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The Meaning of Your Cat’s Meow

Cats communicate to humans in so many ways but the one way that almost always gets our attention is the meow. Of course there are lots of other vocalizations cats do that are usually quite easy to interpret such as the growl, hiss and spit. Whenever your cat growls or hisses at you there’s an excellent chance you understand those sounds to mean kitty is definitely not happy.

Meow has Many Meanings

The meow, however, can have so many different meanings and it can sometimes be difficult for a cat parent to interpret just what it is kitty is requesting. Many cat parents, however, have become excellent interpreters of their cats’ meows. They know by the specific sound whether it’s a request for food, play, affection or to be left alone.

Meowing is Mostly Directed Toward Us

In cat-to-cat communication, adult cats rarely meow to each other. Kittens do more meowing as a way of saying they’re in need of something or are in trouble. Kittens seem to address most of their meows toward the mother cat.

Once a cat becomes full-grown, meowing to other cats takes a backseat to body language, visual marking and scent marking/communication. Cat-to-cat vocalization tends to occur more often in hostile situations where a growl, hiss or spit are needed because the visual marking, scent marking and body language haven’t succeeded in keeping an opponent at bay.

books by author Pam Johnson-Bennett and a quote from Winn Feline Foundation

The meow seems to be a communication method directly mostly at humans. The reason is most likely because it works. Cats are very smart and quickly learn if a meow got a desired result the first time, it will get the result every time thereafter. Additionally, because we’re such a verbal species, we seem to respond best when our cats meow to us over other forms of communication. That fact is proven over and over again as humans are repeatedly scratched or bitten because they misread their cats’ body language signals.

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