A gray cat meowing with his mouth open.
A gray cat meowing with his mouth open. Photography by Casey Elise Photography.

6 Cat Meow Sounds and What They Mean

Sometimes, a meow isn't just a meow – not all cat meow sounds are the same! Let’s take a look at six different cat meow sounds and the meanings behind each.

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 out in response to the trademark, guttural meow-moan. “What’ve you got for me?”

Within seconds, Tinsel appears from around the corner with a pair of socks in her mouth or the occasional soft cat toy. Obsessed with socks, she loves “hunting” and carrying pairs around the house. I consider this Tinsel’s ersatz hunting, feeding her predatory instinct while living the life of a strictly indoor cat.

First, why are there different cat meow sounds?

A gray cat with yellow eyes with his mouth open.
What’s up with different cat meow sounds? Photography ©graphixchon | Thinkstock.

We cat owners — particularly those with talkative cats — hear many vocalizations, but is a cat meow sound just a one-size-fits-all kitty word? Or do cats have a vocabulary of cat meow sounds, with different pitches, pronunciations and rhythms of the same basic sounds denoting different messages? It appears that felines do speak to us in varying cat meow sounds, says Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant. And some breeds even have their own distinctive cat meow sounds — like the Siamese, known for a voice that sounds like a baby crying.

“Generally speaking, meows and the different meows you hear are for people,” Marilyn says. “They are so capable of so many different types of vocalization.”

If we respond to those cat meow sounds — like feeding him when he makes a certain vocal demand — then that sound becomes tailored to you, because it produces results, Marilyn says. She has two Bengals named Olivia and Jinniyah, and a Savannah named Sudan — each of whom has unique cat meow sounds to communicate with Marilyn.

I have identified six different cat meow sounds, though, as people’s anecdotes have confirmed, many cats have highly individual noises that aren’t necessarily part of all cats’ 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”

cat meow sounds
Cats make different meow sounds when they ‘catch’ a toy. Photography by VLADIMIR LVP / Shutterstock.

Inspired by Tinsel’s sock obsession, this is one of those cat meow sounds that seems a bit like a muffled moan. Imagine a slightly faint “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”

A mama cat and her kitten.
Mother cats make certain meow sounds to their kittens. Photography ©flibustier | Thinkstock.

You’ll hear these cat meow sounds when mother cats communicate with their kittens or sometimes if your cat is just being friendly. I hear this sometimes when my cats jump up onto my couch or bed, kind of as a “Here I am!” 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 Rs in a way, but it is a soft roll of the Rs,” Marilyn says. “That’s a sweet kind of affectionate type of vocalization.”

3. The Growl: “Grrrow”

An angry cat growling, hissing or hiding.
A growl / meow might be a warning before a full-blown cat growl or hiss. Photography ©points | Thinkstock.

Growling may be mostly a dog thing, but cats have their own version of the low-pitched, menacing sound. A cat growling sound 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 about another cat poaching their food. You can fix this problem by not putting each cat’s bowl too close to another, Marilyn says. Cats are, by nature, solitary hunters and eaters.

4. The ‘Feed Me Now, Human’: “Meow! Meowww!”

cat meow sounds
Your cat might have a specific meow sound he makes when he’s hungry. Photography ©Ukususha | Thinkstock.

Different cats have different ways of communicating their impatience and hunger. In my house, increasingly loud and incessant cat meow sounds like, “Meow! Meoww! Meowwww!” mean, “Get off your lazy butt and feed me already, human!” You’ll also hear this caterwauling if your cat is asking for something else — to be let out of a room, for instance, and you’re not listening. The longer you ignore it, the louder and more insistent these cat meow sounds get.

5. The Kitten Squeak: “Meeew!”

A kitten meowing.
Kittens have unique meows, too. Photography ©Remedios | Thinkstock.

Oh, that high-pitched squeaky mew of a kitten meow. These cat meow sounds will melt the feline lover’s heart! Note that if an adult cat lets out a strong, 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!”

