What is your cat trying to say?
Do your cats talk to you?
Many cat owners find that some of their cats are chatty, others are quiet, and some only make noise when provoked. But what does it all mean?
Cats don’t usually talk to each other. The main time they make noises to communicate with each other is between a mother cat and her kittens. The mother and kittens all purr during nursing, and the mother will make a chirping noise to let her kittens know she has food for them when she returns from hunting, and the kittens make noises to signal their mother. Outside the mother-kitten relationship, cats don’t usually talk to each other unless they’re fighting or mating.
So why do our cats cry and purr for our attention? Because it works!
Many cat owners are familiar with the ‘feed me!’ meow, and are used to hearing it every morning. Many cats have their own variations of this meow, whether it’s insistent, pathetic sounding, or just plain loud. It’s your cat’s way of getting your attention and alerting you to the fact that he needs to be fed. Many cat conversationalists can tell the difference between the “I want food” meow, the “I want to be on the couch” meow, the “I hate being in the car!” meow, even the “I’m on the wrong side of this door!” meow. This is a language that cats have learned and, in turn, taught to their humans.
Purring is another method that cats use to communicate. It generally means a cat is comfortable and happy, but it can also be a way that cats calm themselves down when they’re feeling stressed or anxious. Some cats even purr at the vet!
Some cats make a happy noise when they have a favorite toy. Cats make a chirping noise when they’re very interested in prey (or a toy), and others will carry around their ‘prey’ while making noises – some sound like they’re moaning, others crying or chirping. This is usually to alert you to the fact that they’ve caught something awesome, and they want to share so you know all about their hunting prowess.
The open-mouthed hissing noise cats make usually signals that they’re unhappy, afraid, aggressive, or in pain. It’s meant to be a warning noise that tells you to back off or risk being attacked. If two cats are fighting, you’ll often hear snarling and growling. These are obviously sounds of aggression. If a cat’s hissing, growling or snarling, it’s best to get out of his way. Because of the loud noises cats make when fighting, a cat fight often sounds worse than it is. There might be a lot of nipping and scratching, but part of the fight is posturing, and a lot of that comes from the noises they make.
My Cat Talks Too Much!
For some cats, talking can become a problem. Excessive vocalization can be extremely frustrating for owners when they’re trying to watch TV, talk on the phone or sleep. How do you get your cat to stop?
Cats learn to talk to us because they want our attention, and noise usually works. If your cat blesses you with excessive noise, the situation is not hopeless! You just need to re-train him to communicate with you a little more quietly. Never reward a cat for excessive noise. He wants your attention, and if you respond by picking him up, talking back, even yelling at him, he’s succeeded! If you’re trying to get your cat to stop meowing incessantly, ignore him. This can take a long time to sink in, but if you’re patient and consistent (and all of your family members are too), your cat will eventually learn that noise will get him nowhere.
Boredom is one reason cats will seek out your attention. Make sure your cat has toys to play with, places to go, and gets enough attention that he doesn’t feel neglected. Give your cat positive attention when he’s quiet and calm.
Stress can be another reason why cats are excessively noisy. Your cat may meow more than usual if you’ve just experienced a stressful life event, such as a move. Patience is key here. Make sure kitty feels secure in his home and has places to hide out and manage his anxiety. Over time, he should be back to normal.
If your cat starts making noise for a reason that you can’t identify, a trip to the vet might be in order. She might be sick or have an injury that you can’t see. It’s always best to get unusual and unexplained behavior checked out. Cats can’t tell us exactly what’s wrong, but if they’re telling you that something is wrong, you need to investigate.
Tell me a Tail
Cats use body language to communicate with each other and their humans. Here are some tips to help you read the body language of your cat:
- Ears back: threatened or annoyed
- Ears perked up: excited and interested
- Narrow or blinking eyes: happy and relaxed
- Wide eyes: threatened
- Pupils dilated: excited
- Tail swishing: interested and watchful
- Tail lashing: annoyed or anxious
- Tail straight up: pleased and confident
- Fur standing up (especially down the spine): aggressive and threatened
When using body language to communicate with cats, you need to speak their language. For example, why do cats always go to the one person in the room who isn’t fond of cats? Cat lovers will look right at the cat hoping he’ll come over to say hi, which the cat might feel is threatening. The person who doesn’t like cats will try to look anywhere but at the cat, which makes him or her the least threatening person in the room, and therefore the best lap to sit on.