Vet Blog

Lost in Translation: The Many Functions Of Cat Meows

October 06, 2022

Hungry? There's a meow for that. Affectionate or curious? There's a meow for that. Nervous, frightened, or anxious? There are a few more highly distinct meows for you.

Incredibly, a single "word" or expression can mean so many different things to a cat, and cat owners can show their love by learning their cat's language. Cat meows are highly unique to individual cats and provide an essential window into their thoughts and feelings.


Cats are perceived as quiet pets, but anyone lucky enough to share a home with one knows that they can definitely be on the chatty side. Some might even talk your ear off!

Highly socialized cats tend to vocalize more towards their people, and aging felines may also meow more than they did in their younger years. Also, cat meows may increase during stress or anxiety episodes, and can even indicate fear or pain. Because cat meows can mean so many different things, it is essential we pay close attention to all of them.

If your cat starts or stops meowing uncharacteristically, it could be time to investigate. Generally, any changes to a cat's behavior can be linked to hidden medical conditions that require prompt attention.

Decoding Cat Meows

Feral cats outgrow meowing as they learn to depend less on their mother. Domesticated or house cats rely on this infantile-like behavior to elicit highly specific human responses. Every cat has their own distinct meow, and they use it to call their person, say hello, or ask for food. Depending on what they want, their meow can change in pitch, urgency, and may even be combined with the following:

  • Chirps
  • Trills
  • Purrs
  • Chattering or chittering

Meows are widely understood as friendly, but they can also be used to convey anger or dominance. Just think about how a cat may face down another cat or animal in their territory. They'll puff their fur up as much as possible, stand up on their tippy toes, and let out a slow, drawn-out meow that veers closely to a yowl.

Cat meows are also a big part of the search for a proper mate. Cats that aren't spayed or neutered may call out repeatedly with lots of meows that you haven't ever heard before.

Cat-Human Connection

To fully learn about cat meows it helps to learn about and connect the sounds to feline body language. Always pay close attention to the positions of the ears, tail, whiskers, and head to know more about what they want and how they feel.

Cats meow for an endless list of reasons, and their owners are quite adept at interpreting them. If you have questions or concerns about your cat's behavior and health, please call us at (512) 892-3486. Our team at Brodie Animal Hospital is always happy to help!

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