Cat meow sounds
A kitty’s “meh” or “eh” is a conversational filler. Photography by annadarzy/Thinkstock.

This is a quick, staccato “Meh!” or “Eh!” that seems to serve as a conversational filler or greeting. My cats often do these cat meow sounds 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 human 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 Jaime’s legs, begging for treats.)

Amanda Tatala, who lives in the Pittsburgh area, has recognized in her Tiger a short “Mrra!” meow, which she translates as a recognition-based “Oh, there you are!” or “Yay, you noticed me!”

“I’ve noticed he does it more often when I know he’s hungry,” Amanda says. “Yay you noticed me … now put something in my dish!”

A final note on cat meow sounds

While all those different cat meow sounds may provide fun listening, take note if your cat’s meow sounds change, Marilyn cautions. It could indicate an illness, like senility or a thyroid problem.

“If the cat starts doing an incessant meowing or a different kind of meowing — something that is not usual and does it a few times — there might be something wrong, and the cat needs to be examined by a veterinarian,” she says.

Tell us: What cat meow sounds do your cats make? What do those meows mean in cat language to you?

Thumbnail: Photography by Casey Elise Photography.

This piece was originally published in 2017.

About the author:

Kellie B. Gormly is a Pittsburgh-based journalist otherwise known as Mother Catresa to homeless kittens and cats. She blogs about her adventures in fostering at mother catresaschronicle.blogspot.com.

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.

Read more about cat sounds on Catster.com:

90 thoughts on “6 Cat Meow Sounds and What They Mean”

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  5. I have a 7 year old Male Snowshoe, Kal-El, who has always been such a calm, affectionate, and people oriented boy, everyone loves him! We moved about 3 months ago and he again became exclusively an indoor cat, much to his chargrin. But aside from the forced tantrum he is putting on from not being aloud outside, he is his usual self ☺️ insatiable appetite and all….. untill 3 days ago my partner and I noticed that his Meow has changed. He has never been a very vocal cat, just the usual “feed me” and “look what I caught!” meh and chirps, and a LOT of purring, he is a lover lol
    But I have never heard this particular sound come from my boy before, it kinda sounds like he just went through puberty and his voice got deeper all of a sudden? Hahahahha but he is 7, and I’d be extremely worried if it weren’t for the fact that absolutely non of his other habits and personality traits have changed. Just the sudden drop in his Meow. Has anyone else had a similar experience? I will be taking him to the vet regardless (worried mum!!) But I was hoping to gain a bit of insight, I’m hopeful that it’s just a trait in his breed or something that happens with becoming a mature cat…..fingers crossed!!!!

    1. I had that with my seal point, Michonne . She never lost her baby meow and at seven, our “alpha cat” (my beautiful red point) died, her meow changed to a big girl meow. I asked a vet friend and he said possibly a hormone shift when she became alpha cat. She was the adult and her voice reflected it. My son calls it her smokers meow.

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  10. Your web page is very helpful, BUT some of your READERS have BLINDNESS and can not sit an try to read ALL of toe page.
    Could a voice say what is to be read? And I have all I need to be subcribed to “CASTERS< Catnip, and etc. so PLEASE stop askin to subscribe to a site. Ok?

    1. Hi there,

      We’re so happy to hear that we’re able to help! Please go to EDIT > SPEECH > START SPEAKING on your web browser to hear pages read out loud to you.

      As for our emails, you can unsubscribe at any time via the emails themselves or email us asking us to unsubscribe for you.

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  11. Sheba my tortie does make a few different sounds but knows it is very difficult to order me around, but what I do find fascinating is her response to other cat calls. Mostly she just ignores other cats she might hear, either in the real world or electronically. But not for kittens. If she hears a kitten sound (perhaps as I scroll through social media) she will come over and try to find the source. Yes Sheba has been a mother so I suspect this is a normal response to kitten noises, noises which are for mummy cats and not people.

