Why Do Cats Meow?

why cats meow

As a little child, you already learn that ” meow ” is the sound that a cat makes. This cat sound can mean several things. The distinctive “meow” is not just a normal cat sound. It is a surprising and unique way of communicating. You can learn a lot about your cat if you pay much attention to the way of meowing.

A cat’s meow is the way of communicating with people. Cats do meow for many reasons: to ask for things, to tell us when something’s wrong, and to say hello. Meowing is an interesting vocalization.

In this post, you will learn what a cat’s language is so that you can understand your cat even better. You can also read why cats meow so many, which meowing means, and the different types and meanings. You can also learn about excessive meowing and how you can solve this.

Why Do Cats Meow?

A mother cat ‘talks’ to her kittens. By a change in pitch, she indicates that there is food, that the kitten must come back or follow her. In adult cats, you never really hear this ‘language’ again. Adult cats do not meow to other cats. But they continue to meow to people throughout their lives, probably because meowing gets people to do what they want. The sounds that the cat uses to clarify her intentions are mainly vowel-like sounds. The ‘meow’ in various variations such as ‘mew’ or ‘mrriep’ has its meaning. In this special way, the cat knows to make it clear that it wants to have food, that it wants to go out, or want some attention.

Most Common Reasons Why Cats Meow

  • A cat is meowing to greet people—a cat meow as a greeting when you come home.
  • Cats like to demand attention. They enjoy social contact with people. When a cat demands attention, it may want to play, be petting, or you need to talk to the cat.
  • Cats can ask for food by meowing. Most cats love to eat, and they can be quite demanding around mealtimes. Once the cat has the food, it stops asking for attention for a while.
  • Asking to go in or out. Your cat meows to let you know what your cat wants. If your cat wants to go outside, it will probably meow at the door. And if your cat is outside but wants to go back in, it will meow again at the door.
  • Older cats may meow if they become disoriented. Older cats may suffer from cognitive impairment or mental confusion. It is a common symptom in the feline version of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Cats can meow if they want to find a mate. Males yowl to gain access to females. Females howl to advertise their receptivity to males.

The Meaning of Meow

Meow has much pitch and expresses with an open mouth that is closed at ‘ow’ so that the sound comes across as a clear word to us. All kinds of meows are asking people to open the door, fill the food bowl or give attention.

The word ”meow” is using to ask, demand, and even to complain. If you split the word into syllables – me-ow- then you can see that the cat can vary or emphasize the length of each part so that the word takes on a different meaning. If the a-part is not emphasized, the cat sounds ‘pathetic’ or disappointed. When the ‘ow’ is extending, the situation seems completely hopeless.

This imploring sound is often hearing when a cat is behind a closed door and wants to go inside or when there is good food on the table, and the cat does not get anything. The sound becomes ‘ happier ‘ and lighter when you say yes to your cat and the meowing. It is alternated with a spindle to ensure you do not change your mind – that’s called manipulation!

The Meow for Attention

When questions beg, many cats repeat the ‘ow’ at the end and slowly close their mouths, so the message is stretched. A short, higher meow often indicates how desperately the cat wants something. Cats often demand attention by giving a tick with the paw combined with a ‘silent meow.’ It is saying that they only use this way when they ask for food or attention from people who usually do not give in to their desires.

It is a good method that usually succeeds because the ticking paw and the gently whispered meow are difficult to resist. Of course, the sound is not ‘quiet’ for other cats, but it is too high for people with less sensitive ears.usually succeeds because the ticking paw and the gently whispered meow are difficult to resist. Of course, the sound is not ‘quiet’ for other cats, but it is too high for people with less sensitive ears.

Individual Sounds

Cats have a personal repertoire of sounds and a repertoire of how they behave. Also, cats are more geared to our signals than we as people on the signals from cats. Cats adapt to our reactions just as if they had trained us. If you react positively to a certain meow, the cat will probably use it again. Because of the success, their repertoire grows for people, or perhaps for a certain person in the house. Cats often have ‘words’ to talk to people who do not use them in other cats. The different cat breeds are not all equally talkative. As an owner, it is often the case that you can recognize the voice of your cat. Some cats also make other characteristic sounds that belong to their breed, for example, specific chirp or click sounds.

