The cat is believed to be one of the most popular domestic animals. Despite its alleged independence, cats have been living together with human beings for many centuries. Still, some of the scientists do believe that the cats aren’t as domesticated as canines. Unlike dogs, cats haven’t lost that hunting streak of their wilder brethren (more about Kittens).
However, a cat is still a cat – an ultimate hunter, whose wilder side is a valuable asset. Many a farmer has adopted a cat to fend off small rodents and pests from his crops. Even though cats can hardly be considered easily manageable,
they remain man’s second best friend.
Cats are social animals and have a wide range of communication modalities used to transfer information among fellow cats and human beings. It is believed that cats use gestures to communicate to other cats and the number of gestures they have is quite impressive. By using gestures, cats show their mood, show aggression or demonstrate affection. Some scientists tend to believe that meowing sounds cats make are to draw man’s attention. Cats produce sounds to tell people how they feel, to convey their needs, and to express discontent or happiness.
It is believed that there are more than 30 different meowing sounds a cat makes and their number depends on how often the cat communicates with other animals and humans. Whenever a domestic cat meows, it tries to tell us something along the lines of “open the doors,” “I’m hungry,” or, “hey, look at me, I want to be stroked and pampered!”
Many meowing sounds cats use to communicate with human beings are similar to those little kittens make to address their feline mother. This is probably because cats view their owner as a mother, unlike dogs, who see leaders in us. Cats depend on the food and shelter we give them and simulate kittens’ behavior.
Those cats that spend most of their time talking to other cats are likely to use other communication modalities, such as body language, odors and other kinds of feline communication. Rarely do the cats resort to vocalization, except during mating and whenever the cat mother talks to its kitten.
It’s critical to be aware of the slightest changes in the way your cat behaves, especially if it meows often, as this is a sign of illness. Be advised to consult your vet, should this be the case, to be sure your cat is okay.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the sounds cats make and try to decode them:
All sounds that the cats make can be grouped into three categories:
- Chirps or trills – are uttered by cats with lips closed or nearly closed.
- Loud, intense sounds – are made with mouth wide open.
These three basic groups encompass a variety of other sounds. However, a basic array of sounds known to the majority of cat owners is somewhat identic in its nature, namely:
– Meowing. This is a basic signal employed by urban cats, and, as we have stated above, this is the signal animals use most often to establish rapport with a human being and to get its message across.
Cat’s meowing can easily be compared with human speech.
A cat will never meow for the pure pleasure of its owner – every single sound a cat makes carries some meaning.
It should be noted here that, depending on its wants and needs, cats can make meowing sounds with differing timbre and intonation. Some scientists go as far as saying that cats can imitate their owner’s voice – same pitch, same timbre, and same intonation!
Some specialists have tried recording different “meows” so as to classify them later. Most often the results of such research were anything but funny, especially when it comes to drawing a difference between “meoooooww,” “miawwwww,” and “m-e-a-a-a-a-w.” Our human alphabet wasn’t designed to convey such sounds and if these sounds are still unknown to you, the probability that you’ll get to know slight differences in modulations is pretty high. To top it all off, as your precious pet gets older you begin to get the hang on what it’s trying to tell you. A cat’s vocabulary builds on a basic cat sound, inherited from the cat‘s mother, but as the somewhat artificial cat/human interaction requires more than just that, your cat has to create a Linguasphere to interact with you. This Linguasphere is made up of more than just a mere “meow” (Aspca.org/pet-care/).
– Purring is a sure sign your cat is content and relaxed. Sometimes, it’s used by a cat to lull itself to sleep if there’s something that bothers it. At the same time it’s believed that cats restore their energy by doing so. The only state your cat can purr in is one devoid of any strain or aggression. A human equivalent to purring would be your wide, ingenuous smile.
As a rule of thumb, cats purr in the following situations:
- when a mother cat nurses her kittens. Kittens purr and reassure their mom that everything is fine;
- when the mother cat is lying together with her brood and tells them everything is okay;
- when the mother cat approaches a place her kittens hide in and tries to tell them that there’s nothing to worry about;
- when a young tom cat comes over to his elder brother and tells him he’s relaxed and subordinated;
- when a mature tom cat approaches younger kin and purrs benevolently, telling the other tom there’s nothing to worry about and that he’s not going to jump him;
- when a dominant tom cat accosts a younger tom, who tries to persuade the aggressor that he’s absolutely harmless;
- when a strong older cat approaches an ill kin, who, by purring, tries to say he’s weak and therefore harmless (see also Todayifoundout.com).
– Hissing. Hissing is another widespread signal, used in the cats’ world in two instances. Firstly to ward off other cats, for this is how the cat shows its warlike character and tries to tell the intruders not to mess with it.
Secondly, when a cat is frightened, it hisses to show its readiness to save its life whatever the cost is.
– So called “Yowling.” This signal, which must have woken you up on many a warm spring night cannot be confused with anything. Monotonous drawn-out moaning serves as an invitation to mate.
At the same time, a similar sound is being actively used by mature toms to tell other toms they are not welcomed in this territory. A loose analogue in our language would sound very straightforward – “Get lost or I’ll attack you!”
– Scream. This blood-curdling, agonized shriek can’t be mistaken with anything, as it is similar to the sounds emitted by harmed animals. Screams made by a kitten tell their mother that her child is in serious peril and has to be saved. Mature cats wouldn’t generally scream for help, as cats rarely, if ever help each other. If, however, we speak of domestic animals, sounds they make serve as a warning to their owner, who may come for the rescue and help the hapless animal.
Pretty similar sounds may be heard at the end of the mating, when a queen shrieks with pain. This acute pain may enrage the queen and cause her to attack the tom. A combination of acute, rippling pain and sudden aggression turns into a shriek, also known as caterwauling.
– Chatter. This signal is a sign of excitement and disappointment during hunting or at the sight of a potential victim. It’s a rather weird, low-key chattering sound cats make while they are prowling. Something similar can be heard whenever a cat sees a bird outside. This sound captured the attention of many scientists. Some of the scientists believe chatter signals other cats that the prey is near. The only real explanation is that this sound is generally made by a mother cat that takes its kittens hunting. The aim of this sound is to draw her brood’s attention to the potential victim – an effort to build on her kittens’ hunting skills.
– Chirps and trills. When a mother cat wants her kittens to tag along, she emits a soft sound that resembles birdlike utterances. Sometimes this sound is also used like a greeting to a cat’s long-absent owner. Chirps or trills are generally made when a cat enters her house and heads to her bowl. Even though chirps sound more like a greeting, the message it conveys is something like, “Come along and see that everything is okay.”
– Snarls and growls. Just like hissing, this is the sound used to threaten a cat’s opponent and tell him the animal is ready to charge and that any wrong movement may be a cause for aggression.
Finally, we’d like to give you few useful pieces of advice. Sometimes you might get the impression that your cat meows way too often. Sometimes this stems from the fact that a cat believes that by meowing it can get whatever it wants from its owner. This may gradually develop into a habit and your cat will meow more and more often. Sometimes this might sound way too cute, but once this develops into a long-lasting habit, you might just reconsider your initial notion. Okay, what you have to do is:
Ignore your cat’s meowing. Like, totally. Remember, when your cat meows, it wants to get something, so don’t give your cat this something when it throws a “meowing tantrum.” Remember to feed your cat when it is hushed. The same goes for strokes and pampering.
On the other hand, alarmed meowing may be a sign that your cat is ill. Should this be the case, don’t hesitate to ask qualified vets for help.
And one more thing: Cherish and love your pets like they cherish and love you!