All About the Meow

by | Apr 19, 2022

Although cats have a reputation for being solitary animals, anyone who has shared a living space with one knows they can be very affectionate, on their terms. In fact, cats have developed a special method of communication to use with the humans they love—the meow.

Kittens meow to get their mother’s attention when they need something from her—food, cleaning, warmth, or attention. Feral cats largely outgrow this habit as they reach adulthood, though they may still growl, hiss, purr, or yowl. Domestic adult cats, on the other hand, have a variety of different meows to express their feelings, meows that they direct almost exclusively at the humans in their lives.

, All About the Meow, The Comforted Kitty

A Language of its Own

Young kittens may only have one or two types of meow, but feline vocalizations tend to get more complex as the kitten matures. A few of the more common reasons that domestic cats meow include:

  • Boredom
  • Breeding urges
  • Dementia
  • Greeting
  • Hunger
  • Impatience

, All About the Meow, The Comforted Kitty

The amount and intensity of vocalizations can vary a great deal from cat to cat, and both genetic and environmental factors can be at play. Some feline family members have a lot to say to us, meowing at the slightest provocation. Others are relatively quiet and may go days or weeks without letting out a peep.

Breeds like Siamese are naturally more inclined to meow frequently, while others like Birman or Abyssinian cats are more vocally reserved. The frequency of a cat’s meows is also influenced by its environment. Cats who have especially chatty or responsive pet parents may be more likely to meow more and with greater variation, while cats who were raised without early human interaction may be less prone to communicate via meow.

Excessive Meowing

What constitutes excessive can vary from cat to cat and from pet parent to pet parent. If your cat’s vocalizations are starting to get on your nerves there’s no need to despair. Some cats may always meow more frequently than others, but you may still be able to reduce the amount of meowing.

, All About the Meow, The Comforted Kitty

Be sure to have your veterinarian examine your cat before attempting to modify behavior, however, especially if your normally quiet cat suddenly becomes extra chatty. In some cases, excessive vocalization is an indication that your cat is physically uncomfortable. Cats with digestive issues, allergies, chronic pain, or vision or hearing loss may start meowing more due to discomfort or confusion. Older cats are also likely to meow more often, many times due to either chronic pain like arthritis or to diminishing mental capacities.

Cats that meow excessively are often expressing boredom. Enriching your cat’s environment and giving them more interesting things to do often curbs overzealous meowing. If your cat is healthy and has plenty of stimulating things to do, you may be able to discourage unwarranted meowing by ignoring it. It’s important to note that if successful this may lead to an extinction burst where vocalizations occur more frequently for a little while before diminishing.

Why Doesn’t my Cat Meow?

Some cats are not as naturally inclined to meow, but if your normally talkative cat suddenly goes quiet, it may indicate a medical problem—and a trip to the veterinarian’s office. Some of the conditions that your veterinarian may want to rule out include upper respiratory infections, hyperthyroidism, laryngeal paralysis, and tumors or polyps.

Many cats are just naturally quiet, however, and not meowing much is simply normal for them. Pet parents who would like to encourage their cat to communicate more may want to start by meowing at the cat first, which may inspire your cat to mirror back the sound.

, All About the Meow, The Comforted Kitty

While house cats employ meowing almost exclusively as a way to communicate their needs to their pet parent, they are not the only members of the feline family to meow. Cheetahs, cougars, and snow leopards have all been known to meow either to locate each other or to request food or affection. The more you know about why your particular cat meows or doesn’t meow, the more options you have for gently modifying the behavior.

Add stimulation to your cat’s day with a regular visit from a Comforted Kitty catsitter! Contact us today!

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