  12. Our Vet says Bleu (Ninja Smokey Bleu) is a Russian Blue mix but looks fully RB. We rescued her from a shelter when she was 6 mos. old. We didn’t think she could meow because it was months before she made a sound. And it’s very soft and sweet. Sometimes we just see her mouth open and it’s so soft we don’t hear it. She is 14 mos. old now and will answer us if we say “what ?”. Or if she wanrs sonething. But we love our sweet quiet kitty. She loves to play and chase toys & treats. She shows her affection and gives us lots of head rubs, nose to nose kisses and slow blinks!

  13. My Oliver makes what my fiance and I call race car noises. He does this after he wakes us up for food in the morning with his yowls. After he yowls enough to wake us we start shuffling downstairs. Before we hit the top of the stairs, ollie comes scooting making a grrrrraaaaaaaaaaahhhh sound that sounds like a kid imitating a race car. When hes playful he makes the same noises. I love his race car sounds and it reminds me that he too is an individual. We adopted another cat a kitten rather four months ago for companionship. Binxie cant do the race car although he really really tries instead binxie opts for a quick little chirp chirp. Omg I love my boys!

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  15. We adopted littermates in 2004, they were stray kittens, and terrified of everything. They were so attached we took them both, it would have been cruel to separate them. 14+ yrs later they are snuggly in their own ways but still Leo, the braver one, has to know where Merlin is or he just calls him over and over. Merlin is pretty deaf, so there’s a lot of calling. I have to wear earplugs to sleep. But they gave us a great gift by trusting us after a couple of years, and are old men now so it’s ok.

  16. I have two strays from the street Moon is 8 and I found him at a few weeks old and has a lot to say. the vet thinks he is a blast as he answers her with very vehement yeses and noes. Skye who is four appeared out of nowhere on my 17th floor balcony at a year old doesn’t meow at all but squeaks, we think he was fostered by rats :-) But his squeaks can be loud and insistent, we are still learning about them. He has never meowed, we often try to get him to do it but it never happens.

  17. Something I find very endearing and cute is that, because I have 2 dogs in addition to my family of cats, my cats sometimes growls like a dog would. Like, if someone knocks on my front door, my dogs bark and growl, and then my cats will also growl in the same exact way, making towards the window to intimidate the “intruder”. Guard dogs AND guard cats! What a wonderful life.

  18. One of my short term fosters, a calico, does something that I’ve never noticed before: instead of meowing (or at least in the couple of days that I’ve had her), she growls! In the beginning, I thought that she just didn’t get along with her 5 siblings, but nope! She growls when she’s playing with a toy, her siblings, or even using the scratching box!


    1. I ended with 5 cats too.
      Initially I had only one for 10 years ,2 years ago during winter I noticed lise to my house a cat … it started to come for food under deck around 7pm.
      I fed that cat every day during bad winter and build an insulated house too.
      I was unable to touch it or approach it.

      We name cat SEVEN because of dinner time 7pm.

      In spring my neighbor found 3 kittens in his boat in the yard.

      Our Seven became mom and had 3 absolutely stunning kittens.
      I started spending much of the time with cats family. After months and months I was able to pet SEVEN and she was greeding me when I brought food. She moved kittens under neighbor’s shed
      Kittens were growing … I moved by then food to my lower level of the house and they started to come in the evening to eat <>
      Fall was approaching and was getting again cold.
      One day I outsmarted this cats and was able to close the door.They were inside !!

      Now they are over 1 year old.

      In beginning I wanted to be just a foster mom and give kittens away, but seeing Seven’s live as mom and how close kittens were I just could not do it.
      They stay at our home it was a GOID DECISION and I felt so happy and relive that we will be a big family.

      *they occupy whole lower level of the house were the sleep but love yo come all upstairs to visit us and just taking naps while we watch TV.

      Because Mom was named Seven kittens are :
      Eight, Nine and Ten.

      Everyone looks different and they have such a different personality.
      I can pet 2 kittens but 3rd one Nine is still very shy. I have lots of time to win his trust I hope one day Nine will be the sweetest boy ever !!

      It is very educative to have whole family of cats and I love it!!! They won my husband’s heart over too.

