Cat Sounds: Demystified

New Pet Owners  •   Pam Karkow  •   Nov 21, 2017

Did you know you can tell how your cat is feeling just by listening closely?  There are so many times I have looked deep into my pooch’s eyes, willing her to convey what is going on inside her furry little head.  After doing this research, I’d be thrilled if dogs had half as many ways of speaking as cats.

So, what are some noises cats make, and how can a cat mom or dad know when those sounds are cause for alarm?  Below, we’ve broken down the symphony of feline fanfare, so you can be prepared for any vibration, good or bad.











What does it sound like?

Low frequency vibration--

one can often feel a purr more than hear it.

Just like its name, a meow sounds like, well, “meow.”

Can sound like a human scream.

A musical, trill-like sound, similar to a bird’s chirp.

Hissing is just that, a  hiss like a snake.  A growl is a more intense sound than a hiss.

According to Cromwell-

Davis, a cat’s whine is similar to that of a dog.

What does it mean?

“Cats who are happy and healthy tend to purr a lot,” according to Sharon Cromwell-

Davis, DVM.  It may also mean  your cat wants you to keep scratching him.

A soft deep meow can mean a good mood, a frequent meow is a call for help, and a meow in a human’s direction can mean, “Pet me!”

Often occurs before a cat fight, but can also signal discomfort, pain, concern over territory, or intentions to mate.

Cats may chirp while sitting by the window watching birds, and mama cats chirp to round up their kittens, similar to humans whistling for their children. 


A hiss can be a warning, a way of saying back off.  Growling is another, more severe type of warning, maybe involving food, but can also signal pain.

Can mean your cat is lonely, lost or confused, or hungry.  It may mean your cat is in distress.

What should I do?

Be happy your cat is happy!  Although if purring increases or is in combination with signs of sickness, see your vet.

According to cat behaviorist Lana Rich, “A longer meow may indicate worry.”  Dr. Courtney Marsh, founder at BCCB Pet Clinic in VA, warns that persistent meowing can be associated with diseases like hypertension.  Meowing without an obvious reason shouldn’t be ignored.

Be aware of your cat’s surroundings and any other animals present, in order to avoid a scuffle.  Listen to the warning sounds.

Be in awe of animal adaptations :).

Give your cat space.  You may also need to give him time to calm down, and remove any irritants from his environment.  If your cat growls when you touch a certain area, contact your vet.

Don’t ignore your cat’s cry.  Cromwell-

Davis, who owns 15 cats says, “Whenever I hear one of my cats make a cry, I go check out what it is. Usually, it’s a minor spat,” she says. “Sometimes their curiosity or their desire to explore gets them into trouble, and they’ll start crying.”

For more information on cat sounds and what they mean, see PetMD’s 8 Cat Sounds and What They Mean and When Meowing Indicates a Medical Problem.

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Pam Karkow

About the Author
Pam Karkow

Hi, I'm Pam. List maker, note taker, and avid reader. I'm married to my college sweetheart and we have three amazing kids, all of them boys. We also have one furry child, a golden retriever rescue dog. I have been blogging for PetPartners since 2015, and I love researching and writing tips about how to be a better pet parent. I spend most of my time sharing my adventures at, where I share the ways I am learning to be a better wife and mom--to my two and four-legged children.