The easy answer to why cats meow and purr is to communicate. What exactly they are trying to say is really the question I seek to know. For years the communicative skills of domestic cats were undervalued. I can vividly remember the cartoon episode where the alley cats were sitting alongside each other on a fence- meowing at night- only to have a boot thrown at them angrily from a neighbor’s window.
I always thought that cats only need to communicate about territorial challenges or and their willingness or unwillingness to participate in aggressive or mating encounters. When I stop and think about it, I don’t actually remember seeing cats meowing at each other. Have you ever seen your cat at meow at other cats? Probably not. But your cat meows at you, right? Sometimes non-stop? There’s a reason for this. Studies revealed that cats actually have a fairly varied repertoire of social behaviors that overlap greatly.
For example, cats don’t only just communicate by meowing. They also purr, chirp, and even chatter. They meow at humans for many reasons, and it is up to us as cat parents to try to understand our cats and figure out what they want.
- I’m stressed. When cats are stressed they tend to become more vocal than normal. For example, I recently took my cat to the veterinarian in a pet carrier. He was obviously stressed and meowed constantly whilst in the pet carrier.
- I want food. You’ll know when your cat wants food because she has likely perfected a certain type of meow. My cat will keep walking behind me, meowing with a slight purr which means “I want food now, feed me!”
- Give me your attention. Sometimes all a cat just needs attention. The next time your cat meows at you for no apparent reason, give her some time and play with her. She’ll appreciate that.
- Let me in! When a cat is locked outside and wants to get in, she’ll meow till you open the door. My cat won’t stop meowing till the door is open and bless him because when he meows to be let in, he sounds too cute!
- I’m in heat. A female cat might yowl and meow when in heat.
- I’m happy and content! This one is different because your cat will not meow when she is content and happy but will purr. It is important to note that cats will sometimes purr when they are in pain, too.