The 10 main sounds a cat makes

Updated on May 25, 2022

main sounds a cat makes

Have you ever wondered how many different noises your cat can produce? More than 100 experts say this is possible! You’ll discover a list of the most common and their meanings in this artic

1. Meow

Perhaps we haven’t spent enough time getting to know cats and humans to realise how similar they can be.

The sound of a cat’s “meow,” which translates to “cat,” was already well established in ancient Egypt. This sound can last anywhere from a few hundredths of a second to many minutes, and cats make it by opening and closing their mouths slowly. A trill or a grunt may precede or follow the meowing in some cats.

There is no unique significance to this word or phrase. In this way, the cat can communicate with us by drawing our attention to anything in its immediate environment. A meow near a locked door may suggest that the cat wants to leave, and a meow near an empty feeder may indicate that the cat is hungry. When it comes to meows, it’s widely accepted that most are just random sounds that a cat picks up from its environment and uses to communicate with the humans around it.

Tips #1. Did you know that adult cats use meows mainly to communicate with people and almost never with other cats?

Meows can convey information about a cat’s emotional condition and the urgency of its “message,” even though they don’t have a defined meaning. The louder the meow, the greater the intensity of the feeling. Cats meow a lot when they’re in distress, such as when they’re being combed or when they’re in a strange environment or in the waiting room of a veterinarian’s office.

In contrast, cats’ meows are shorter, higher-pitched, and have a rising intonation when they are relaxed, such as when they are being fed or seeking physical touch with their owner.

Tips #2. Did you know that deaf cats emit especially intense and noisy meows?

2. Distress call

Distress calls from kittens less than one month old sound like a high-pitched meow and alert their mother of an impending danger. High-pitched squeals are the trademark of a cold-hearted kitten (especially during the first four weeks of their lives when kittens do not yet regulate their body temperature). Those of a kitten left alone are particularly raucous, while those of a kitten trapped somewhere, such as under its mother, are long-lived.

Each of these distress signals is perfectly understood by cats, and they respond accordingly.

Tips #3. Deaf cats cannot hear the distress calls of their kittens and may not realise they are in danger. This is why people say they do not make good mothers.

3. Purring

Without opening its jaws, a cat makes this deep, rhythmic sound. Adult cats, unlike kittens, create it in a variety of pleasurable settings, such as when they brush up against another cat or a human, rub themselves against a hard surface, or “knead” a blanket. However, cats also purr when they are sick or in agony, during childbirth, or even when they are on the verge of death.

That’s why I think it’s likely that purring expresses strong emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and serves to draw the other person’s attention and interaction. If viewed in this light, it is comparable to the human smile, which can convey both happiness and the need for others to provide support.

4. Trill

An ascending tone characterises this sound, which lasts for less than a second. Cats are able to create it without ever having to open their mouths. Mothers and kittens use it to communicate, but it can also be used as a kind greeting by adults to meet new people or other cats.

5. Female and male calls

Both male and female cats elicit a kind of protracted and intense moaning when “the hormones call” in order to attract another cat. Males do it to alert other males of their presence. Many pet owners are motivated to sterilise their animals because of their animals’ frequent sexual advances.

6. Hiss and spit

An aggressive cat can extend its lips wide, exhale air in a threatening manner, and defend itself. A hiss is the sound that is made as a result of this process. In just three months, the kittens have mastered the art of it! A spit or a quick hiss can be heard if the air emission lasts barely a fraction of a second.

7. Howl and yowl

They sound like cats meowing incessantly, which is ominous. High-pitched and extremely loud, they have a distinct sound. The use of such ominous threats keeps cats from engaging in physical combat.

8. Snarl and growl

This is a deep, ominous sound that can persist anywhere from a few hundredths of a second to several minutes.

9. Scream or screech of pain

When cats injure themselves, they make an abrupt, high-pitched, and extremely loud noise. Screaming also indicates that mating is over.

10. Chatter

It’s hard to describe, but once you hear it, it’s impossible to forget. High-pitched sounds are made by the cat as its jaw is trembling simultaneously. When a cat makes this sound, it’s usually because it’s fixed on a prey and there’s a barrier between it and the prey. It’s a sign of intense enthusiasm, but it may also be a symptom of dissatisfaction if you’re not able to get there.

Here ends our lists of the main sounds cats make. Do they sound familiar to you?


Bradshaw J y Cameron-Beaumont C., 1989. The signalling repertoire of the domestic cat and its undomesticated relatives. In: Turner D.C., Bateson P. (Eds) The domestic cat – the biology of its behaviour, Cambridge University Press, pp. 67-94.

Nicastro N y Owren MJ, 2003. Classification of domestic cat (Felis catus) vocalizations by naive and experienced human listeners. Journal of Comparative Psychology 117 (1), 44-52.

Schötz S y van de Weijer J, 2014. Human perception of intonation in domestic cat meows. Proceedings from FONETIK, 89-94.