Voice Sounds

There are about 16 different voice sounds recognizes by cats, but there are probably many more. But these sounds are too fine for people to distinguish them from others or because those sounds are in the ‘ultrasonic’ range. These sounds can not hear people, but that does not apply to other cats because they are sensitive to much higher frequencies.

When kittens are still little, their mother uses only a small number of sounds against them. The mother cat uses certain sounds to make anxiety, a greeting, or danger clear, and each kitten has its emergency call to attract her attention. When the kittens are 12 weeks old, they have the entire repertoire. In contrast to human babies who need to hear and repeat sounds to learn our language, even a deaf kitten uses all available sounds from the cats’ conversations.


Cats can make sounds and simultaneously breathe in and out. As a result, they produce sounds in a slightly different way than people. The tongue plays a less important role in making different sounds. These sounds are made in the throat and pushed through the air at different speeds over the vocal cords. Sound shifts are causing by a change in the muscle tension in the throat and the mouth. Most sounds are meant for short-range communication, except, of course, the noisiest of all cat sounds – searching for a male or female or angry warning texts from rival cats fighting their territorial conflicts.

Blow, Spit and Growl

Blowing, spitting, and growling are using to warn or threaten. Those are sounds that you seldom hear indoors.


Blowing is used as a warning and occurs when the cat opens its mouth, its upper lip rises so that its face wrinkles, and its tongue curves to emit the air very quickly. If you are close enough, you feel the airflow. This way is probably why cats do not like it when people hiss at them by blowing in their noses or against the face. Blowing affects the sense of sight, the hearing, and, when it is close, also the sense of touch. Blowing can be successfully applied to a cat to notice that he is doing something you do not like. A quick ‘ssss’ can be used when the cat jumps on the kitchen counter or the stove or scratches the furniture. The ‘ssss’ usually has faster results than shouting or physical intervention.


Cats deliberately spit at an approaching enemy but often unconsciously when they suddenly startle. Spitting is usually sudden, and the cat often hits simultaneously with both forefeet on the ground. This signal is meant as a bluff to surprise the enemy, so the spitting cat gets the opportunity to escape.


Growling is usually more aggressive and can result in a growl with raised lip when it comes to an attack from an enemy. My cats growl quietly when one of them has stolen something to eat, and the other cat comes to look and tries to take it away. The deep throat growl usually convinces the other cat that the cat means it and does not intend to have something taken away, should the cat still doubt it.

Higher Sounds

Many of the higher sounds that cats make are meaningful for other cats. We as humans can not hear them, and therefore we can not imagine the effect on cat ears and brains. Some of these sounds are making with an open mouth, such as the whining of cats or the angry screams against another cat in the territory. Another strong sound is the scream of fear or pain, which cats can also express after mating. Some cats scream when they have to go into a travel basket, for example, because you go to the vet with your cat. Keep talking and reassure your cat.

Chattering Teeth

Chatting with the teeth is not a communication sound. This chatting often occurs when a cat sees something it wants, but it can not reach, like a fly against the wall or a bird on the other side of the window. Perhaps the cat shows frustration by flapping the teeth. The mouth opens slightly, the lips are raising, and the jaws open and close quickly. The sound is a combination of smacking lips and chattering teeth that worsens when the cat gets busier. Sometimes the cat also makes bleating sounds. My two cats always make this sound when they see a bird or butterfly outside.


The voice of a cat is actually as individual as that of a person. Some cats seldom meow, and cats that meow and ‘talk’ a lot. Meowing is a language that cats have exclusively developed to talk to people! We are lucky as people! Indeed, adult cats do not meow to each other. A meow means your cat is trying to get your attention, but it may not always be entirely clear why. A meow can have many meanings. It requires a good dose of concentration to listen to the many different sounds and intonations a cat uses to communicate with people. Usually, we react instinctively when a cat talks to us. We are looking for visible directions to understand what our cat means instead of listening. An intelligent cat makes it easy for us to walk to his empty food bowl or the door or to scratch the stool of the window when he wants to go outside.


