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Why do cats meow?

Even a young child knows and mimics a cat noise. That distinctive 'meow' is not a simple cat sound. It is actually a surprisingly sophisticated method of communication, so why do cats meow?

You can learn a lot about your cat by paying attention to its meow.

A cat's voice is actually as individual as any human's. You may own a cat that hardly ever makes a peep or you may have an extremely talkative feline. Different breeds will have different sounding meows as well. Siamese cats, for example are famous for their particularly shrill wail.

Look at me!

The most common sort of meow is a cat's plaintive cry for attention. Context can do a lot to help determine why your cat is meowing. If she's walking back and forth in the kitchen she probably wants food. If your cat is meowing when you've just come home she is probably just glad to see you and wants to be stroked or picked up.

The welcome meow, particularly when repeated consistently, is also related to mating. A cat in heat will meow constantly to advertise her availability to males. In some cats this can develop into prolonged wailing at all hours, day and night.

Sometimes a cat will make strange chattering or even bleating sounds when she sees prey she can't get at. No one is entirely sure why cats do this. Some suggest that it is simply a sound of feline anticipation or frustration, like someone smacking their lips. Some people think it's a ploy on the cat's part to lure its prey into investigating the strange noise.

Growling, spitting, hissing and shrieking are all aggressive or defensive cries. Usually it's pretty clear if a cat is angry or frightened. Similarly, purring needs little explanation. Your cat is merely content.

It should be noted that if you have a quiet cat that suddenly starts meowing, or a loud cat that suddenly stops, it may indicate your cat is sick. You should pay particular attention to cats that start meowing constantly while using the litter tray, cleaning themselves, or eating. Any of these could be signs that your cat is in some kind of distress.

Listen to and enjoy the chatter of your cat. She does want to be understood.

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