Cats are certainly not silent creatures. While some might mostly pure with an occasional meow, every sound they make is a form of communication. Curious what exactly your cat is saying? Here’s a quick decoder of some common sounds:
“Meow” is an all-purpose word. Your cat may be saying “meow” as a greeting, a command (“I want up, I want down, More food now”), an objection (“Touch me at your own risk”) or an announcement (“Here’s your mouse”).
Chirps and trills are how a mother cat tells their kittens to follow them. If they’re saying it to you, it probably means your cat wants you to follow them, usually to their food bowl. If you have more than one cat, you’ll often hear them “talk” with each other this way.
Purring is a sign of contentment (usually). Cats purr whenever they’re happy, even while they’re eating. Sometimes, however, a cat may purr when they’re anxious or sick, using their purr to comfort themself, like a child sucking their thumb.
Growling, hissing or spitting indicate a cat who is annoyed, frightened, angry or aggressive. Leave this cat alone.
A yowl or howl (they sound like loud, drawn-out meows) tells you your cat is in some kind of distress—stuck in a closet, looking for you or in pain. Find your cat if they’re making this noise. However, in unneutered and unspayed cats, these sounds are part of mating behavior. And if your cat is elderly, they may be suffering from a cognitive disorder (dementia) and may howl because they’re disoriented.
Chattering, chittering or twittering are the noises your cat makes when they’re sitting in the window watching birds or squirrels. Some experts think that this is an exaggeration of the “killing bite,” when a cat grabs their prey by the neck and works their teeth through the bones to snap them.