      *** our cat -Geirgette just hated idea that feral cats will live in her kingdom…now is much better no much hissing or fights.

      I think we are sucesull and cats a happy.
      They just hot a brand new CATIO and live soebd time “outside”

      I love my SEVEN & EIGHT& NINE &TEN +our domestic spoiled rotten Georgette.


      Sending you my Regards !

  20. My Russian Shorthair Annabel has such a range of meows some quite loud almost like a dog’s bark if she is insisting on going outside in the evening (which is banned). But for such a quiet submissive breed she really talks; for food, for attention, to leave a room all in different voices. My domestic Lulu has one for soft toys and food time and growls when someone approaches my front gate. She is like a dog in this way and will run to my bedroom window growling. She alerts me before the person gets to the front door!

  21. Our Cat, Micro, will randomly run around the house howling this deep GROWWL as he runs. After two minutes, all is peaceful and quiet. We have never figured this behavior out. Micro is a Seven-Year old male indoor cat. In nice weather we open the windows so he can smell the air and see the birds and squirrels that live nearby. When it’s too hot or cold for open windows, he has to be the first at the door when some one arrives. If the door isn’t closed 100%, he will Growl to get your attention so that he can see out of the “tall” window, (aka screen door). He also has a unique sound when he has just left his litter box. No idea why.


  22. My red tabby Harvey cries owww mowww when he’s dragging his fave red socks around the house each night. My black Turkish Angora Figaro does the “eh” when he’s looking for treats or attention. The sound and expression on his little face always works! My Bombay Mickey has a special sound to let me know he just used the box. And my Selkirk Rex Manny has his own deep moan when he wants more Party Mix. All rescues by the way.

  23. We have had several cats who give out a distinctive, mournful, repetitive cry to signal a hairball on the way. I’m not sure just what they are saying or why but it’s our signal to run to help them through the distress then go for the paper towels. Has anyone else experienced this?

    1. Yes, I have several cats that make this terribly, sad sound right before vomiting. I’m not sure if they are scared, hurting from the vomiting, or just warning me to stay back.

    2. Ha, your description of a “distinctive, mournful, repetitive cry” fits *exactly* the meowing of my cat Annie, when we’ve shut her (okay, tricked her) into her carrier and are taking her to the vet. It’s like “Ohh poorrr meee!”

    3. Yes, my six-year-old rescue cat Laura waffles also does this I’m not sure why I think it is just announcement that she’s throwing up. She is also figured out that people come running when she makes that sound. So she makes it when she wants attention sometimes.

  24. my cat Taffy wakes me up in the middle of the night and makes a “RURRPP!” sound before he jumps on my bed to snuggle with me. I love it! lol!

  25. My male cat, Beau, has an adorable “prrrrrooop” that is definitely a “thank you” which he does after he eats – it’s combined with a rub against my legs after he gets done washing his face after breakfast or dinner.
    My little female, Milly, on the other hand, walks around with a toy in her mouth that she’s “killed”, making a semi-yowl/growl to let us all know what a great hunter she is! The first time I heard it, I thought she was hurt, but it’s a “wild-and-fierce-be-scared-of-me” call. I can hear it all over the house, and I just know what she’s doing!

    1. My male year and half half maine coon has a very persistint rrrwow. Long ones!! It he only does it when hungry or wants to go out. Lil bit irratating.

    2. Michael Proulx

      We have 13 cats and I think I have heard them all, they are all rescued and seem to know and appreciate their forever home, it’s so cool watching and listening to momma cat talking to her babies. I think my cats have saved my life, I appreciate them as much as they appreciate their home, love my kitties.

  26. My oldest male cat meows for attention. Mainly he wants me to rub his back while he eats. If I don’t respond and he really wants my attention, he experiments with different meows. He makes the strangest combination of sounds. Sometimes he’ll make a weird sound that strains his throat and he coughs. He tries high notes and low notes and a mixture of notes. He knows exactly what he’s doing. His normal cat skills are somewhat lacking, but his skillfulness at manipulating or attempting to manipulate me is quite impressive.

