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12 Cat Sounds & Their Meanings (With Audios)

cat meowing
Image Credit: Pixabay
Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team

Have you ever wondered what your cat is trying to tell you when they purr, meow, or chirp? Our gorgeous domestic cats use a wide range of vocal cues to express their opinions, with some cats being extremely loud when it comes to letting us know their feelings.

We might not be able to help distinguish exactly what it is that your furry feline friend wants, but by being able to identify some of the different sounds that cats make, as well as what these mean, you’ll have a much better chance of working out what it is your cat is trying to tell you!

We’ve rounded up 12 common sounds that cats make, along with their usual meaning. Of course, there will be exceptions to every rule, but as you become more familiar with the sounds that your cat makes, you’ll soon be an expert at working out whether they’re excited because they saw a bird outside or are reminding you that it’s time for their dinner! Check out the audio links that we’ve included, and see which sounds your cat makes the most!

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The 12 Different Noises Cats Make

1. Meowing

Let’s start with that classic cat sound we all love, the meow! This noise is initially used by kittens to gain the attention of their owners, and adult cats don’t generally meow at each other. But of course, our clever domestic cats have worked out that meowing at their human owners is a great way of letting us know that they need something, whether that’s a bowl of food or a cuddle. Most cats have a distinctive meow, so it’s often easy to tell different cats apart by the sound of their meow.

2. Purring

If you’ve always thought that there’s something comforting and relaxing about the sound of your cat’s purr, you’re absolutely right! A cat’s purr has a frequency of roughly 25 cycles each second, and it’s thought that noises in this range can have healing properties. Cats purr when they’re happy, but they also purr as a comforting mechanism, and we benefit from their purrs as well!

3. Kitten mewling

The kitten mewl is the equivalent of their distress call and is usually only made by kittens under 1 month of age. This high-pitched noise is designed to catch the attention of their mother cat, so she can reassure them that she’s still near. Kittens may also mewl when they’re hungry or have strayed too far from the bed or any time they need to catch their mother’s attention.

4. Growling

Growling is a warning for other cats (and people!) to keep their distance. A growling cat may also flatten their ears, puff up their fur, and swish their tails from side to side. They may also hiss. This verbal warning may be followed up by the use of claws and teeth if it’s ignored. Growling can be a sign of pain too, so if it happens when your cat isn’t interacting with you or another cat, you may want to get your vet to check them out.

5. Chattering

There are many adorable clips of cats staring out windows and making this distinctive chattering noise. When most cats chatter, their lower jaw vibrates, which helps give this noise its staccato quality. Chattering is usually heard when a cat is excited (or frustrated!) or when they see a bird outside or something else that they want to chase but can’t access.

6. Burbling

This adorable sound can combine elements of a purr, meow, and growl into one noise! Some cats may not use this sound at all, and others will make it frequently. It can be used to communicate a wider range of emotions than some other sounds. Cats may burble when they’re saying hello to their owners, expressing happiness, or when they’ve seen something interesting.

7. Chirping or trilling

Many cats will make this noise, which combines elements of purring and meowing. Cats may chirp at their owners when you come home after being away for the day or when they’re excited about dinner time. Others may let out a little chirp whenever they see you in the house and you call them over. Whenever your cat makes this noise, it’s always adorable!

8. Hissing

Cats use hissing as a warning for whatever or whoever is bothering them to back off. Cats may hiss at each other if playtime has become a bit rough or one cat wakes another up unexpectedly. They will also hiss at us humans if they’ve had enough attention or they’re being subjected to a bath they definitely did not want! If their hissing is ignored, some cats will then resort to using their claws and teeth, so it’s a good idea to pay attention when your cat makes this noise!

9. Screaming

Hearing cats screaming can be a memorable experience, and luckily, most cat owners won’t hear their cat making this noise! Cats often scream when they’re starting to fight with another cat, sometimes using screams as a warning before stepping up to physical contact. If there are neighborhood cats out at night, you may hear them screaming at each other when their territories cross over. Female cats can also sometimes scream after mating.

10. Yowling

This noise is usually used for cats to communicate with other cats, either for territorial disputes or as a mating call. If you move to a new house, you may find your cat yowling as they attempt to establish their new territory. The only other time that you might hear this noise is if your cat is in extreme pain, so it can be an indication that your cat needs to visit the vet.

11. Caterwaul

Usually, you’ll only hear a female cat who is in heat making this yowling noise, which is designed to attract males. If your female cat is spayed, it’s unlikely that she will make this noise. If your unspayed female cat starts yowling, it’s a sign that she’s in heat and you might want to keep her safely inside for a few days!

12. Wailing

If you hear your cat wailing, you can be sure that they’re unhappy about their current situation! Cats usually only wail when they’re feeling stressed or trapped. Some cats will wail once they’re put into their cat carrier for a trip to the vet or if they’re accidentally shut in a room and are trying to find a way out.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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