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Why Do Cats Meow Back at You? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons for This Behavior

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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Why Do Cats Meow Back at You? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons for This Behavior


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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If you have a cat, you might have noticed that they sometimes meow back at you when you talk. Some cats will even meow at you when you sneeze or make a noise. The anecdotal explanation for this behavior is that your cat is talking to you, as meows are part of the preferred communication channel that cats use for interactions with humans. But what’s the real reason that cats sometimes insist on answering us with a meow?

In this article, we’ll look at why cats meow back at you—some of them are not reasons you’d probably think of.

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The 5 Reasons Your Cat Meows Back at You

1. They’re Just Chatty

Some cats, like Siamese, are anecdotally chattier than others. Talkative cats will likely meow back at you no matter what you do. If you talk to them, they’ll probably meow back. If you don’t, they’ll probably meow back. They often meow constantly, and there is little purpose behind their vocalizations besides the fact that they like to meow.

Cats can go through different periods of chattiness throughout their lives. They may be particularly chatty as kittens and get quieter as they age. Sometimes, the opposite happens, and the cats gain the confidence that comes with age.

cat meowing
Image Credit: Zhuravlev Andrey, Shutterstock

2. They’re Trying to Communicate

Adult cats don’t meow much to each other. Kittens meow to their mothers and gradually grow out of meowing as they get older. Instead, cats communicate through body language, and vocalizations like hissing are used when the situation calls for it.

Meowing seems to be reserved for humans. No one knows why cats meow at humans when that isn’t their usual way of communicating. It could be that the cats know we talk to communicate and are trying to communicate back similarly. It could have been that people preferred cats that meowed, so the trait of meowing got bred in as the cats evolved next to humans. There is also evidence to suggest that a cat’s meow can be perceived as a baby’s cry by humans, and felines might have been conditioned to use a meow to communicate with people because of the response it evokes.

Either way, meowing seems to be a method of communication for humans in particular. Therefore, it is likely that many cats meow back in an attempt to communicate, even if they don’t know exactly what you’re trying to say.

3. They’re Looking for Attention

Meowing is an obvious way for cats to get their owners’ attention. It’s loud without being entirely abrasive (in most cases, at least). When you’re talking, a cat may meow back to get your attention.

This may or may not be an innate behavior. While most cats seem to know from the day they’re born that meowing gets attention (though usually from their mothers at first), it is equally likely that the cat learned that meowing led to your attention. After all, if you pay attention to your cat every time they meow, it makes sense that they’d make the connection at some point.

Therefore, your cat may meow back so that you’ll pay attention to them. This is even more likely if they only seem to meow when they want something.

cat sitting on wooden floor
Image By: andreeastate14, Pixabay

4. They’re in Pain

Any change in behavior could be an indication that your cat is sick and in pain. Cats are very good at hiding their illnesses. They wouldn’t want to be seen as weak in the wild, so they have evolved to hide their pain very well. Usually, a behavior change can indicate that they’re not feeling well.

This can include a change in vocalization. If your cat suddenly starts meowing more, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Other behaviors can also indicate that your feline isn’t feeling very good. For instance, cats can urinate outside the litter box or stop grooming themselves properly. Inappropriate urination is a possible sign that your cat might have an issue with their urinary system.

Cats may also try to hide more when they’re in pain. They likely won’t play as much or be as active. If you notice any behavior changes, take your cat to the vet for a check-up.

5. They’re Excited

Cats get rather chatty when they’re excited. Usually, it is a series of short meows. Sometimes, it also indicates that your feline wants something, as they may be looking forward to playtime or a treat. Either way, excited cats will likely engage in meow exchanges since they can’t control their excitement!

These cats aren’t necessarily trying to communicate anything. They’re just excited.

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How to Make Your Cat Meow Less

Some cats are boisterous and meowing isn’t usually a behavioral issue. However, it can get a bit out of hand in some cases. Luckily, there are some anecdotal-based things you can do to make your feline meow less.

Still, you’re never going to stop your cat from meowing completely, and a few of these tips may actually make your cat meow more (especially if they get what they want from you afterward).  It’s how they communicate with people, so your cat will likely never stop meowing altogether, nor should you want them to. However, if your cat is meowing constantly, here are some things you should consider.

1. Ensure Their Needs Are Met

If your cat is meowing at you every time you talk (and every time you don’t talk), they may need something. Cats meow as a way to communicate with humans. Often, they’re trying to communicate when they’re meowing a lot.

If your cat is meowing at you, check to ensure they have everything they need. Sometimes, cats will meow for something that isn’t always obvious. They might need a door opened, or there might be someone sitting in their sleeping spot.

Image By: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

2. Get Your Cat Spayed

If your cat is female, you should consider getting her spayed. Female cats in heat tend to “yowl,” which is a loud meow. There isn’t anything you can do about this excessive meowing besides fixing your feline. It’s instinctual and not something you can train out.

A cat that isn’t spayed will go into heat every 18 to 24 days during their breeding season. The breeding season lasts months, and in the Northern Hemisphere, it usually occurs from February through September. In tropical climates, they can go into heat at just about any month. That’s a lot of meowing!

This whole time, your cat is trying to attract a male. They may also attempt to get outside more often and become extremely affectionate.

3. Take Your Cat to the Vet

Sometimes, excessive meowing may be a sign that something is wrong. Usually, cats will try to hide their sickness or pain. However, you can sometimes tell they are sick due to a behavior change. Most cats will get quieter and hide more when sick, but some may meow excessively as a sign of pain.

If your cat suddenly starts meowing more, you may want to visit a vet. Sensory deficits and cognitive dysfunctions can cause excessive meowing and are most common in senior cats. If your cat is older, a vet visit is absolutely in order.

vet doctor checking up the cat
Image By: Andrey_Kuzmin, Shutterstock

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Conclusion: Why Do Cats Meow Back at You

Many cats meow back at their people when they meow or talk. Cats reserve meows for communicating with people, so it only makes sense that they’d meow when you communicate with them. Usually, this behavior is not much of a problem. However, some cats meow excessively.

A sudden increase in meowing can be a sign of an illness. Otherwise, excessive meowing may be part of your cat’s personality, which is difficult to change. Females and males may meow more during mating season, though females are particularly prone to yowling.

There are several reasons that your cat may be meowing at you, but they usually involve communication. Your cat is trying to tell you something or is happy you’re there.

Featured Image: Skitterphoto, Pixabay

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