Not much research has been doing into the complex cat vocabulary, and the people who have done have explained the sounds in different ways. Probably, as a cat owner, you can best assume the daily handling of your cat. If you want to learn the difference between the different sounds your cat makes, record them with a recorder and tell what you think your cat means. Then understand what the different meows mean. When you later listen to the recording, without seeing the cat’s explanatory body language and movements, you may be able to recognize the most common cat sounds or the special sounds your cat uses to you.

mother cat and kitten

Excessive Meowing

Cats can be very resourceful in finding ways to attract attention. They want attention, but you do not have time and walk away. The cat runs after you and puts the nails in your bank until you have to respond. You sit and read a magazine, your cat walks over it or sits on the magazine, and there are still many examples. Cats regularly use it to attract attention. However, the most effective way to attract attention is undoubtedly the penetrating, long-lasting persistent meowing that some cats do too often.


In addition to attracting attention, boredom, and fear of being alone, there may also be medical causes, such as dementia and illnesses that cause your cat to feel unwell. If you have a cat that frequently meows, first go with your cat to the vet for a checkup by your veterinarian. Different diseases can cause a cat to feel hunger, thirst, or pain. A cat can also develop an overactive thyroid or kidney disease, both of which can result in excessive meowing.

If there is no medical cause, then the chances are that you are dealing with learned behavior, and that means: the cat has learned that the meowing yields something to the cat. It could be a bowl of food, opening the door, calling the cat, petting, shouting, and chasing away. These are forms of attention and, in the eyes of your cat, rewards for the behavior. These are forms of attention and, in the eyes of your cat, rewards for the behavior.

My Cat Meows at Night

Cats feel more vulnerable at night than during the day. Because of the owner’s absence and silence in the house and outside, all kinds of sounds suddenly become audible. Meowing in the night is less common by cats who are allowed to sleep in the bedroom at night and cats who have cat friends with whom they can sleep together. Cats may also have too little to do during the day and sleep all day. Then the cat will find that it is time for action at night. Boredom is then the reason.

Prevent and Remedy

It is very effective to ignore undesirable behavior if the behavior does not exist for so long. If the cat meows, do not give it any attention. So please do not talk to your cat, say anything, do not even sigh, pretend it is not there. This applies if you are in the bedroom and if you leave the bedroom in the morning. If your cat is meowing in front of the door, when you get out of the bedroom, first walk through without looking at your cat to do something else and then give the cat attention. Realize this method only works if you never respond. If you respond occasionally, the behavior will get even worse. Does the cat have been showing this behavior for a long time, and does ignoring not helping? Then you can maybe ask help from a professional, for example, a cat’s behavior therapist.



  • Make sure your cat is not bored. Play regularly with your cat. Especially toys that can pull over the ground they like very much. Give your cat enough space and challenges. If your cat is alone and is still young, it is usually a good idea to take a second cat.
  • Reward the desired behavior: give your cat plenty of attention during the day (especially if it does not demand attention by meowing). The reward can be anything that your cat likes, play, have a treat, petting, etcetera.
  • Ignore unwanted behavior.
  • Don’t ignore your cat’s meowing without making sure there’s no problem.

Not good:

  • Reward the unwanted behavior. Do not give food, reward, or cat treats when your cat is meowing.
  • Do not hit, punish, and shouting at your cat if it meows. Suppose you punish the cat when it is excessive meowing. In that case, two things can happen: Your cat sees it as a form of attention, and then the behavior will only stay or even get worse. Alternatively, the cat is startled and scared of you. Your cat distrust or even dislike you.

Video About Why Do Cats Meow?


Cats have different ways of meowing, and every meow means something else. If you know what every meow of your cat means, you can understand it more easily. Cats can also spit, blow or growl Cats have different ways of meowing, and every meow means something else. If you know what every meow of your cat means, you can understand it more easily. Cats can also spit, blow or growl, for example. They do this mainly against other (hostile) cats. If your cat is meowing too much, it is wise to find out where this comes from.

If you like this post, you might also like Can Cats Dream When They Sleep?

Hopefully, you have learned something about cats and meowing. Also, when you know someone who likes to know more about why cat’s meow, feel free to share this post.


By Marleen

Marleen is a truly madly deeply cat lover and founder of That Is for My Cat. She wants to share her knowledge about cats with other people who like to know more about cats.