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A Cat’s Meow: For Humans?

December 26, 2011

Photo courtesy gadgetgirl

If you ever thought that you did a great job training your cat to talk to you, think again. In fact, she very well may have trained you!

While kittens and cats in heat usually do mew or yowl, most adult cats living in your home will meow for one reason: To communicate with people. They meow at us for many different reasons, and if you’re familiar with and responsive to your cat’s meows and requests, then she most likely succeeds in getting whatever she’s asking for.

Some believe that the communication a cat has with a human is an extension of the mews they learned to communicate to their mother cat as a kitten. Since a cat remains dependent on her pet parent throughout life, she remains a “kitten” and continues to communicate her needs that way.

Photo courtesy richeck

So why don’t cats meow to one another as much as they meow to people? Frankly, they don’t have to.

While adult cats may yowl (while in heat) or growl and hiss (while angry), they usually communicate to one another through body language and scent. (More on this in a future post!) Since most humans don’t pick up on these subtle communication methods (or even if they do), your cat has learned that meowing at you is usually the best way to get a response.

Here are six of the most common reasons house cats meow:

  • To greet you when you come home
  • When you speak to her
  • To request attention (affection or playtime)
  • When it’s meal time
  • If she needs you to do something (open a door for her, move something out of her favorite sleeping spot, etc.)
  • If she’s elderly (meowing may be a sign of mental confusion or disorientation)

Is your cat a big meower? Have you picked up on her language, or is it still a mystery to you? Does she have different words for her different needs? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2011 1:10 pm

    2 of my 3 are BIG talkers, and not just to me! Shadow trills at Linus all the time (he is the non-talker of the bunch) and she has all sorts of inflections to let me know what she wants..Buster, our little CH kitty, is also very vocal..he has a whole language of cries for “feed me; I want treats; I want to be put here: I fell in my poop”,,etc etc…Pretty funny that they have me so well-trained I consider myself proficient in “cat”!

  2. Lauren Cooper permalink
    May 14, 2012 2:31 pm

    My Riley is definitely a big talker, but my step-mom and I joke that he “cries like a girl” lol. He has the most pitiful meows sometimes that you would think he was actually crying or sad. But don’t think he is because that’s the tone he uses for most of his meows. He’s so funny sometimes. I have him “trained” to know when he’s getting his canned food. First I grab the can out of the closet, then I walk into the kitchen and put the can on the counter. I get a new plate out of the cabinet and put it on the counter. If all of this hasn’t gotten his attention (he’s a very ADD cat who will get distracted by ANYTHING) then the moment he hears the can open, he runs to kitchen and begins meowing and rubbing against my legs. It’s so funny because if, in his mind, I take too long to actually complete the process and put the plate of food down, his meows get more drawn out and more “come on. what’s taking so long?” sounding.

  3. August 23, 2013 11:28 am

    The younger of my two boys (4years old now) always talks back if we tell him off. He always has to have the last word. He is a very vocal boy. Would love to know what he is saying, its like having a stroppy teenager in the house!!!

    • August 26, 2013 9:04 pm

      Too cute! There have been so many times when I’ve wished that I could understand our cats. Maybe one day science will develop a cat-human translator! In the meantime, they’ll just need to be bossy 🙂

  4. Sean Busby permalink
    July 12, 2015 10:53 pm

    I’ve raised kittens for The Humane Society (their mother wasn’t around to feed them) but would give them back after they were weaned. Otherwise, I’ve never raised a cat. Until recently. We have added a kitten (born in April) to our family. She meows a lot. I thought maybe she was taken from her mother too soon as her siblings nursed for two more weeks after she came to us. We give her mother’s milk as well as her dry food. That seems to keep her content until she cries for more later in the day. She also kneads and sucks on soft blankets. Do you think she was taken from her mother too soon. Or is she just a very vocal kitten? Or is she spoiled 😉

  5. Milanka permalink
    August 15, 2016 1:16 pm

    I have 13 years old black female cat (domestic, short hair). Strictly indoor cat. I got her when she was only 6 weeks old. Since the day one, she was skittish, and so vocal. She is a healthy cat, except that her meowing drives me crazy. Day time is ok. We can “chat”, no problem. But I need to sleep, and night time is the worse nightmare for me. She wont shut up. When I call her name, there she is coming to my bed, but being always restless as she is, she would leave my side in a minute or two, and then, she starts to “talk” again. And, she has quiet a voice, so loud! I can’t take it any more. I tried many things, training, toys, playing more with the to get her tired before bed time, nothing works. I had two more cats (they passed away), but Miki was the same way as she is now when she is a single cat. I love my Miki a lot, but I can’t take it any more, my sleepless nights are countless…Help!!!!!


  1. Smell: A Cat’s First Language « Life with Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cats
  2. Too Chatty? How to Train Your Cat to be Less Vocal « Life with Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cats

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