Cat vocalizations (cat sounds): Cats make a wide variety of sounds, many of which are alien to us, but all of which help the cat to make the connections she needs to the humans and the other animals in her universe.
The more you understand about the repertoire of cat sounds she is able to make, the more it will enhance and enrich your relationship with your cat. Here’s a look at each of the sounds a cat is capable of making, along with their meanings.
Most common cat sounds
The first one from cat vocalizations (cat sounds) is purring. Purring is a natural form of expression for cats and a source of mystery for us.
1.Where Does the Sound Come From?
There are several theories about how the phenomenon occurs, but no one really knows for sure. Here are some of the ideas on the subject of what makes the purr:
- It involves vibrations of the vocal cords.
- It emanates from the vibrations of the hypoid apparatus, a series of small bones connecting the skull and the larynx that offer support to the tongue.
- It may be the vibration of air in the larynx and diaphragm.
- It may be the movement of air in spasms through contractions of the diaphragm.
- It may be from rapid and regular nerve impulses sent directly from the central nervous system to the muscles of the diaphragm and to the vocal cords; the muscles are activated in bursts of 20 or 30 seconds, making them very well controlled tremors.
- It may be that air passes over and vibrates a pair of folds of skin called the false vocal cords, located at the back of the cat’s throat.
- It may originate from the central nervous system.
2.When Does a Cat Usually Purr?
We think of purring as a sound of contentment and pleasure for a cat, and it certainly does occur when a cat is being stroked or even when she hears the sound of your voice. But purring also occurs for many other reasons and at times you might not expect.
Mothers and Newborns.
There is good evidence that the purr was initially a contact sound between a mother and her young. A newborn kitten purrs by the second day of life, well before she can even open her eyes.
It is thought the kitten purrs to let her mother know she is getting enough milk, and the mother purrs back as a reassurance to the kitten.
Some animal experts believe that communication between the mother and kitten was the original purpose of purring since kittens can feel their mother’s purr, which helps them to locate her.
Communication with Other Cats.
The purr can also be used to signal to other cats. A cat who is frightened and feels threatened by another cat may purr to appease the dominant cat, by indicating that she is subordinate or submissive. Conversely, an aggressive cat may purr to let another cat know she is not going to attack.
Comfort and Self-Healing.
Purring is a comfort behavior that cats use while recovering from illness; it may even be a self-healing mechanism. There is speculation that the vibration of purring may actually assist cats in healing themselves when they are sick or injured, in particular when there is a problem with bones.
Studies have shown that all bones and muscles need stimulation for their health. However, cats are especially sedentary and spend a full two-thirds of their time sleeping and lying about.
It is possible that the vibrations created by a cat’s purring function like a low-energy mechanism to stimulate muscles and bones during the healing process. Cats also purr while in labor.
A Purr Before Dying.
As strange as it may sound, veterinarians have witnessed cats who purr when they are close to dying. This may be a result of a euphoria that occurs when death is imminent—a euphoria we know about because terminally ill human patients have reported it.
(B) Hunting Sounds
The 2nd one of the most common cat vocalizations (cat sounds) is hunting Sounds. Sometimes if your cat is outdoors, you may suddenly hear an unusual clicking sound that is not loud but is quite determined.
You are also likely to notice that the cat has dropped low to the ground, moving slowly forward with her tail held horizontal. This indicates that she is stalking prey.
Mothers may use this very distinctive call to indicate to their offspring that they need to remain quiet at this stage so they won’t scarce off the prey. Female wildcats often have a much lower success rate in catching prey when they have their kittens with them.
The 3rd one of the most common cat vocalizations (cat sounds) is caterwauling. Some calls that cats make can be quite alarming, particularly when they are about to fight. This often takes place at night, giving these sounds a ghostly air. These calls have become known as caterwauling.
Unlike meowing, for example, the shrieks and wailing sounds are long lasting, and their intensity increases as the risk of actual conflict intensifies. Once the conflict begins, there is likely to be screeching, which is clearly the sound of an animal in pain.
However, this call has another function; it is aimed at shocking the other cat into letting go, allowing the underdog either to strike back or retreat rapidly.
The 4th one of the most common cat vocalizations (cat sounds) is murmurs. Older cats can express themselves by a much wider variety of vocalizations, including a series of murmurs when they are relaxed.
These are often audible if you are stroking your pet, who is curled up alongside you. The cat barely opens her mouth when uttering these sounds.
The 5th one of the most common cat vocalizations (cat sounds) is meow. The more assertive “meow” is made when an adult cat is seeking attention. Your pet may want food, is hoping to be allowed into another part of the home, or simply desires attention from you.
