• December 8, 2023

How Cat Sounds

You’re lying in bed at night with your eyes closed when a sudden flash of lightning illuminates an unexpected sound  a loud, high-pitched mewl that makes you sit up in confusion. Then another, louder mewl comes from somewhere else, followed by a series of yowls.


What is this mysterious creature making these strange cries? You turn on your bedroom light to find a fluffy white ball of fluff sitting right next to your head, staring at you with big, inquiring brown eyes. This is no ordinary house pet. It’s none other than your new best friend  your very own kitten!


Kittens are cute, cuddly creatures that will steal your heart as soon as they appear. They also have lots of whimsical ways of communicating with humans. In fact, cats’ vocalizations consist of many different sounds, ranging from chirping birds to whimpers and growls.

The following pages will introduce you to some of the more well-known cat sounds, including meowing, purring, clicking teeth, whisker twitching, hissing, and even howling. As you’ll see, it takes only one look into those gorgeous feline eyes to know that every single whimsy fits perfectly. First, let’s take a closer look at how cats make all those unique sounds using their mouths.




Clicky Clacky

Whisper Whistle Yodel


Scratch Scrape Shout


Lick Laughter Snore

Mimic Other Animals

Play Dead

Bite Bite Snap Pounce

Tail Wiggle Sway


Howl Growl Whistle Squeal Bark Purr


Now that we’ve established why cats make so many different sounds, let’s explore a few of our favorites. First up, the infamous “meow.”


The Meow

You may not be able to tell from looking at them, but cats actually produce dozens of different types of sounds, such as purring, meowing, hissing, barking, snoring, and meowing (again). Cats don’t use their voices to communicate like people do, however.


Instead, they vibrate certain muscles inside their throats to create different sound frequencies. For example, a cat’s voice box contains two small chambers connected by a narrow passageway. One chamber produces a high-frequency sound called a whistle, while the other chamber creates a low-frequency call known as a purr. Both calls contain similar vibrations, but the purr has a lower pitch and softer tone.


A typical meow is about 100 decibels, which is slightly higher than a whisper. Cat meows tend to start around 35 to 40 decibels and increase gradually until they reach about 80 decibels. That means a cat’s meow can be heard over normal background noise, such as music or television.


Humans can easily detect human speech above 85 decibels, whereas dogs require about 90 decibels to understand human words. So if you want to play hide-and-seek with kitty without waking her up, try talking softly and slowly into a tissue. Or better yet, get yourself a toy squeaker and lure your cat away from the TV set.


Purring Loud or Soft


If you’ve ever been alone in a room where a cat was present, then you might have noticed its distinctive purring sound coming from its favorite spot. A cat uses its purr primarily to show affection toward humans. In addition, a cat’s purr helps regulate its body temperature and releases endorphins to relieve pain.

Since cats often sleep near us, we can feel their warmth through their fur and bodies. When a person pets a cat, he stimulates special nerve endings located along the cat’s spine. These nerves send signals to the brain, telling it when to release the hormone oxytocin, which causes feelings of comfort and relaxation.


Oxytocin also triggers the release of dopamine, a natural mood enhancer that promotes calmness and contentment. And although we usually assume that purring occurs only between lovers, cats also purr during sex. Female felines experience clitoral stimulation while mating with males. Males use their large organs for penetration during intercourse. During these moments, female felines release a pheromone called musk, which attracts males and encourages breeding.


Not everyone agrees that cats purr, though. Some believe that animals emit ultrasonic clicks instead of purring. Others claim that cats are incapable of producing such sounds because their larynx does not move up and down like ours does.


However, scientists have discovered that cats are capable of generating purrings by moving their necks in specific patterns. If you pay attention to subtle changes in your cat’s breathing and movements, you should notice faint purring sounds emanating from its mouth.


Clicky Teeth


When cats eat, they close their lips tightly and press their upper front incisors together to form a grinding motion. Their sharp canine teeth grind food into tiny pieces, allowing them to swallow larger prey easier. Although cats cannot bite objects with their jaws, they can still open their mouths wide enough to grasp items with their paws and claws.


Although cats have little control over their jaw movement, they can still click their teeth together. Once a cat opens its mouth wide enough to yawn, a quick flick of the tongue can snap the back of the upper teeth against the roof of the mouth. This action generates a high-pitch chattering sound that resembles a dog’s bark.


Since a cat’s mouth is smaller than a dog’s, its click doesn’t carry as far. Sometimes cats use their tongues to click their teeth, especially if they aren’t eating anything. Just watch out for those unsavory scraps that could become lodged between your carpet and couch cushions.


Whisper Whistle Yodel Hissing Sounds


In addition to purring, meowing, clicking, and hissing, cats also use other sounds to convey messages to us. Perhaps the most famous cat sound is the hiss. Like a snake’s rattle or a tiger’s roar, a cat’s hiss serves several purposes. Hissing alerts potential predators to your presence, forcing them to stay alert and cautious. It also acts as a signal to fellow cats that someone is approaching.


To prevent being bitten, cats hiss loudly and quickly before attacking. When frightened or threatened, a cat may hiss in order to keep others at bay. Finally, cats hiss to express anger, frustration, and annoyance. If you’ve got a skittish cat who gets scared easily, it’s wise to avoid teasing him. Simply saying something harmless in a stern and threatening manner may give him enough incentive to attack.




Many cats rely on their tails to communicate. A tail wiggles side to side when a cat moves forward or backward or when it’s startled. However, there are times when a cat must speak up to let us know that it wants something. For instance, a cat whose food bowl is empty may begin scratching at the floor to draw our attention. Another way cats use their tails is to warn other members of the household when they need help.


For example, if you leave your keys in the door pocket, a curious cat may flip his tail upwards to indicate that you left the key ring behind. Similarly, if a visitor enters your home uninvited, a cat may raise his tail straight up.

Most cats can also squeak. Like a mouse squeaking under pressure, a cat’s squeaks are soft and barely audible. Because cats lack larynges, they can’t talk or sing like humans.


Yet, they can squeak just fine. Scientists think that early man brought domesticated cats indoors to mimic the musical whistles produced by mice. Cats aren’t born knowing how to squeak, either. Most kittens spend their first year sleeping, eating, and grooming themselves. Only after that time do they begin interacting with humans. Finally, read about some of the scariest sounds cats make.


Scratch Scrape Shout


Do you have a neurotic cat? If so, you probably know that your beloved pet likes to scratch everything within sight. Not only is this bad for furniture, but it can cause serious injury to children and adults alike. Before your kids crawl across the sofa or nuzzle your face, consider investing in a scratching post. Cats can happily scratch on these posts, which provide enough support for their claws. Afterward, they’ll return to their meal with clean paws.


Another type of scratching surface is a paper towel holder. Place a rolled piece of paper atop the holder and place the holder in a corner of your office. Soon, you’ll have a clean workspace and your desk covered with crumpled bits of paper.


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