Why Do Cats Chirp? All About Cat Chirping

A cat chirping and chattering while staring out the window. Photography ©Andypott | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

If you were to tell one of your non-cat-owning friends that you overheard your cat chirping, he might look at you quizzically. After all, we all know that birds chirp and cats meow, right? But as anyone who’s lived with a feline knows, cats have a deep well of weird and kooky sounds that they use to express different feelings and desires — and cat chirping (or cat chatter, cat chattering) is definitely an ability hardwired into cats’ oratorial repertoires.

Why do cats chirp? And what exactly does cat chirping sound like?

You’re most likely to witness cat chirping when your kitty is standing guard at the window, staring out at a pesky bunch of birds or critters. The curious noise that comes out of your cat could be described as a high-octane version of a goat’s bleat. It often also has a few of those weird, rhythmic clicks mixed into it for good effect. As you’ve probably guessed at this point, cat chirping usually seems to occur as part of a feline’s esteemed hunting tactics.

What are the origins of cat chirping?

It’s been suggested that the origins of cat chirping come from kittenhood. One theory claims that cat chirping is a way for a mother to corral her clowder of kittens to follow her. It’s also said that cat chirping can be used in return by a kitten as an ear-catching way to get the mom cat’s attention.

Fittingly, cat chirping is a beguiling — and, let’s be honest, pretty darn hilarious — mix of excitement and frustration. So, think of it like the whines of the proverbial kid in a candy store trying to convince a parent to stump up for the sugary stuff.

Is cat chirping supposed to mimic birds?

Cat chirping definitely has a similarity to the sounds that birds make when they’re gleefully trilling away. But it isn’t meant to mimic the sound of a feline’s feathered foes. How do we know this? Because cats will also happily chirp away at squirrels and other potential meals. Sometimes cats will bring the chirping behavior into the homestead. You may hear it during play sessions with cat toys.

Okay, so why do cats chirp then?

Digging deeper, it seems that an element of frustration is key to understanding why and when cat chirping occurs. Out in the wild, a cat would spot, stalk and hunt his prey. But indoor cats are obviously scuppered by glass windows. The longer the feline stares at a bird she cannot put the moves on, the more the cat chirping increase.

Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant known as The Cat Coach and author of Naughty No More! suggests that cat chirping is “reflexive.” She adds, “[Cats] might chatter in anticipation of capturing the birds or maybe they’re frustrated because they can’t reach them through windows. Another theory is that cats chatter because they have a surge of adrenaline through their systems when they see potential prey.”

Cat looking out a window at birds and birdseed.
Cat looking out a window at birds and birdseed. Photography ©justinecottonphotography | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

How should you react when your cat chirps?

So, how should you react when your cat chirps? Well, first of all, don’t worry: There’s nothing medically wrong with her. If she’s an indoor feline perched at the window engaging in some enthusiastic chirping, the dignified course of action is to obviously join in with her excitement, while also sympathizing with her frustration. Yep, chirp along with your cat like you’re in some sort of feline karaoke session.

Top photograph: ©Andypott | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Read Next: Cat Meowing Nonstop? 7 Reasons Why Cats Meow

37 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Chirp? All About Cat Chirping”

    1. my first cat use to sit on the window and chirp at the birds outside I hought it was lovely. Sorry to say I do not have her she died in 2006 age 19 1/2 I had her from about 1 1/2 she was a stray we took in I miss her to this day. We called her LUCKY because she found us she was a ginger female which are rare ginger cats are mostly males.

  1. There’s a difference between chattering and chirping. Chattering usually takes place in response to the sight of prey. Chirping is more like a trill, and is conversational. Sometimes, this is breed specific. Manx cats, for example, are much more likely to chirp their communications than they are to meow.

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  9. Sami Swan Thompson

    Two of our current rescue kitties (Maida & her brother, Pharoah) chirp, trill, & carry on conversations with each other, the other cats, and us. Maida will follow us from room to room, telling us stories; Pharoah will stand in the kitchen & yell until he knows where everyone is. Ours is not a quiet house – just a wacky one.

  10. My 11 year old Maine Coon was chirping this morning because there was a squirrel on my back porch. He has done this many times but my mother still doesn’t know what it is. I tell her that kitties do this when they want to hunt but are unable to access their prey. ????

  11. Other cats I have had used to do this all the time. The 4 I have now do not seem to except once in a while , instead of birds, I catch one doing this at flies. She did this just before she pounced at the “flying raisins”., and usually caught them.

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    1. Hi Kristin,

      These articles might provide some good insight. You may want to work with a behaviorist as well:

  13. My cat has a favorite toy. We keep it upstairs so the dogs won’t ruin it. She frequently carries it down while chirping. Then drops it and walks away.

  14. I have two Bengals and the way it was explained to me is that they instinctively let other members of their family, tribe, pride or community that they have spotted prey and that the hunt is on, inviting or summoning others to join in.

  15. My (dec.) cat used to ‘chirp’ all the time at whatever was outside the window – – I called it chattering and would join her frequently telling her we had to ” . . . .hide from the birdies (or squirrels or whatever) and keep it on the down low” so they wouldn’t go away. She would peek over the top of the couch (in front of the window) and seemed to understand as her mouth would work although no sound would come out! She’d balance on my arm, ‘hiding’ and chattering – – – this was in WA state when she started this – – – -her antics came back although not as frequently, in the Midwest where I moved to. I never took it as a frustration at not being able to get to them – – – just her way of talking to them! None of my other 4 do it!

  16. I think cats chirp to say, “here, birdy birdy birdy,” to try to convince the bird to come to the cat by sounding like a bird. Same goes for squirrels.

  17. Jennifer Johnson

    My cat chirps at birds when she sees them, but nothing else (not squirrels or rats). However, she recently had a tooth pulled and while she was recovering she would chirp at me when I walked by! I would of course immediately see what she wanted. So the thought that it was a way to get the mother’s attention as kittens seems plausible.

  18. My Binky chirped for days after his brother died. It was the same chirp they used to call each other. He doesn’t do it anymore and is happy again.

  19. We call Merc’s chirping ‘smack talk’ because when he’s making the noise, it’s usually because something is invading his domain. We translate it as “You are SO lucky I’m in this house. If I was outside, you’d be in trouble!”

  20. We actually had our indoor bengal, Jack , chirp angrily while backing into a corner. He was chirping at my daughter because she brought a kitten into the house.

  21. I have a big bench in front of a livingroom window, with two birdfeeders just outside and often loaded with birds and squirrels so my two cats chirp a lot. The first time it happened I thought my cat was having a stroke! Lol. They chirp nearly every day, but only at birds, not the squirrels, outdoor cats, rabbits, or dogs.

  22. I find cat chirping very amusing. Enough so that I’ve taught three cats to chirp “ on command”. Seems cruel if they chirp out of frustration, so my current monster will not be taunted with the Pavlovian, “ Do you see a birdie?” Whoever he chirps.

  23. My cat sits in the window and chirps at birds. I talked with several co-workers and their cats behave the same way. Our general thought is that our cats are ‘talking’ to the birds or talking bird-talk. My cat does not make the chirping sound to squirrels, rabbits, or the neighbor’s dog, just to the birds. When the cat sees other animals outside the window like squirrels, rabbits, foxes or deer, she goes completely still and watches the other animals, but without the chirps.

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