Here's How to Translate All the Different Cat Sounds That We Love

Your cat has been talking to you this whole time, and you never knew it.

Meows, purrs, hisses, chatters, and trills—your cat's noises aren't as random as you think. Hisses and purrs are easy to figure out, but as one of the most vocal of all domesticated pets, cats employ a long list of sounds to communicate their feelings, thoughts, and needs. We all know that cats are highly opinionated, and the more you can understand the noises your cat is making, the better you'll be able to interpret just what your cat is trying to tell you.

If you listen closely, you'll notice your cat has an extensive vocabulary of cat noises, and each sound means something different. How chatty your cat is will depend on her personality, but all cats are capable of communicating through this form of feline language.

Understanding Both Vocalizations and Behavior

Cat behavior is fascinating and understanding their body language is very important when it comes to interpreting cat sounds. For example, your cat may purr in happiness, but a frightened cat may also purr to soothe itself. Being able to read your cat's body language can help you to discern between what your cat's purr means in each of these situations.

Don't always assume your angry cat is upset about a sibling feline friend! When was the last time your cat was at the vet? Consider cat health when you're looking at their behavior. Take notes about when and where your cat hides, as well as the noises he makes. Cat chattering noises could indicate dental health issues or worse! Listen carefully to the common sounds and understand that when older cats hiss, the meaning could be different than a hiss coming from a young kitten. Your cat meowing isn't always about the food bowl.

Here's what experts think these common cat noises mean.


Beautiful Little Cat

The most basic of cat sounds, meowing starts with newborn kittens. They emit adorable mews to let mom know they're hungry, but that habit eventually fades away. When adult cats meow, it's almost exclusively meant for human ears.

A meowing cat most often wants something, whether that be food, attention, or for someone to get off the couch and open a door for them. It can be a friendly "How are you," kind of meow, or a rapid succession that's more like a child saying, "Hey, I'm talking over here!"


A hiss is a warning that can be directed at other cats, dogs, humans, or anything else that's potentially threatening. Cats hiss when they're afraid or angry, and if it's ever directed toward you, it's best to back off.

Cats are cute and cuddly, but they're also fierce, especially when threatened. A hissing cat is one step away from bringing out the claws.


British Shorthair

When your kitty is curled into your arm or relaxing on your lap, it's not hard to figure out what their purrs mean. This deep-throated rumble most often signifies that your cat is happy and comfortable. If you hear your cat purring, your cat is probably letting you know that you're doing something right.

Cats also purr to comfort themselves, and the sound is even thought to have positive health effects for humans.

Chirps and Trills

These bird-like sounds are usually a cat's way of saying she wants something. Mother cats chirp to their kittens to get their attention, and the habit also translates into telling humans what to do.

They're excited in an anxious sort of way and are doing their best to direct your attention to something they deem extremely important.


Orange Cat

Cat chatter is a lot like mumbling, and it's especially entertaining when your cat chatters while staring longingly out the window at a flock of birds. It sounds like frustration, but most experts agree it's more like a form of predatory excitement.

Your cat may be used to getting his food from a dish, but those natural instincts kick in when prey is near. Chattering usually means the hunt is on—from the wrong side of the glass.


Yowls are deep, drawn-out moans that are especially eerie and troublesome when they wake you up in the middle of the night—which seems to always happen. They can mean a number of different things and can be meant for both humans and felines.

Female cats yowl when they're in heat and ready to mate, but in true female fashion, it can also be a warning to stay away. If your cat smells a new neighbor she doesn't particularly like, she might let out a long yowl, and she might also do it when she's hurt or bored.

This is only a small list of the most basic cat sounds. Research suggests there are actually over 100 different feline noises, and they all mean something different. The next time your cat speaks up, listen closely. Can you decipher what she's saying?

What sounds does your cat make? Let us know in the comments.

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