Piano” for the ultimate in cat sounds videos. Seen them before? See them again. No matter how many times you see them, you’ll ROFL.

  31. Micro, our cat of seven years, (44 in Cat Age, according to the charts), does NOT like to be picked up by my wife. I know she doesn’t want to hurt him, but she isn’t all that gentle or even thinking about his anatomy when she does. He doesn’t like it at all and gives her that, “Put-Me-Down-NOW-Before -I-REALLY-Get-MAD” deep chested growl. I remind, as I have in the past, that he doesn’t like being picked up, but she always continues until he escapes, usually scratching her with his hind claws as well. SHE just doesn’t learn. Every time, it’s the same thing.
    On a different subject, almost every time he goes in his potty box, he then runs around the house like “Speed Racer” or something. Why does he do this? Does anyone else find this behavior in their furry friends?

    1. I have a car that does the same thing when she uses her litter box. Maybe they are just feeling better or emptier, and they want to run around. Either that or they are running to escape the smell ????. Don’t know what to tell you about your wife constantly picking up your cat, some animals are very sensitive to who can touch them. Maybe whack her on the nose with a newspaper? LOL J/K

  32. I hv 2 cats from the shelter for about 7-8 yrs. one is friendly. But the siamese is very reserved. I really need to take her to the vet, but she has never allowed me to hold her. Now i see spots on her body, most likely ringworm. But she will not allow me to touch, so cannot take her to vet. Any ideas how I may apply some ointment on the affected
    Spots? Or is there someone / some trick to get her to the vet? Thanks everyone

    1. Hi Lali,
      Thanks for reaching out and sorry to hear that your kitty isn’t feeling well!
      Here are some insights on how to get your cat to the vet:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/how-to-get-your-cat-to-the-vet
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-how-to-ease-stress-before-during-vet-visits
      We really suggest bringing your cat to the vet, but here’s some insight into cat skin issues:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-skin-problems
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/what-causes-scabs-on-cats

  33. We rescued litter mates 3 yrs ago. They are a true JOY. They were very young when we brought them home. One is a torti & the other a calico. Neither meows much at all.
    I have heard them (not sure switch one) late at night when it’s dark & we are in be making a short little meow. Very short not really even full Meow.
    I call them to come to the bedroom with us. Mitzi will come most of the time & get on the bed. Gyspy rarely comes until early in the morning.
    I have had cats all of my life(God love them) & I’ve never heard this before. Are they just lonely & want us to get up?
    thank you for your comments,
    Judy

  34. Jacki L Zeigler

    Martha Harris: I make that exasperated blowing sound when I’m frustrated. My younger Siamese, WuChan, also makes the same sound when he gets frustrated with me.

  35. An Angry Cat Lover

    I know (hope) these explanations are supposed to be jokes, but a lot of these noises mean your cat is in severe distress.

    I know these aren’t your videos, but there are things in the “demonic growl” and the “midnight whine” that the person taking the video are doing purposely to elicit a terrified and defensive reaction from those poor cats.

    Lastly, if you pick your cat up and it makes the sound the cat in “bark makes” put the damn cat down. They don’t all enjoyed to be held, and that’s clearly what he or she is communicating. I hope that cat bites her in the face next time

  36. My DLH July does a blowing sound when he is unhappy with me. I’ve never heard a cat do this. It’s sort of like a horse, a quick blow of air through his mouth. It’s so low I’ve never been able to get it in video.

  37. My kittens just had a VERY strong reaction to the “mom” one. They starte to look everywhere where the sound might come from. Big eyed and the tail puffed up.

  38. Pingback: 9 Weird Cat Sounds and What They Mean – All About Life

  39. My boys do this cry when they are playing with their toys. Usually a toy has ended underneath the couch. Its like they are sad cause their toy or “mouse” has died. Or they are lonely for the other beother who is sleeping. They do this after i have gone to bed.

  40. Pingback: 9 Weird Cat Sounds and What They Mean – ReadFlare :-: A Story In Your BreakTime

  41. Pingback: Cat Wheezing: What Is It, Why Does It Happen and Should You See a Vet? – user's Blog!

  42. My Manx Cleo used a combination similar to numbers 1 and 7 above; I called it his “chatter-meow”. First, if someone entered his territory and he didn’t like that person, he would first hiss, then follow with spitting, then a rather irritated caterwaul, and finally, the chatter-meow, which plainly meant, “Get out of my territory, or you will deeply regret it! I am about to attack!”
    Another of my cats, Tripod, once scared the daylights out of my mom with one of her vocalizations. I was at work, and dinner time came around, but mom was asleep on the couch. Mom says she was awakened by this strange howling sound, and woke to find Tripod looking at her, like, “Now that you’re up, Grandma, can you feed me?”

  43. My beautiful orange marmalade tabby boy “Rio” definitely could call me “Mom”, he even tilted his head when he said it! I miss him so.

  44. I once had a cat who could say “I don’t wanna.” In English. He was a bit weak on most of the consonant sounds, but between the vowels, the intonation, and the context, his meaning was *perfectly* clear.

    1. maurice schaller

      I once had a soldier in the Army who would say that every time we did physical fitness,
      “PFC I Don’t Wanna”, we joked to her, but she tried her best in the pt program with a great heart and spirit. Every time i would pick her up for pt, she would say:” i don’t wanna!”
      lol. Maybe this is her cat.

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