Tabby cat sitting a polished wood floor meowing.

Do you speak fluent cat? Can you tell when he or she is scolding you for failing to clean the litter box? Or when gracing your arrival home?

From chirping and purring to cat yowling and hissing, the felines have an extensive vocal repertoire. Research shows that cats make eight common sounds, but each cat has a different level of communication. Some barely make a peep while others can’t let you get a word in edgewise.  

Excessive vocalization could signal a disease or a condition. But how can you tell “excessive” for your kitty? You must first know their “normal” and what they mean when they do it. We’d like to help you decode the good and bad cat vocalizations.

  1. Meows Are Saved for Humans, Not Other Cats

The meow is the easiest cat sound to identify. There are a ton of reasons why cats meow. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), kittens usually meow when they’re hungry or craving their mothers’ warmth and attention

In general, though, adult cats rarely meow to one another. Instead, they pretty much meow to communicate with humans. In this case, the meow is a versatile statement and could mean anything from hello to an angry demand, and everything in between. 

Common reasons why cats meow include:

  • To ask for food–Cats love food and treats. Usually, some are very demanding during mealtimes while others will just meow any time food is forthcoming.
  • To be let in or out–Your feline friend will meow at the door whenever she wants in or out. 
  • Age–Elderly cats with mental dysfunction may meow due to disorientation. This is an often sign of Alzheimer’s Disease.

So, when can you tell a good or bad meow? You should read your cat’s body language as a cue for understanding the state of affairs. 

  1. You Don’t Want to Hear a Growl

It’s a low, long, guttural, and threatening cat’s roar in a high-stress situation. The growl is usually a warning sound of fear, anger, aggression, or territory. When growling, cats curl their lips and show their teeth outside just like dogs. 

When cats want to fight, they may growl at each other while locked in a standoff. It’s usually the last sound before attacking. This sound is, most times, followed by distress vocalizations including hissing, moaning, or yowling. 

  1. Hissing More Like a Steak Sizzling on the Grill?

You can’t miss the intention of your cat’s hissing noise if your cat feels threatened. When hissing, your feline is sure to arch her back, puff her hair, twitch her tail, and flatten her ears with her mouth wide open ready to pounce. 

This serpent-like guise will vary depending on your cat’s level of comfort. A friendly and outgoing feline might hardly hiss, while a shy and more reserved one may hiss whenever in a situation with uncertainty. 

  1. Caterwaul to Meet Up with Eligible Bachelors

It’s a persistent melodramatic noise that translates to, “pay attention, get me fixed!” If your feline queen produces the caterwaul noise, she wants to meet up with the boys! 

Since there are many other reasons why your cat may caterwaul, below are suggestions to alleviate the noise. 

  • Pay a visit to your doc to rule out health-related issues. Cats are good at hiding their pain. If your cat is constantly caterwauling, the pain might be getting unbearable. It could be a sign of thyroid disease, arthritis, or kidney disease, which will require a more effective diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Territorial reassurance. Antisocial cats may need reassurance, especially when around their domain. Your physical attention is key when introducing a new cat or kitty to such a cat to prevent anxiety.
  • Clean the litter box. To avoid caterwaul in the middle of the night, clean their litter every evening. 

Don’t Ignore Any Excessive Noise

Many cats are by nature chattier than others, but it is important to know what is normal for your cat. If your cat is suddenly chattier (or quieter) than normal, it might be time for a vet visit. 

Hampton Veterinary Hospital is here to help. Book an appointment or call us today for a professional diagnosis.