Did you know that a cat’s miaow is not its main method of communication?
Wild cats and other felines hardly ever communicate with each other by miaowing. The domestic cat, on the other hand, lives in contact with humans and is much more chatty.
Cats can vocalise in three ways:
There are also very particular types of miaows:
Cats do not understand our language but can recognise meaningful sounds such as the characteristic noise of a tin of cat food being opened or a bag of dry food being shaken. They can also distinguish the sound of their owner’s voice and of a friendly voice (child, high-pitched) from the deeper, hoarser sound of a menacing or angry voice.
So vocal communication with cats is not easy. Plus, not all cats miaow in the same way, for the same reasons, with the same intensity or the same insistence. Some are talkative, others less communicative.
Owners are obviously the people most likely to understand the meaning of their cats’ miaowing. When you live in daily contact with your cat you gradually start to understand its language. You learn that one specific miaow means one thing and another means something completely different.
So it is not at all easy to generalise about miaowing.
To conclude, the more you observe your cat, the more you will be in touch with it and the better you will understand it.
Listening to your cat is the purrfect solution!
Dr Eric Witvrouw
DMV | Animal Behaviourist
Veterinary Center ÉducaVet’s