what do different meows mean? Can they help you understand your cat?

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What do different meows mean? Cat owners would definitely recognize the different meows. There’s the cute meow and the impatient meow. There are also a raft of other reasons why cats’ meows convey different meanings.

Cats have been domesticated for thousands of years. One of the most distinctive features of cats is their ability to communicate with us through their meows.

Meowing is a form of communication that cats use to express a variety of different things.

For example, cats who are feeling hungry might meow more persistently and loudly than usual, while cats who want attention tend to make soft chirping noises.

By being able to produce these specific vocalizations, cats are better able to communicate with other cats and even humans.

Cats use a range of vocalizations, body language and scent marking to communicate with other cats and with us humans. 

Meowing is just one aspect of their communication toolbox. 

Domestic cats meow for a number of reasons, including to get our attention, to express hunger or thirst, to seek affection or attention, to signal their mood, and even to express discomfort or pain.

Cats can even produce subtle nuances in their meows to reflect their emotional state. For example, one study found that cats meowed differently when separated from their owners than when left alone in their home environment.

What Do Different Meows Mean?

The Food Meow

This is the meow we are all familiar with, the hungry and want-to-be-fed-right-now meow.

The morning hunger meow is insistent. The I’m hungry meow may be a plaintive cry for food because it is dinner time or simply a request for attention with the hope of getting something to eat.

what do different meows mean
C’mon, hurry up, I’m starving!

The Companionship Meow

A meow can be a sign of loneliness and a plea for companionship.

Cats may meow when you leave the house and don’t show signs of returning soon. Some cats will also use their meows to let you know when they feel neglected or ignored.

If your cat seems to always be vocalizing but doesn’t seem in distress or hungry, they may just want some extra love and attention!

The Pain or Discomfort Meow

A low-pitched and guttural meow may indicate pain or discomfort.

If your cat is experiencing any physical distress, it may vocalize it as a way to alert you.

It’s important to watch out for other signs of illness if your cat seems to be vocalizing more than usual.

The Trapped Meow

If your cat has gotten out of the house or is trapped in another room, it may meow and this can alert you to its location.

There was a kitten in our street, that had strayed from home. It was officially identified as missing and local residents were on the alert for any signs of the kitten.

Meanwhile, some plaintive meows identified the kitten as being trapped in the roof space of a home in the same street. The plaintive meows did alert the owner that there was a very scared kitten in the roof space.

It’s amazing how one small kitten can galvanize help and attention when needed. The kitten was rescued.

a cat on a tiled floor meowing
I don’t know what I want but I want it now!

The Contented or Happy Meow

Cats tend to purr when content and happy.

An incessant purring, sometimes accompanied by a gentle meow means that your pet is feeling contentment and affection towards you.

This can sound like a soft purr-meow that is usually accompanied by licking or rubbing against you.

The Something Caught Their Attention Meow

We hear cats chirping, trilling, or chattering as an expression of excitement. Maybe they heard something that made them curious (like another animal outside).

Noises are often made when a cat sees birds or other small animals outside a window.

This behavior may be instinctive, as cats in the wild would need to alert each other to potential prey nearby.

The Anger Meow

An angry or sharp-sounding meow might be a warning sign that your cat isn’t happy about something going on around them, such as too much noise or intruding animals in their territory.

Giving off this type of vocalization means aggression could follow so it’s best to back off at this point if necessary!

This type of vocalization is meant to convey aggression and dominance over the intruder.

Where have you been?

The Annoyed Meow

A series of short, high-pitched chirps could signal that your cat is annoyed or upset about something.

Cats will do this before hissing if things reach an extreme level of irritation from their perspective!

Cats are often heard growling, snarling, or grunting to communicate with us. 

These vocalizations can be indicators of their mood and can be a sign of hostility or aggression. 

When a cat is relaxed, their ears will be in a neutral position. However, when they are feeling threatened or uncomfortable, their ears may become flattened against their head.

The Kittens Chirping Meow

Kittens often make “chirruping” sounds, which are cute and endearing.

These noises usually come out when interacting with their mothers for comfort or when playing alone with toys.

This type of vocalization usually fades away once kittens become adults, though some cats retain this habit into adulthood as well!

The Kitten Is Separated From Mother Meow

Kittens will often use an “isolation meow” when separated from their mother or other kittens for the first time.

These cries usually sound desperate and sad, like a long, drawn-out yowl or howl that lasts several seconds at a time.

Mother cats use meows too. A mother cat will meow to communicate with their nursing kittens. When a kitten is hungry, they will meow to let their mother know they need to be fed. 

Cats have a unique vocal mechanism called the glottis, which allows them to produce a range of different frequencies in their meows. 

This means that they can communicate with a variety of different tones and pitches, depending on the situation.

The Questioning Meow

An “inquiry” meow is used by cats to ask questions like “where are you?” or “what was that?”

They often accompany this behavior by tilting their heads back and forth while watching something nearby! Other cat behaviors can often accompany meows.

I can picture this behavior as I am writing.

The Hello My Lovely Owner Meow

Cats may also use their meows as a greeting, when they see you or someone they recognize and want to greet them in their own special way! It is something that you would recognize as your own cat’s meow.

This meow is usually quite high pitched with short little chirps at the end of it.

Are you nearly here? I need to start meowing?

The Are You Paying Attention Meow

A cat’s meow can also be an attention-seeking behavior. The cat wants to get your attention for food, cuddles, or playtime.

This meow usually sounds like a half-meow that starts off low and then increases in volume as if they are calling out to you.

Give your cat what it wants and peace will be restored.

The Nightime Meow

What do different meows mean in the middle of night? Some cats have a great little meowing routine going on in the middle of the night. It could be for different reasons. This article goes into more detail about meowing in the middle of the night and how to stop this behavior.


It’s amazing how our cats can communicate with us using these different meows.

Of course, the meow is only part of the clue; body language completes the picture.

Another interesting thing about cats body language is their tail-raising behavior. When a cat raises their tail, it is a signal of relaxation and happiness. 

This behavior is often seen when a cat is being petted or stroked.

Cats may also knead with their paws when they are feeling content or relaxed. Kneading is a behavior that is associated with nursing kittens, as it helps to release pressure in their paws.

We get to know our own cats and their own little particular meows and behaviors. Your cat or cats may have some extra special meows that have not been mentioned.

What sort of meows does your cat make?

two cats
Honestly dear, I think they are overcomplicating the whole meow thing.

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