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Why do cats meow?

KIT video 3

As a cat parent, you will be familiar with the sound of your kitty meowing – and you’ve almost certainly asked yourself the question: “why is my cat meowing?”

After all, who could resist wanting to know what their feline friend is thinking as they meow plaintively early in the morning, or whilst weaving through your legs and whining continuously.

From ‘’Hello!’’ to hunger, we look at the circumstances in which your cat meows or vocalises to help you understand your resident feline a little better.

Reasons your cat may be meowing

While kittens meow to let their mother know they're cold or hungry, adult cats don’t actually meow at each other, just at people.

Your cat may be trying to communicate the following when they meow:

Illness – Constant cat meowing can be a sign of illness such as kidney disease, problems urinating or other health issues. If this behaviour is something new in your cat, contact your local vet

Attention seeking – Despite many people thinking that cats like to be left alone, cats often meow to initiate play, petting, or to get you to talk to them

Hunger – Your kitty will make sure to remind you if the food bowl is empty, and you may notice your cat becoming more vocal when it gets closer to feeding time

Greeting – Some cats may greet you when you arrive home, or even when you pass them in the house

Stress – A new pet, change in home or the loss of a loved one may cause your cat to become stressed and often more vocal. Try to find out what is causing the stress in your cat and help them adjust to the change

Ageing – Just like us, cats can suffer from mental confusion, or cognitive dysfunction, as they age. This may lead to your cat crying for no apparent reason. If this is the case, consult with your vet who can prescribe medication.  

Wanting to breed - Cats that aren’t spayed or neutered will make a lot more noise. Females yowl when in heat, and males yowl when they smell a female in heat.

Different meows mean different things

There are many different meows that cats can use varying in length, pitch and volume.

Generally, the following meows have these meanings:

• Short meow - a short, high-pitched meow is a standard “Hello!”
• Multiple meows - this is an excited greeting. ‘’YAY, you’re home!’’
• Mid-pitch meow - asking you for food
• Drawn-out “mrrroooow” - demanding something, ‘’Open the door now!’’
• Low-pitch “MRRRooooowww” - complaint of something, “Why is my bowl empty?”
• High-pitch RRRROWW! – pain or anger “That’s my tail you stepped on!”

While there are many reasons your feline resident could be meowing, you will know as a cat parent that sometimes your cat meows for no apparent reason.

Paying attention to the circumstances in which your cat meows or vocalises, and the sounds they make, will help you better understand your furry companion.

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