Think You Know Your Cat's Meows? Guess Again, Here's What They Really Mean

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit
A cat being pet under its chin.
Unsplash | Yerlin Matu

Cat owners are very, very passionate about their pets. We can't help it! There's a connection between a cat owner and their cat, be it one or many, that can't be replicated in any other animal.

This article is for the cat people out there who want to learn how to better communicate with their beloved little friends and learn what it is they're truly asking for with their meows.

Cat owners tend to believe they know their feline friends pretty well.

A cat being pet under its chin.
Unsplash | Paul Hanaoka

As a cat owner myself, I get it! We spend a lot of time every single day with our beloved pets, and we like to think we can communicate with them about as well as any cat and human could.

Especially since cats began meowing specifically for humans.

A grey cat.
Unsplash | Matheus Queiroz

That's right! Before cats began domesticating with people, they would mostly communicate via smells, rubbing up against objects to leave their scent on them.

"Since humans don't have a great sense of smell compared to felines, cats needed to find another way to communicate with us once they started their domestic ventures," said cat behavior specialist Amanda O'Brien.

Thus, they began meowing.

An orange cat yawning.
Unsplash | Patrick Pahlke

They realized we respond better to audio signals and cues, so they began making sounds to get our attention.

Since then, they've created different types of meows for different situations. As O'Brien put it, "Humans use different tones of voice to communicate different emotions, and cats have developed the same response."

So here are the types and what they mean!

A cat reaching its paw out to a human hand.
Unsplash | Humberto Arellano

A quick, short meow is usually a form of greeting, especially if you just walked into the same room as your cat or something similar.

Many of us are familiar with the long and drawn-out meow.

A cat looking up with its mouth open slightly.
Unsplash | Shahmie Mahmoud

This means your cat wants something, and that could be food, attention, toys, treats, or anything in between.

This is similar to repeating meows, which mean your cat wants attention, so they keep chatting you up in order to keep your eyes on them.

There are layers to meow analysis.

A cat eating from a bowl.
Unsplash | Laura Chouette

For example, a high-pitched meow often signifies that your cat is hungry.

However, a very short high-pitched meow can be an invitation to pet them. A few of these meows followed by silence if you don't engage might mean their just bored.

Okay, we've covered meowing, but what about other sounds?

A brown cat on a fence.
Unsplash | Mitchell Orr

Purring is pretty well known to indicate happiness and trust, but it can mean more than that. Purring is also a means of self-soothing when your cat is worried or bothered by something.

"Be mindful of their body language when they're purring," O'Brien says, "If they flatten their ears and raise their fur, they are definitely not happy."

Now onto growling.

A black and white cat looking mad.
Unsplash | Bohdan Komarivskyi

Another common concept, growling indicates a wide range of negative emotions, from anxiety to outright fear. This, coupled with an arched spine or fluffed-up fur means they're in a bad, bad mood.

Hissing is also similar.

A grey cat looking angry.
Unsplash | Vadim Sadovski

A hissing cat is a cat in distress, often paired with the twitching or harsh swishing of its tail.

Hissing often follows growling and is the final warning before your cat lashes out, so make sure to give it some space if you don't want to get scratched.

Of course, there's nuance.

A cat being pet under its chin.
Unsplash | Yerlin Matu

Any one meow could truly mean a lot of things, but having a general guide as to what basic meow structures roughly translate to can help you better understand your cat!

After all, you share a house, you might as well learn to communicate effectively!

h/t: Insider