Common Cat Sounds & What They Mean

Common Cat Sounds & What They Mean

Cats are vocal animals, some more chatty than others, who attempt to communicate with humans through a wide range of sounds.

Did you know that a cat's vocabulary consists of over 100 vocalizations, while a dog's has about 10?!

Apparently, the more affectionate Fluffy is the more vocal she is. Siamese cats are notorious chatterboxes while Persians and Russian Blues are some of the quietest cats.

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Cats express their emotions through the sounds they make. Learn more about the five common sounds below and what each means.

5 Common Cat Sounds


This is the most familiar sound a cat makes, but it is only used to communicate with humans. Since humans do not read body language - ear and tail twitches - the same way other animals do, cats discovered meowing was an effective form of communication.

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Cats will meow when they are hungry, want attention, or as a greeting. The way to decipher the meow is to listen to the pitch.

A low-pitched meow usually means the cat is unhappy, while a high-pitch meow is a cat's way of saying "hello".

Around feeding time you may hear a mid-pitch meow which indicates Fluffy wants something.


Cats purr when they are content. A happy cat will purr as it curls up on it human's lap or as it eats.

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However, cats will also purr to comfort and heal themselves.

Aside from the soothing effect the sound of a cat purring has on us, the gentle vibrations can help humans and other animal species. The 24-140 vibrations per minute help repair tendons, heal wounds, ease breathing and lessen pain.


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Hissing is a clear sign that your cat is upset. Usually this sound is accompanied with a growl and sometimes spitting. Keep your distance as a hissing feline is likely to attack if provoked.

Fluffy could also be in pain, so proceed with caution.


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Similar to birds, cats can chirp. Mother cats use this vocal expression to keep her kittens close by, but domesticated cats have discovered it is a great way to get their human's attention.

Cats will chirp at their humans in hopes they will follow them, most likely into the kitchen for a snack.


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Cats are pretty fearless, but if they are distressed or afraid they may yowl. The drawn-out meow is hard to miss and usually means "come help me".

Fluffy may be stuck somewhere, in pain, or just lonely and looking for you. In unaltered cats it is part of the mating call.


Understanding how your cat is feeling through the sounds they make will help you notice any changes in their health. Watch for changes in sound and frequency and notify your vet if any occur.

We still have so much to learn about our feline companions.

Additional Resources

Andrea Powell

Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast who resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.

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