Why Do Cats Meow?

Cats can make over 100 different sounds. Chirping, purring, growling and meowing are all sounds you might hear coming from your kitty.

The most interesting of all is a cat’s meow. With just a meow, they can create so many different sounds. Happy, angry, hungry, excited — virtually any mood a cat is in can be reflected with a certain type of meow.

You’re probably able to decode the meaning behind the different kinds of your cat’s meow, if you’re already a cat owner. Better yet, if you have multiple cats, you might even be able to tell which cat is the one meowing from a distance.

If you haven’t yet been blessed by the presence of a cat, you have lots of exciting sounds to look forward to.

A cat’s meow is essentially a custom language built for each individual person. But, why do cats meow in the first place?

Quick Answer…

Cats meow to communicate with humans. When cats interact with other cats they don’t need to meow to convey emotions or needs, but humans don’t pick up on the subtleties of a cat’s body language or scent-marking. In order to make their needs and feelings known to humans, cats learn to meow.

Why Do Cats Meow?

As I mentioned above, cats meow so they can “talk” with humans. If you’re a cat owner, you’ll know the multitude of different meows your cat has depending on its mood.

Once you’re in tune with the sounds of your cat, you’ll be able to tell if their meow means they’re happy, hungry or just being needy and wanting to be pet.

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Your cat is dependent on you, and knows you’re the one responsible for filling up the food bowl.  They also know you’ll only react to their meows, rather than body language they usually use to communicate with other animals.

Though there are tons of reasons your cat meows, here are a few of the most common.

To Greet You

You just got home from a long day at work, and you’re pleasantly greeted by your cat running up to your and meowing. This is just the cat saying hi, and they’re glad you’re finally home!

The “greeting” meow might be shorter and sound a little higher pitched than other meows. Your cat will also probably be holding their tail up high — another friendly sign.

They’re Hungry

The best part of a cat’s day is easily mealtime, and don’t think they won’t tell you if you haven’t fed them on time.

All cat owners can easily distinguish their cat’s “hungry meow.” It sounds a little more desperate, and is accompanied by the cat relentlessly following you around until you feed them.

They Want You to Open the Door

A simple closed door could also be the cause for your cat’s meowing. If I close my bedroom door at night, one of my cats will sit on the outside and meow, although the sound is more like a deep yowling. Yes, it’s as unpleasant as it sounds.

Cats don’t like closed doors, especially if you’re on the other side of it. They’ll continue to meow until you open the door, even if it’s just so they know you’re okay.

They’re Stressed Out

When cats are in distress, they tend to meow. For example, one of my cats hates being in the car. Anytime we take him on a car ride, whether it’s going to the vet or not, he does his stressed out meow. It’s louder and more drawn out than friendly meows, and he doesn’t stop until we’re safely back home.

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Given a few of the most common reasons why cats meow, do they ever meow to each other?  

Do Cats Meow to Other Cats?

The only time cats meow to each other is when they’re a little kitten meowing to their mother. Once they’re grown up, they don’t meow to each other anymore.

Adult cats don’t need to meow to communicate. They use body language and scent marking rather than relying on sounds. Sometimes they might use other sounds, like hissing or growling, to convey their strong negative feelings.

The only sounds made between cats I’ve witnessed in my multi-cat household is hissing, growling and a high-pitched yowl if one cat was playing too hard. I’ve never heard one cat meow to another — they only meow to us humans!

What’s interesting with one of my cats is that he’s about a year old and he never meows, not even to communicate with us. I wonder if it’s because we picked him up from an abandoned house when he was about five months old, where he lived with some other kittens. He was a feral cat, and didn’t interact with humans in the early stages of his life. He didn’t grow up trying to communicate with humans, so it’s possible he never learned how to.

If anything, I think this really solidifies how much cats don’t need to meow to each other. He lived with four cats his age so he was around other animals to communicate with, but not any humans.

Why Does My Cat Meow So Much?

If your cat meows an extreme amount, you might have an actual problem on your hands. Your cat could be meowing a lot because they’re in pain, and are trying to tell you something’s wrong. If you’ve noticed any other physical changes in your cat around the same time, take him to a vet to be checked out.

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Once you’ve gotten your excessively-meowing cat checked out by a vet with clean bill of health and the noises still haven’t stopped, it’s time to figure out the reason.  

Your cat might be hungry, or needy. Looking at the situation around the meowing can help. Is it always when their food bowl is empty? Is it because they want you to pet them? Do they want to be let outside?

After figuring out the reason, only reward them with what they want once they’re quiet. Don’t give them any attention when they make noises, don’t even tell them to be quiet. If you keep up with this, your cat should learn it’s better to be quiet.

If this still doesn’t work, there might be another reason for your cat’s noises. The ASPCA has a helpful guide on cat behavioral issues and how to curb them.

No Two Meows Are Created Equal

Different cats have different meows, even if they’re making the noise for the same reason. As a cat owner, you’ll learn your kitty’s sounds, needs and maybe even start your own conversation with them.

A cat’s meow is indicative of their emotional, and sometimes even physical, state. Always pay attention to their meows, and enjoy decoding the special language they created just for you!

Jacquelyn Pica

Jacquelyn Pica is cat mom to Bean Man Jones, a 2-year old adopted stray. She's also a top-notch pet writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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  • I’m often amazed that so many people say cats don’t meow or talk to each other. My husband and I have had numerous furry children and currently have 2 brothers. The “boys” are constantly meowing and talking with each other. They are very close and
    constantly chatting with each other and us. We were blessed to get the little ones when they were 6 weeks old, from the same litter. When they are not together, which is very rare, they always call for the other. They are inside only and I would say to anyone who has cats to PLEASE keep them inside where they are protected and safe!

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