    1. Oh my gosh, my cat Yuri does exactly the same! It happens only after we’ve gone to bed and turned off the light – he meows and meows until I get up again, accompany him to the kitchen and rub his back for a bit while he eats some kibble. He has me well-trained by now… But after that, there’s blessed silence.

  27. My kitty – little black stray we adopted has this little chirpy part meows. She usually does them when she comes in from outside. She doesn’t want food and doesn’t want to be touched really as she will run away if you try. But it is like she wants to tell us humans about her adventures outside. You can just talk to her and she will respond in those chirpy sing songy type rolling r part mews. This goes on about a minute then she casually walks off. She wants to talk with us rather then physical contact. My teen boys will call to her when she is outside and she will respond this way. Outside the chirps are combined with a roll on the ground exposing her belly to which they will scratch and they talk to her a bit, but it has to be a fast rub as she quickly moves out of reach, chirping with that rolling r noise.

  28. Every time I walk in the door my Russian blue makes this ra roar. He also gets on my chest and snuggles against my neck and chest and he meows in like a whisper and drools . When he gets a treat he sounds like a puppy. And when he gets really excited he chatters. And he’ll raise up on his back legs and reach up his front legs and I pick him up and he’ll put his paws aroud my neck. He sleeps between my legs and feet curled up ins little ball. He helped me through chemo. And he is so smart!

  29. Actually, that sound they make when they’ve got “prey” is something they learn from their mothers . It’s a warning would that means they are bringing a potentially dangerous animal into the den. Queens will bring insects and small game into their dens to teach their kittens to hunt. It’s a warning, those socks of yours just be quite deadly!

  30. My cat WHINES like a human. If you pat him when he doesn’t want you to, he makes this quavering trill-like noise in the exact same tone that a human child would use to say, “Heeeeeeey! Come ooooon! Leave me aloooooone!”

  31. When my husband leaves the house in the morning our cat calls out a really deep and sad meow, when I call on him to let him know I’m still home he goes back to hes normal meowing and comes running to wherever I am

  32. From all that I have read, cats use Meow Language to communicate with humans, not with other cats. There are many cat experts who believe that cats have their own language for communicating with other cats, and it is mostly silent. I once fed a feral cat who never came in the house and very rarely let me touch him briefly. He made a very odd sound that sounded like hissing noises, not at all like meows. I only thought that he was afraid. Then it occurred to me that I had heard possums make that sound. I think it’s possible that he was separated from his mother before he was weaned, and found a mother possum who suckled him. So, he adapted, and “spoke” like a possum, since he didn’t speak their language, either!!!

    Comments are welcome!
    A cat-hating neighbor poisoned him. Poor sweet innocent Henry.

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  34. When they carry a toy in their mouths and are dragging it in the direction of you, it is likely they are asking you to spend time with them playing. I once read that owners are meant to spend 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the p.m. in play with their animal… not too much to ask – just means tougher scheduling of one’s day. Maybe pet carers can help out too.

  35. I have a cat (Grandpa) that has a very whiny meow. sometimes he will do this whiny meow when he wants to be petted and if we drop our hand down he will run to it to be petted, but he is whiny a lot. I call him whiny cat.

  36. When my cat thinks he is home alone or sees someone walk out the ‘front’ door, he says “hello?……hello?….” We thought we were crazy but it’s pretty clear and he only does that when he thinks he’s been left behind…

    1. theresa hennessy

      I also have a cat that very clearly says “hello” and I refer to her as my multi lingual kitty as she speaks fluent “squirrel” is quite adept at speaking “sparrow” and is in process of learning “pigeon”. and no, I am NOT joking……

  37. I now have 6 cats
    4 of them when i hide they are sooo quiet
    But when i show up they meow so many times but another 2 is just sooo quiet when i show up and when i hide
    I have bring that 2 cats to vets and tge vet say that one of it is stressed and another one is sick

  38. I have a cat that is mute. Can anyone tell me what could have caused this? He is feral though I have had him since he was a kitten (an older kitten, not tiny). He was born to feral mother. The vet says he is part Maine coon.

