An orange tabby cat licking a human on the nose.
An orange tabby cat licking a human on the nose. Photography ©Murika | Thinkstock.

Wondering How to Talk to Your Cat? 6 Tips

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Of all the things non-cat-lovers damn our feline friends for, chief among them is the belief that cats never listen to us, and if they do, they don’t care one single iota about what we say. Sure, if you’re used to the fawning adoration and obvious expressions of a dog, you might not think cats listen to, or talk to, their people. But once you find out how to use cat language, and your kitties listen, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing. Here are some ideas for how to talk to your cat:

1. Listen to your cat

A brown tabby kitten with his mouth open, meowing or making another sound.
Wondering how to talk to your cat? Follow these tips. Photography ©davidevison | Thinkstock.

Being a good communicator means being a good listener first and foremost. Get to know your cat’s body language. Observe his reactions to different stimuli. What does his body look like when he’s staring out the window at a bird or a squirrel? Have you seen similar body language when he interacts with you? When was that? What does your cat look like when he’s dozing in a sun puddle? Have you seen that same expression at other times? Listening to your cat is much more about sight and intuition than hearing.

2. Give your cat love blinks

From a distance, close your eyes slowly and then open them again. Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy describes the speed of the blink as a slowly spoken “I love you” — close your eyes slowly as you think “I,” hold them closed as you think “love,” and open them slowly as you think “you.” Do this when your cat is calm and relaxed, and you’ll see him return your love blinks.

3. Offer the “cat nose hand”

Cats often greet each other by touching noses. You can replicate this by sitting down or crouching, curling your index finger into a shape sort of like a cat nose, and slowly extending your arm. By doing this, you’re giving a cat a chance to greet you in a way that makes sense in cat language. Be sure you extend your hand slowly and come from in front of him or just to the side rather than from above.

4. Keep your voice down

Cats have very sensitive hearing, so if you bellow at your cat like a drill sergeant or greet him with the kind of overly enthusiastic greeting common to kids and dog people, he’ll run off. Siouxsie hates shrieky people, and I don’t blame her. I find a quiet lilt is the best tone in which to share affectionate words with cats or to tempt a shy kitty to get closer.

5. Use directions consistently

When I say, “Hi there, Mister Handsome. Come on up here,” Thomas knows it’s time to have his pre-bedtime special moment with me. Bella will occasionally sit on the floor and look up at me while I’m writing, as if she’s asking permission for lap time; when I look at her and say “Come on up” or make a kissing sound, she knows that means she’s welcome.

6. If your cat gets too rough, think of kittens at play

When kittens play, they’re developing social as well as physical skills. When one kitten is too rough with the other, the victim will squeak loudly and disengage himself from the bully. Do the same thing if your cat insists on using your fingers and toes as toys: Say “Ow!” in a high-pitched voice and put the cat on the floor, then ignore him for a while. Do this consistently until your cat learns that it’s not okay to chew on you or claw the heck out of you.

Each cat has his own dialect, so to speak. The best way to learn how to talk to your cat is to observe your kitty and his cat language carefully. Every little gesture and look speaks volumes, and with enough experience, you’ll find yourself understanding cat language better than you ever imagined.

Tell us: How do you talk to your cat? What are your tips for how to talk to your cat? What techniques have worked for you when introducing yourself to a new cat or working with your own cats? Share your experiences in the comments.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Murika | Thinkstock.

Read more about how to talk to your cat on Catster.com:

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

30 thoughts on “Wondering How to Talk to Your Cat? 6 Tips”

  1. Pingback: Sphynx Cats — 5 Things to Know About Living With Hairless Cats

  2. Pingback: Cat Yowling — Why Do Cats Yowl and What Does It Mean? – my day with pets

  3. I’ve found that when my cats eyes go wide it means she in a playful mood. I know when she’s being g serious because her eyes are slits. This is just something I’ve noticed

  4. Adam Oliver Fletcher

    I don’t know why but when I talk to my cats I sometimes make a shhhhshhh real fast over and over a couple times and they both roll over I don’t know why but it’s funny

  5. How common is high level, open communication between human and cat? I’ve had mine for nine years and have had some otherworldly experiences with him. Not talking about blinking or meowing or any of that. It’s all thought, telepathy.

