Cat meows: how to understand what your cat means?

Some specialists claim that cats have developed the ability to meow to communicate with us! This astonishing observation comes from the numerous observations of cats in nature, where the latter, when they evolve in packs, meow very little between them and only in very specific situations (territorial conflicts, reproduction, mother / kitten relationship).

Low, high, long, short, discreet or extremely loud, unique or repetitive, cats would be able to emit more than 100 vocalizations, depending on what they are trying to make us understand or according to their state of mind. And sometimes they use the same meow in different situations and some of the meows they make may be inaudible to the human ear. It’s not easy to navigate!

Fortunately, in everyday life and for ordinary situations, your cat will most often be satisfied with a relatively small number of variations.

So, how do you figure out what your cat is saying?

Why does the cat meow?

Before trying to understand a cat’s meow, you need to be interested in what causes it to do so. here is the main reasons that make your cat give voice:

  • Hunger and / or thirst;
  • The desire or the need to go out;
  • Sexuality;
  • The well-being ;
  • The demand for attention, for contact;
  • Fear, anger, frustration;
  • Pain ;
  • The stress ;
  • Disease ;
  • Senility …

Depending on whether it seeks to express one or another of its states, the cat’s meows are different, but alas, they are not always easily understood. With a little method, a little ear and a good sense of observation, we can understand them much better.

Decode frequencies and tones

The cat is able to modulate his vocalizations, according to the situations and his state of mind. By living in contact with humans, he has developed know-how and gained experience, but by living especially with you, he has come to know you and knows exactly what makes you react. And as the smart little animal he is, he plays it very well!

If we add to this that each cat has its own personality, its own vocal signature, it is easy to understand that giving a clear meaning to meows and their different sounds is a difficult exercise.

In the wide range of sounds that it emits to communicate, if we are more particularly interested in its vocal register, we can separate the different meows into two main categories:

  • Positive meows;
  • The negative meows.

Here are a few examples:


Soft, short, high-pitched, low intensity

Greetings, satisfaction …

Repetitive, high-pitched, moderate, purring

Request for attention …

Short, high-pitched, cooing, chirping

Pleasure, well-being, excitement …


Loud, long and deep, rumblings

Anger, fear …

Short, high-pitched and jerky, of varying intensity

Pain, annoyance, stress …

Long, repetitive high intensity

Want / need (hunger, thirst, going out) …

Thus, by listening to their tone, intensity and rhythm, we can determine the state of mind of cats and begin to understand the meaning of meows. But if we want to go a little further, we must also be interested in the context, in the situation in which the meows occur.

Always consider the context

Throughout the day, the cat will evolve in its territory – your home – which it has organized into different zones. One for meals, one for rest and isolation, an area for hunting, play, activity and the last, called elimination, for his needs. Assess the context and the area in which your cat starts to meow, is the first key to understanding this particular language.

The meows – often insistent – emitted near his empty bowl, plaintive in front of his dirty litter box or near a closed door, are very easy to understand. Basic unmet needs are the number one cause of meowing in a cat and are the most understandable.

Thus, the situation often makes it possible to understand the nature of the request. Because the cat has perfectly understood that you will respond to his requests when he meows near familiar objects associated with his needs (doors, bowls, games, etc.). So much so that one could almost wonder who of the cat or the Man educated the other.

But a brief meow, for example, when you come home, as a friendly sign of welcome, will have a whole new meaning if it occurs in another context and it’s not always easy to catch. To be able to decode it, you must then use the behavior and postures your cat adopts when he meows.

Pay attention to postures and behaviors

The way your cat behaves, his postures when he meows, are excellent indicators.

If he meows and his hair is bristling, his back is round and his ears are thrown back, he is afraid. When he makes himself heard and wags his tail quickly, in a whip motion, he is irritated. If he vocalizes while looking at you and blinking his eyelids gently, it is because he feels good …

These three situations illustrate the postures, the behaviors and the feeling they express. By crossing the study of these attitudes, with the context, you will quickly come to understand it better.

Let’s take the 3 examples above, add contexts to them and you will see that you can try to obtain more complete explanations.

Posture / Behavior




The hair bristling, the round back, the ears flattened back

In front of a window


Of something he saw outside

His tail wags quickly, in a whip motion

During a contact (caress, game …)


The contact, the game displeases him, he asks you to stop

He looks at you with a soft blinking eyelid

On your knees


He enjoys this moment

The combinations are as varied as his postures can be and the different situations in which his meows can occur. But the fact of take into account sounds, context, behaviors, physical postures, allows you to better understand what your cat is expressing.

And you will see that with patience, a little training and the complicity of your favorite companion, you will quickly become unbeatable!