Why Do They? The Cat's Meow

You know them all: that funny little chirp your cat makes in front of your picture window, the deep, motor-like rumble after dinner, the soft purr when scratched on that special spot behind her ears. But do you know just what she's telling you? Here's how to interpret your pet's "kitty-speak."

Don't Blame the Breed

All cats vocalize to some degree, but the amount depends more on your cat and its social ways than breed, says Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, MSc, DACVB, author of the book Dr. Cookie's Guide to Living Happily Ever After with Your Cat. Dr. Schwartz, known as Dr. Cookie for her liberal distribution of treats to her patients, says that some breeds have gotten a bad rap for being noisier than others.

Dr. Schwartz says, "Siamese may be slightly more vocal than other cats, but I think the quality of their voices "the fact that they sound like a baby wailing" makes you much more aware of the sounds they make." (If your feline is keeping you up with his cat calls, seek help from our Managing Constant Meowing article.)

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Cat Calls

According to Dr. Schwartz, kitty conversation falls into three main groups:

  • Open-mouth: Many open-mouth sounds are defensive or aggressive, including the growl, hiss, spit, yowl and shriek. The message is clear: Don't mess with me.
  • Open/closed-mouth: These sounds begin with an open mouth and end with a closed one. They include sexual calls and the meow, which may be short, long or silent. Meows can mean different things, but one "Where's dinner?" doesn't require a whole lot of interpretation. (Every cat will be happy with one of IAMS tasty and nutritious cat foods.)
  • Closed-mouth: These noises are more intimate, including the murmur, purr and chirp, often used in greetings and between a mother and her kittens.

We'll probably never understand all of a cat's vocabulary, but it's the fascinating complexity of it that makes cats so intriguing.

For more insight into your cat's behavior, read Cat Chat: Your Cat's Body Language Speaks Volumes.

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Iams® Pet Care and Nutrition Center

If you have questions about your pet's behavior, e-mail Iams® Pet Care and Nutrition Center or call to talk to one of our friendly Team members personally at 1-800-675-3849. Our Iams® Pet Care and Nutrition Specialists is full of knowledgeable experts who can give you the answers you need.

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