Why Do Cats Meow at Humans?

Understanding your cat's communications.

Posted Sep 05, 2018

This is a guest post by Ibrahim Raidhan, creator of Catsloverhere.com.

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.

In this article, I will talk about why cats meow at humans. I will then talk about what they are trying to tell you when they Meow. Sounds good? Let's dive straight in.

Why Do Cats Meow at Humans?

Your cat meows at you because she is trying to tell you something (obviously). 

You see, adult cats don't meow at other cats. Instead, they communicate through scent, body language, facial expression and touch. The meow is human-directed communication. Cats have learned that they cannot communicate with us the way they do with other cats, which is why cats meow at humans to communicate. Scientists believe cats have refined this “meow” language to converse with humans.

Amazing, right?

As cat parents, it's important that we understand what our cat is trying to tell us, especially when it comes to pain because cats can be very subtle when they are feeling discomfort.

So how can we understand what our cat is saying to us?

If you live with a vocal cat you will notice how they have different sounds to their meows and many variations in tone and quality. When your cat wants food or attention then the meows will sound pleasing. But if your cat is angry or annoyed, then the meow sounds very unpleasant—it is meant to get our attention.

Let's break down your cat's language to get a better understand when your cat meows:

  • Short Meow or a quick Mew. This is a Hello greeting to you.
  • Multiple Meows at you. When you come home from a long day’s work or your cat has not seen you for a while then you'll notice your cat may meow multiple times. This is a very excited greeting from your cat, something like "I’m very excited to see you!"
  • Mid-pitch Meow. This is like a plea. For example, they may want food or attention.
  • Drawn out Meow. Your cat is demanding something, such as "let me go out now!"
  • Low Pitch Meow. This is your cat complaining to you about something you have done wrong.
  • High Pitch Meow. Your cat is angry or in pain. For example, if you have ever accidentally stepped on your cat’s tail, you may have heard her let out a big high-pitched meow. (Make sure you don't ever step on your cat's tail!)

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.

Here are some other reasons cats may meow at humans:

  • 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 basically means "I want food now, feed me!"
  • Give me attention! Sometimes all a cat needs is some 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.

Our cats don't just meow for the sake of it, but as a way of telling us what they want or how they feel. It is important that we listen carefully to our cats when they are trying to communicate with us. Understanding our cats helps build a strong connection and Connection is a beautiful thing.

And as the saying goes, "A meow massages the heart" (Stuart McMillan) which is very true indeed.

To learn more about talking to your cat, see my post, How to Talk to Your Cat.