Every cat owner knows that cats are good at vocalizing their needs. Some cats talk more than others, but you know your cat wants something when he starts meowing. He might want to go outside, or maybe he is hungry. But beyond the typical plaintive “meow,” cats have plenty to say. Your cat will offer up a whole selection of other sounds.


Cats usually purr when content, but sick and injured cats purr as well. The low, steady motor of a gentle purr can also be a sign of self-healing. There are few things as comforting as settling down with a soft blanket, a warm fire, and a purring cat, especially for pet owners who are in tune enough to know when the purr means all is well.

Caterwauling – Howling or Wailing

Cats may caterwaul for a number of reasons. They might make this high, alarming screech when breeding or fighting for potential mates. Female cats in heat will caterwaul in hopes of attracting a male, and they may call in several from a considerable distance. At that point, a fight may ensue. They might want their owner’s attention, they may be in pain, feel vulnerable or disoriented, or they may be alerting their owners to something going on outside. Either way, this is a sound not to ignore!

Cat Hissing

There is no mistaking the meaning of a directed hiss. Cats will flatten their ears, points their faces in the direction of the offender, and hiss a gust of hot, foul-smelling breath in their direction. Hissing is combined with body language.

The cat’s pupils will dilate, and hair stand out to make them appear bigger. The hiss may be accompanied by a sudden, startling spit. When a cat hisses and their body language is in a full defensive posture, tail jerking, ears flattened, it’s best to back off. Cats hiss to tell someone to “go away.” Cats hiss with contempt.

Cat Growling

A cat will growl as a warning, either to people, other cats, or other animals. Cats will also growl as a territorial alarm, to herald an intrusion. In a cat, a growl is not always a prelude to an attack. Many cats will growl first, and then run away to hide. Some growl as they are running. Cats choose their battles, but they have plenty to say in the meantime.

Guttural Yowling

The low, full-throat yowl is a sound meaning bad news. Cats may yowl out of fear, or when they are cornered, or they may yowl as an announcement that they are about to vomit.


If your cat is watching squirrels through the window, their tail lashes and they might emit a staccato chatter. The meaning is just what it seems: excited frustration.


A chirp is baby talk. Cats chirp softly to other cats, when they are at peace. Mother cats chirp to their kittens or will chirp to a prospective mate. Rest assured cats chirp at people they think highly of. At least, as high as any human can be, in the esteem of a cat.

What unique sounds does your cat make?

If you’re curious or concerned about them, talk to your veterinarian.