    1. Hi there,

      This article might interest you! https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-talk-to-your-cat-through-a-cat-communicator

    1. It’s a lot like having a young child. They have a very rudimentary way of expressing the things they need. While reading and asking advice can give you insight into what steps you may need to take, there is nothing like just being with your child, or in this case your pet. You’ll begin to notice when your pet is energetic or lethargic, and with a few well asked questions, you will know what to do. Don’t give up! There’s nothing like a cat to purr away your daily stress

  6. To be honest, I just talk to my cat like a person and she is tuxedo, so she meows back and it’s our thing! Some people that see me talking to her, just don’t get it and think I’m weird but I think it’s the best thing ever because we’re just awesome like that! She is now 15 and not as talkative ( because she sleeps a lot more) but I think she likes it and it’s just our thing! Lol

  7. Hi, Someone earlier asked about why her cat might be throwing up daily. My little guy had that problem, along with some congestion. My wonderful vet pointed out that many pets become allergic to common proteins like chicken and fish (they both give mine diarrhea). She suggested I try more rare proteins like rabbit or quail. Same issues. Finally she prescribed hydrolyzed protein food for him — it’s for sensitive digestion. I was skeptical because it is soy. But it solved all our problems. No more barfing, and not so many itchies and congestion

  8. I talk to my cats all the time! I use key words constantly and they know many English words. It doesn’t take them long either. Whenever some exciting activity is going to happen, I start off by saying “who wants…” as in “who wants a piece of cheese?”, “who wants a kitty treat?”, “who wants to play with the ball?”, etc etc. Always in a very excited and enticing voice. They get very alert over the words “who wants”. They meow and their eyes get wide and it’s so cute! Sometimes they’ll come running from another room. So I recommend always having key words. And always accentuating and repeating those key words so that they can learn them easily. My cat Desmond is a big talker. Every sound he makes means something different and it’s like we have our own secret language going on!

  9. Minny, my female beauty, sleeps with and will move when ever necessary. Never wakes me up and in the morning when I awake she will be snuggled up next to me. I miss her if she is not with me when I go to bed so I will call her and she will come. Sometimes it takes a while. She will jump up on the bed, scratch the bed sheet, clean herself ,and then snuggle up.
    She enjoys me singing to her. I strongly recommend singing to your little friend. They love it As mentioned before, Minny will run to the food bowl any time I get up.
    Minny is extremely affectionate. When I am watching TV she will sit by me with her head on my arm and sleep. She is nearby where ever I go. In my office she enjoys sitting on my lap as I use my computer.
    I love her companionship as I live alone. I think she has added many years yo my life.
    Thank god for giving us cats.

  10. Beverley Savage

    My 7month old ginger tom Paddy , comes and calls me when I’m sleeping say at 4.30 am to let him out he will either stand on my chest and meow or tap my face with his paw or rub his face on mine to wake me up , it usually takes a couple of attempts , all the time he is doing this he is purring his head off . He is like my baby I absolutely adore him he feels my heart with joy bless him ;) Beverley

  11. Does anyone have a solution to the almost-every-day cat vomiting problem? Has been going on for almost three years, and I’m near to surrendering 11 y.o. Kitty to the shelter. I’m old and sickly and can’t take it much longer. The vet did all tests $285 and said she’s fine and told me to put down cut-up shower liner pieces where she likes to throw up–no help at all. Have given K the best food and followed suggestions online–nothing works.

    I’m desperate–please help.

    1. Hi Beth — So sorry to hear you’re having trouble with your kitty. Maybe these pieces will help:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/why-cats-vomit
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/lets-talk-about-cat-vomit
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/why-do-cats-get-hairballs-and-are-they-normal
      Hope your kitty feels better!

