Why Do Cats Meow?

I have nine cats. Through observing them, I find myself asking lots of questions. One of the bigger ones has always been “why are you meowing right now?” My oldest cat cries out around dinnertime, the youngest love to chat with their toys, and some of them just meow at random. They’re all different, so is it a personality thing, or is there another reason some cats are chattier than others?

Why do cats meow? Cats actually stop meowing at other cats once they’re grown. While kittens meow to get mama cat’s attention, they grow out of it as they learn other ways to communicate. Since humans often don’t understand these means of communication, cats meow to get our attention instead.

Of course, that’s a basic answer. It explains why cats meow at people—but we still don’t know why some cats meow more than others, or what exactly our cats want from us when they’re meowing all day long.

Cats Meow For Attention

As mentioned previously, full-grown cats don’t usually meow at each other. In feral colonies, researchers have observed a very scarce amount of meowing. They simply have other, better ways to communicate with one another.

You may have noticed stray cats are often quieter than housecats, and this is why. If they don’t have a need to communicate with humans on the daily, they don’t need to meow.

It seems that cats meow primarily for human benefit. They’ve realized we don’t understand things like communication by scent, or the subtle body language cues they use toward one another. So they’ve learned ways to get our attention more easily.

Now that we know this, we can dig a bit deeper. Here are some common reasons your cat might be meowing:

  • They’re hungry. A cat might start meowing around mealtime to remind you to feed them, or because they want their food right meow!
  • They’re bored. Cats generally need at least 30 minutes of playtime a day. If they don’t get this stimulation, they may become bored and act out in ways that include excessive meowing.
  • They’re lonely. Many people see cats as low-maintenance pets, which can be true! But if you’re gone all day, it’s only natural your cat will want more attention when you are home. They missed you!
  • They want to chat! Sometimes a cat meows as a greeting, or just because they want to talk with you. Some cats simply like hearing themselves talk.
  • They’re stressed. If there’ve been any changes to your cat’s environment, like taking them to a new place or adding an additional pet to the home, they might be feeling stressed out.
  • They’re in heat. Cats who aren’t spayed or neutered will be louder when they’re in heat.
  • They’re hurt or sick. If your cat is meowing more than normal, you should get them to the veterinarian. They could be trying to tell you something important about their health, or crying because something is hurting them. Older cats can also become disoriented, especially during the night, due to cognitive issues.

If your cat is fed, vetted, and gets regular playtime, meowing isn’t something to be concerned about. This could simply mean you’re doing everything right, and your cat is happy and feels close with you.

Just like people, there isn’t always a reason why we talk. Sometimes your cat is just feeling chatty, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Different Meows Mean Different Things

Sometimes it’s easy to tell what our cats want, especially if we know them well.

  • Short or multiple meows mean hello.
  • Low-pitched meows are complaints.
  • Mid-pitched meows mean a cat is hungry or attention-seeking.
  • High-pitched meows indicate anger or pain.
  • Longer meows mean a cat is demanding something they want!

Cats also tend to have tones to their voices, like humans. An unhappy cat might give a drawn-out, horrible sounding meow, while a cat who is just saying hello might sound more chipper and cheerful.

Stopping Excessive Meowing

If you’re bothered by your cat’s meowing, the first step is to identify the reason behind it. A trip to the vet might be in order first, to make sure nothing is physically wrong.

Once you’ve ruled out pain and illness, you can work on other things. Sometimes, the solution is simple. For example, if your cat cries for food, you can try feeding them at the same times every day. This may prevent them from meowing since they know when to expect their food, or it may mean they only meow at mealtime—which is still an improvement to randomized meowing through the day!

You can also try scheduling playtime. If there’s a certain time your cat gets extra talkative, you might work it in around that time to give them something else to focus on, and get that extra energy out!

If your cat is just talking to talk, though, you probably won’t be able to get them to stop meowing, because punishment will not help. Your cat will not know what they’re being punished for, which will only lead to distrust and confusion.

What Cat Breeds Meow the Most?

This is an excellent question to ask before getting a cat if you don’t want to deal with excessive meowing. Here are some breeds that tend to be talkative:

  • Siamese
  • Oriental Shorthair
  • Bengal
  • Burmese
  • American Bobtail
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Sphynx

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. There are so many vocal breeds out there!

Another important thing to keep in mind is that cats are individuals. Even if your cat’s breed isn’t known for being talkative, yours might be! When looking for a new pet, it’s always good to spend some time with them before making the final decision, especially if certain behaviors will bother you.

If it’s a cat’s nature or personality to meow often, expecting different from them is only going to frustrate you both, and damage your relationship.

For more information about cat breeds, including levels of vocalization (but also much more!) the “Collections” on Purina’s site are a great resource.

What Cat Breeds Meow the Least?

Some breeds are known for their quiet dispositions. Here are some common examples:

  • Abyssinian
  • American Curl
  • American Shorthair
  • Birman
  • British Shorthair
  • Persian
  • Ragdoll

Again, this list is not exhaustive, and cats on this list are not necessarily guaranteed to be quiet all of the time. It’s important to get to know any animal before adopting them, to make sure you two are the best fit possible for one another.

I’m going to leave the “Collections” on Purina’s site here as well, for those of you who missed it before. They have so much information on vocalization levels, the amounts each breed sheds, and more!

Related Questions

How do I cope with the meowing? It can be difficult to deal with a meowing cat, especially if you’re sensitive to noise, or trying to focus on a task. If you can’t stop your cat from meowing, walking away or even closing yourself in another room for a while is the best way to handle things.

Do cats understand humans? Most cats understand their names and certain words that they hear often. They also pay attention to the tones of our voices and are good at sensing emotions. However, it’s unlikely your cat will understand every word you say to them—just like we sometimes don’t understand them!

Why do cats purr? Cats purr when they are happy—but did you know they also purr when stressed or in pain? Paying attention to other cues is important. If your cat purrs when being pet, for example, they are feeling content. If they’re purring while in a veterinarian’s office, they may be stressed and trying to comfort themselves.