A new year. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked. Answers to be discovered. Although I speak chat (pronounced “kat”) I understand many human words because I listen. To improve feline-human relations this year I am going to help you to listen to and understand chat.
Many of my friends here at Second Chance are here because their people didn’t understand them. I write today in hopes of changing that. Let’s start with the basics. There are six global chat sounds that domestic felines make to speak to our humans.
Our meow vocabulary uses different pitches, pronunciation and rhythms of the same basic sounds denoting different messages (and some breeds, like Siamese, even have their own distinctive meows). If you respond to your cat’s meows — like feeding them when they make a certain vocal demand — then that sound becomes tailored to you, because it produces results.
If your cat likes to hunt (rodents, socks, toys) you may know the “I caught it!” meow – the one that sounds a bit like a muffled moan as we display our captured prey, “Owwwww, Mowwwww” is used to celebrate our catch and show it off to our humans.
Another common “chat word” you’ll hear is when your cat is just being friendly, often when they jump on your lap or on the bed. It is our “Here I am!” greeting. This cat chortle is a birdlike, endearing sound, somewhere between a chirp and a purr. It has a bit of a vibration to it - like “Rrrrrrruh”, a sweet affectionate type of vocalization.
And then there is the growl. This low-pitched, menacing sound is a warning to be heeded. This wavering, growling “Grrrrow” noise is used toward other cats or dogs and lets you know we are feeling stressed. This is your cue to remove the stressor from our environment.
Although different cats have different ways of communicating impatience and hunger, common application is the increasingly loud and incessant “Meow! Meoww! Meowwww!” telling you to “Get off your lazy butt and feed me already!” It is also used for other demands such as to be let out. You will learn that the longer you ignore it, the louder and more insistent this meowing gets – best to just comply immediately.
We all adore that high-pitched squeaky mew of a baby kitty but it is good to note that if an adult cat lets out a strong, high-pitched meow, it is a screech rather than a cute kitten squeak, and the cat is upset about something.
And the 6th common vocalization is the quick, staccato “Meh!” or “Eh!” that seems to serve as a conversational filler or greeting. I like to use this when I approach people for affection or just want to have a chat. It is my way of saying “Hey there – how is your day?”.
Knowing these basic meows can also help with more serious communication and you should take note if your cat’s meowing patterns change. This could indicate an illness, pain or other disturbance. An incessant meowing or a different kind of meowing may indicate it is time for a trip to the vet.
My name is Panda and I am a 1.5 year young talkative feline. I like to explore and to be with people but other cats make me rather nervous so I would prefer being the only cat in your life. My Panda-ness will be more than enough to keep any family feeling loved and protected. Although I find bamboo a bit too crunchy I am partial to tuna wrapped in kibble.