  12. I have found that most cats respond to the word “No.” So I use a firm no and it brings good results. But not loud.

  13. I am so glad I am getting Caster in my email inbox now. I love the articles…they are very interesting & informative. I like to read the comments too. Last fall we adopted two snowshoe cats from a cat rescue place someone had just relinquished several weeks before..with beautiful blue eyes, brother & sister. They recently had their 2nd birthday. Both have gentle dispositions and we are trying to learn their communications with us. They both have different personalities of course. They are both loving. My female cries out with long wailing cries when she loses a toy until we go find it for her…Ha! My male likes strings & drags them to us with little short meows like he caught something and when I ask him if he wants to play string…he puts his paw on the string. He also does the little short meows when he wants to play laser light. They both have a distinctive meows when they are wanting their wet food feeding time…even though we leave dry out for them. They have already picked up on the words “hungry”,” treat”, “toy” & “string” as well as other words. If we say no-no to one…both may stop or run away thinking they are both in trouble…Ha!
    They have been such a joy. We lost our 18 year old flame point Siamese last summer so they have brought cheer back into our house.

  14. I’ve had a special whistle tune for my 16 year old kitty. He still comes to it whenever I do it from another room in the house…not with the same bouncing vigor he once did, but still happily shows up like a trusty friend.

  15. I talk to my cats in a very soft voice like they are babies and they just love that. I always tell them how beautiful they are. I ask them what they want and to come and see Mommy, stuff like that and when they are lying down, I will sing to them. Sometimes they fall asleep

  16. #2 my cat looked away for the love blinks kupid looked at my sisters cat and never looked back at me I tryed rubbing my head on her head and she loved that

  17. I talk to my cat every day I saw Jackson Galaxy show people he was working with the I love you blink, every time I try doing it with my cat he ends up being distracted, I ‘m almost ready to call it quits on that for a while, he tells me when he’s hungry and he tells me to hurry up (he’ll head bump my hands) if I don’t open his can of food fast enough for him.he has figured out a way to tell me he wants treats, he’ll come next to me and meow then put his paw as close to the treats as he can get it. That’s how he all’s for treats

  18. # 3 is interesting the way that you put it. My cats don’t want hands moving or near them. We have special nose and forehead kisses where I get on the ground and we bump heads and rub noses.

  19. Linda Hadley ……I have had cats[multiples} my entire adult life. Cats like when you talk to them but not in baby talk. They like face to face and nose to nose. They also like petting when your talking to them. Every cat is different and react and show love differently. I have also seen them show dislike when one is getting love and another comes up. They each find their sleep spot and and there is no fights. Also each cat shows different ways of kissing. I have one cat that a night he’s attached to my left arm and neck and is quite the kisser. The cat’s also come up to you and talk and most of the time I know what they are saying by their action. I love my cats and cats have so much to tell us.

  20. “Cats have very sensitive hearing, so if you bellow at your cat like a drill sergeant or greet him with the kind of overly enthusiastic greeting common to kids and dog people, he’ll run off.”

    Unless, of course, the cat has done something they’re not supposed to do, like getting up on the table. Then, all of a sudden, they can’t hear you even if you DO bellow like a drill sergeant. ;)

  21. I have been talking with my cats for as long as I can remember!!! But each and every cat has their own way of communicating, even precious who has a horrible mean personality will communicate me daily, yeah that took a lot of time maybe years but now she comes around sleeps on me and cries to tell me if she’s hungry or just wants the bath tub to run so they can drink!!!! And when when she’s done with (using) me she’ll hiss and take off or if another one of the cat’s comes up she’ll get pissed and run, she wants to be the only cat in a household that has my 2 beautiful cats plus a Shiba Inu who Precious HATES and will attack Lilly any given moment that she can hide and approach, especially when Lilly comes in from going potty Precious will lay in wait. But with a strong voice and my son’s quick fight or flight mode it is quickly resolved but on occasion has hurt scratched Lillly causing her to cry. Not a good moment. Anyway to all those cat language speaking ability please continue to communicate with ALL your pets!!! It makes our lifes so much more beautiful. Love Debbie Mitchell. Bristol, Ct 06010

  22. Amen I have been reading your blog and love the personal touch…I have been a cat person all my life always rescue kitties my life is immeasurably greater GOD’S creations WOW GOD bless you????

  23. Pingback: 6 Tips on How to Talk to Your Cat | mycatfirst.com

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