Meowing is usually accompanied by body language indicative of what is on your pet’s mind, whether curling around your legs hoping to be fed, or standing by a door, wanting to be let through to the other side.
If ignored, your cat may persist in meowing for some time, with the sound intensifying as well. Certain breeds, such as the Orientals, naturally tend to have louder voices than others.
Meows are relatively brief calls, with the cat opening and closing her mouth clearly when making the sound, and they are often called vowel sounds for this reason. Sometimes, however, you may notice that your cat opens her mouth apparently intending to make a sound but seems to be struck dumb.
This is probably a way of reinforcing meowing notes without becoming too assertive, and recognizing the dominance of the owner. Your cat now believes she has your attention.
(F) Long Meow
The 6th one of the most common cat vocalizations (cat sounds) is long meow. In contrast, a more tense vocalization is likely to be evident when cats are communicating with each other.
In this case the cat’s mouth tends to remain open, with the lips drawn back slightly to show the long, pointed canines.
The calls themselves may not be particularly loud or aggressive, however, especially if the cats know each other well. These sounds must be interpreted along with your pet’s body language, to provide a clear indication of her mood.
Other cat vocalizations and their uses
1. Chirp: a soft, trill-like sound used as a greeting.
2. Chatter: a sound made by a cat who sees prey that she cannot get to, often on the other side of a window.
3. Growl: a low-pitched, continual warning sound.
4. Hiss: a defensive sound like that made by a snake, created with an open mouth and a burst of air forced out through an arched tongue. The cat uses the hiss as a warning to bluff the attacker into backing off and to prevent actual confrontation and violence.
5. Spitting: often accompanies hissing and is the result of being surprised or threatened.
6. Yowl: a loud cry of bewilderment, usually from older cats who are disoriented and anxious. It often happens at nighttime when everyone is asleep and the elderly cat is walking around the dark house, frightened and confused.
A different kind of yowl is the one made by the female in heat, trying to attract a mate. It is a cry like fingernails on a blackboard—if you don’t know all the other reasons to spay your cat, this sound may be enough!
The most common Kitten vocalizations (kitten sounds)
The first one of the most common kitten sounds is meow. “Meow” is the first word you probably think of when you think about kitten language; it’s primarily spoken by a mother to her kittens and from a kitten to his owner.
Meow isn’t usually used in mature cat-to-cat communications. Your kitten uses this word almost exclusively with you or other humans.
Meow has a variety of meanings; the pitch helps you with all the different definitions. Experts say that the more disturbed the kitten is, the lower the pitch of the meow.
A higher pitched meow says, “I’m glad you’re home.” Your cat can also convey urgency; “Feed me, now!” Slightly different sounds and emphasis convey a request or a complaint.
2. Silent meow
The 2nd one of the most common kitten sounds is silent meow. The silent meow is a polite request. Your kitten waits until you’re looking in her direction and mouths meow. You almost have to have kitten ears to hear the subtle sound she makes, if she makes any at all.
My Siamese-mix kitten, Sam, has mastered the silent meow. He uses it when he wants a treat or snack. I find the silent meow almost impossible to resist.
- The 3rd one of the most common kitten sounds is purr.
- Purring is usually the first thing that endears a kitten to a person. Kittens begin to purr when they’re just a few days old. For a long time, people thought that kittens only purred when they were happy.
- And a kitten does purr strongly and loudly when she feels content. But she also purrs when she’s anxious, hurt, in labor, or even dying.
- A kitten purring with a relaxed body and partially closed eyes feels very contented. Purring with a tense body is a sign that she’s fearful or nervous about something and is reassuring herself.
Summery about cat vocalizations (cat sounds)
Wild cats are solitary, predatory animals that patrol a territory they regard as theirs. Consequently, most cat communications are designed to ward off intruders. Learning what the cat sounds or kitten sounds he makes mean will help you understand what he is trying to tell you.
Chief among cat sounds are hissing, growling, miaowing, and purring. Hisses and growls—sometimes accompanied by a flash of teeth or show of claws—are warnings to usurpers trespassing on the cat’s territory or to humans who get too close.
Meows—rarely used between adult cats—are mainly a way for kittens to signal to their mother. Domestically, your cat will use meowing to announce his presence.
Short and high-pitched chirps and squeaks usually signal excitement or a plea for something, but drawn-out and low-pitched sounds express displeasure or a demand. Rapid, intense, and loud repeated sounds often signify anxiety.
Long, drawn-out cries and shrieks indicate that the cat is in pain or fighting. Mating cats produce long wails known as caterwauls.
Purring is usually a cat sounds of contentment, but cats also purr as a way of comforting themselves when they are in pain or anxious.
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