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Why Do Cats Trill & What Does It Mean? Feline Behavior Explained

Written by: Emma Stenhouse

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat meowing

Why Do Cats Trill & What Does It Mean? Feline Behavior Explained


Dr. Maja Platisa Photo


Dr. Maja Platisa

DVM MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats make quite a few different noises, and one of the cutest that we’ve ever heard is the trill. This is a blend between a meow and a purr, and each cat can make their own distinctive version of this sound. But why exactly do cats trill? It’s just one way that our cats let us know that they need something.

There are a few different reasons that cats trill. Let’s take a look at them all so you can see if any of them apply to your furry friend.

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How Do Cats Express Themselves?

You might be tuned in to your cat’s behavior and know when they’re hungry, sleepy, or ready for a cuddle. But if you get a new cat or kitten, how can you get to know them better?

Cats communicate with us and each other in a range of different ways, including:

  • Vocally
  • Ear position
  • Tail movements
  • Facial expressions
  • General body language
  • Using scent and marking
  • Rubbing
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Image Credit: Pixabay

What Is a Trill?

A trill is a noise made by cats, and it can sometimes be described as a cross between a purr and a meow. Cats make this noise by keeping their mouths closed and passing air over their voice boxes.

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Why Do Cats Trill?

There are a few possible reasons that cats make this trilling noise, and you’ll have to consider your cat’s environment and potential mood when you’re figuring out the reason for their trill. Cat behaviorists agree that it’s almost always a positive noise. However, the full explanation behind why cats produce this noise and the reasons behind using it still remains unclear, and we are relying on speculations and anecdotes rather than scientific advice.

1. Trilling of a Mother Cat to Her Kittens

As kittens grow old enough to start exploring, their mother cats may trill to them as a way to draw their attention back to her or encourage her kittens to follow her.

Kittens learn to respond to this trilling sound very early and often start doing it themselves.

2. A Way to Say Hello

Many cats will trill to their owners and maybe even other cats from their household as a form of greeting. Your cat may come running to the door and greet you with a trill when you come home after a long day at work. Cats may also trill at each other in greeting. It’s the meow that tends to be reserved as a vocal communication with humans.

cat meowing
Image by: Stanimir G.Stoev, Shutterstock

3. A Way to Ask for Something

If your cat wants to be fed and petted or for you to play with them, they may try to catch your attention by trilling. Much in the same way that a mother cat asks for the attention of her kittens, your cat may use a trill as a way to ask for something. It’s up to you to figure out exactly what they want!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can Trilling Ever Be a Problem?

Trilling is almost always used in a positive sense. Every now and again, though, a cat may trill when they’re in pain or if they are scared. If your cat is trilling far more than they used to or has suddenly started trilling when they never used to before, you may want to speak to your vet. Your cat may have an underlying condition that has caused this change in behavior.

Cat meowing
Image by: Oscar Wiedemeijer, Shutterstock

Are They Asking You to Follow Them?

A mother cat trilling is a way to encourage her kittens to follow her, so some cats may employ the same technique on their owners! As to where they want you to follow them to, you’ll have to tag along with your cat and find out! But usually, this is to the kitchen and their empty food bowl.

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What if My Cat Doesn’t Trill?

Not all cats trill, so if you never hear your cat making this noise, it’s not a cause for concern. Some shy cats don’t tend to use trilling as a form of vocal communication, while some extroverted and loud cats seem to do nothing else!

It all depends on the personality of your cat and isn’t something you need to worry about at all.

See also:

Featured Image: Zhuravlev Andrey, Shutterstock

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