    1. Our main coon cat had been Ferrell for about two years before she “adopted us”. At that time she was approx 5 1/2 years old. She never made a sound, and did not know how to play. She is now 13 years old, enjoys playing with her toys, and has found her “voice”. In the last year, and is getting louder and more vocal. She uses her voice when she is lonely, if she does not know where my husband or I are, or her food dish is empty.

    2. I have to agree with Georgia. It could be because he was feral. I adopted a feral kitten that I’d been feeding for about 3 months. He never used to meow. He’s now over 5 years old now and is just starting to find his voice and his meows are so cute and different from my other cats. He mostly meows when he’s in a different room than the one I’m in. He still slinks about the edges of rooms sometimes. He’s loving and sweet, but those few feral months did have a lasting impact.

      I’ve wondered if feral kittens/cats don’t meow because it attracts potentially dangerous predators. Cats mostly meow to their humans and not to each other. I fostered a feral Maine Coon mix and when he found his voice it was tiny and sweet and he was large and somewhat ferocious.

  39. I have two cats. Both Torties. The one, Kalee, can only squeak as a meow. She literally sounds like a mouse. Not much comes out no matter how hard she tries. She does this whenever we leave and every night as a routine I will speak with her and she’ll just shake her head and squeak at me whenever I ask her a question or tell her she’s a pretty baby.

  40. I have 2 cats, CiCi is 11 years old and is an American Medium Hair tortie and Autumn is 5 years old and is the same breed but tuxedo colored. We call Autumn “Miss whiny pants” because she will meow like “moww, moww…” so much during the day. I know she does it around feeding time as her way of saying “feed me Seymour.” But she does it so much when my husband and I are getting ready in the mornings and a lot of time in the evenings after we’ve come home. Because she does it so often, I don’t know what she’s trying to tell me.

    It’s actually been good though to have both cats because CiCi could only make little eep sounds like “meh” and “eh” but she can now meow because she’s learned from Autumn. It’s the most precious thing when CiCi meows because she wasn’t able to do it for most of her life and seeing her do it now is beautiful.

  41. Skylar, my silver tabby, will do his “meh” sound over and over from another room until I call to him “I’m in here”! Then he comes running and jumps up wherever I am at! He knows where I am as he has just usually left the room. I think he just wants to know that I’m missing him!!

  42. Sujay Bhattacharya

    Yes, they are absolutely correct. I have been experiencing them since my childhood and used
    to their “PURRRRR” , Head butt, Licking my limbs, cuddling … when they show their affection. Cats are very communicative and talks nonstop with humans whom they like.

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  45. My Maine Coon Phoenix comes to me at meal time and asks, :Now?” If I say, “Not yet, Phoenix,” he goes away. Five minutes later, he’s back. “Now?” (Yes, he has a question mark in his voice..) If I say, “Okay.” he gets excited and heads straight for his dish.

  46. Ok. My Lynx Point, HaiKu thanks me for feedin her with a “murgle.” Sort.of meow with a purr built in. It’s quiet and sweet.

  47. I get a Meow that sounds like “No” when I ask my orange tabby a question. Like, “Didn’t I feed you already?” LOL.

    1. Sujay Bhattacharya

      That means she is full, satisfied, a complement to you … if it’s a short “meow”. Now she wants 15 minutes of cuddling. Give her and see.

  48. LOL, and let us not forget the “Let MEOWT! LET MEOOOWWWT! NEOW, NEOW, NEOW!” that means, “You really should have already scheduled that spay, phone the vet TODAY!”

    Hekitty, the tortie who rules my house with an iron paw also has a “mrmp” that is obviously exceeding foul language as I only hear it when she asks for a treat and I tell her, “NO, you just HAD ONE!” She will also site by her litter box and yell “MAOWOWOWOW” if I haven’t scooped it quickly enough to suit her.

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