While we humans rely largely on speech to communicate, our feline friends use a complex mix of sounds, body language and gestures. This makes understanding cat speak is not only fun, but also quite fascinating!

“There’s no denying we’re a nation who are crazy about our cats. In fact, more than half (53%) of Australian cat owners admit that their cat completes them. Recent research from Fancy Feast also reveals that three-quarters of us talk to our cats as if they were human. So, it’s really no surprise that mastering the secret language of cats has become a priority for cat lovers across the country,” says animal behaviourist Dr Jo Righetti.

Decoding a cat’s meow

Certainly, when it comes to cat speak, meowing is probably the most common way that cats communicate with us. Dr Righetti explains, “Although it’s often a cry for attention, cat meows have evolved over the years to communicate their particular needs with humans. Just like the meows, cats also tend to purr when they are close by our sides, perhaps after we have rewarded or have given them a scratch. We’re not sure exactly why cats purr after we give them the object of their desire. However, it most likely has something to do with it soothing them.”

So, whether you are a cat owner yourself, or you look after a client’s cat, it can be useful to recognise what your feline friend is trying to tell you via its meows. Here are a few examples of different meows and what they are possibly saying.

Long drawn-out mrrrooooowww: Calling out or asking for something. For example, “Where’s my dinner?”

Short or quick meow or mew: A pleasantry. For example, “Hello!”

Several meows or mews: A sign of excitement. For example, “You’re back!” “I’m so happy to see you!”

Low-pitched mrroooww: Showing dissatisfaction. For example, “Why did you leave me outside?” “Hey, it’s past my dinnertime.”

High-pitched rrrrrrrrroooooww: Signals pain or anger. This is the sound you hear when cats are fighting. It sounds almost like a baby wailing.

Cat speak: more than just meows

While meowing is probably the most frequent way a cat speaks, there are also other ways in which they communicate with us. “In addition, cats communicate with us through their body language,” says Dr Righetti.

“Cats use different postures and gestures to speak to us. A tail held high in the air as they walk towards us is their way of greeting us, while rolling over in front of us is a signal to us to give them attention. Rubbing against our legs or arms transfers their scent onto us and is their way of claiming us as their own. When they’re ready for their afternoon cuddle, you might find that your cat approaches you with an arched back – this is their invitation to you for a little scratch behind the ear.*

“Our feline friends’ eyes are another part of their body that they use to express their feelings. Slow blinks are the air kisses of the cat world, this simply means they adore you; dilated pupils can also mean a sense of excitement.

“When you think about it, cats aren’t as aloof as we think, and once we begin to decode their cat-chat, we can start to understand how to form a stronger bond with our feline friends and give them exactly what they need,” says Dr Righetti.

Have you mastered cat speak?

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Information sources:

  • Discover the meaning behind your cat’s meow. Purina.com.au
  • *Vuckovic, A. Understanding cat’s body language. Aug 2017. Petcube.com.  https://petcube.com/blog/cats-body-language/

Image source: Unsplash.com

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Leanne Philpott

Leanne is a professional freelance writer at contentchameleon.com.au. She works alongside her fur pal Chewie (a border terrier) to deliver information that is accurate and relevant to our readers.

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