Soon after birth, a kitten will meow to let its mother know it is cold, hungry, lonesome, scared, or needs to “go potty”. The mother meows in response to let the kitten be reassure that she is there and will take care of all of its needs. These fuzzy, cute little things are totally dependent on their mother early in their life since their eyes are not open yet. For the first two weeks they spend most of their time sleeping and eating.
After their eyes begin to open they start exploring. They play with their sibling kittens and mom, especially her tail. Mom brings them “dinner.” She meows to call them and let them know it is for them. Sometimes she brings them live “dinner” to teach them to be great hunters, just like her.
As kittens grow into cats, their form of communication changes. It becomes a combination of body postures, scent signals, and vocalizations, such as growls and yowling, to communicate with other cats; however, they continue to meow to communicate with humans.
Cats can make a variety of vocalizations. Paying attention to the circumstances in which your cat meows and the sounds he or she makes can be fun and can help you understand your resident fuzzball a little better.
If you have a cat you may recognize some of the following meows:
“Just saying hi.” You may hear this when you come home or they see you in the house. It is a quiet, short meow sometimes accompanied with a rub against your leg.
“I’m stressed.” “Let me out of this cage.” “I don’t like riding in the car.” “I don’t like taking medicine.” “I hate baths.” This is a distressed sounding meow and it is persistent. If you have ever taken your cat to the vet, you will recognize this meow.
“I am hungry.” Your cat will also try to lead you to their food dish when giving this meow. If it is past their typical dinner time they will be insistent and persistent. Sometimes there is already food in the bowl, but that does not seem to make a difference. You would think they are starving to death!
“Let me in/out.” They are out and want in or vice versa. It can be soft and sweet in the beginning. If they don’t get what they want it becomes more insistent.
“I’m over here.” “You called me, here I am.” “Pay attention to me.” “Pet me.” A really sweet soft meow.
“I’m getting older.” Loss of hearing, losing sight, feeling alone. “I’m scared.” All of these things can cause an older cat to meow and sometimes caterwaul. They need to be reassured that everything is okay and that they are safe.
There are some of the most common “meows” that cats make to their humans. There are lots more varying from situation to situation. The strange chatter sound when they are excited, maybe watching a bird, the sound they make when carrying a toy in their mouth from room to room, the “I am a great hunter,” as they drop a dead mouse at your feet and meow to get your attention. I have one that roams through the house calling me, just like I call him, when it is time to come in at night.
I find “cat talk” fascinating. I hope you do to.