Did you know that cats only meow at humans? I know… this is one of those unexpected facts. It’s easy to assume that all cats meow and that they will meow at anyone and anything, but studies have shown otherwise. The big question is, why do cats only meow at humans?
This might shock you, as it did me, but studies have shown that all feral cats living away from us humans don’t meow. Further, research shows that only the African wildcat, European wildcat, South American margay and caracal make that sound.
As such, the meow only exists among domestic/socialized cats and this is to help them communicate with humans. It’s more of an adaptive mechanism because how would we live under one roof peacefully if only one party communicated?
It is also good to note that adult cats never meow at each other, but you will often hear a kitten meowing to its mother. Well, this is just because they need their attention and it goes away once they grow up.
Interestingly still, cats have different types of meow to communicate differently or for different requests. If you’re keen enough, you will notice the difference over time. They will use a different sound when they want food, another one when they want you to open the door for them, etc.
And, you might also notice that some cats use body language for certain requests, such as when they want to play or to be held.
Let’s look at the different things that your cat might be trying to communicate to you via a meow:
Hey, let’s play meow
Sometimes your cat will meow just to get your attention. This will be probably when they are bored, or they want to play with you. This meow can be accompanied by body languages such as the cat putting their tail up, ears and whiskers forward or their pupils will be slightly dilated.
This can really look so cute and tempting, but the best response is to ignore them. You wouldn’t want your cat meowing excessively just because they know you will come. So next time your cat behaves like this, do them a favor and walk away. Or better still; get them a second cat or a toy so they are not lonely when you are not available.
I am not feeling well meow
Cats will often hide their pain but eventually communicates when the pain worsens. This meow will be excessive and unusual. Some cat diseases make them feel hungry, thirsty or so much pain. When you notice this, take them to a veterinary.
Unlike the ‘I am not feeling well meow, sometimes a cat will have a sudden high-pitch meow. This is meant to bring something to your attention quickly. The meow will mostly happen when you step on their tail. This is not the kind of meow you would ignore as it automatically gets your attention and fast! They are just trying to tell you to watch out and they could get mad if you do not respond.
Do new things get you overly excited? Well, they do to me. When something gets us, we get excited and want to talk about it. When something triggers your cat’s animal instincts, they will give a chatterbox meow. This is just because they have spotted something, maybe a squirrel or a bird from the window and are thrilled.
Hey, I am hungry
A hungry cat will not let you rest. They know it is your responsibility to keep them comfortable so they will come to you. If you own a cat you know this meow all too well. The loudmouth meow does not stop until they get what they want. When you hear this meow, be sure to fill their bowl.
How are you doing?
Some meows are meant to say hello. This is often a short meow. It is cute and they mostly will do it when they see you at the door. When they walk into your room, they also use this as a way of announcing that they are around. So next time you hear this, just know your cat is either welcoming you or just telling you they are in the room.
When this meow is repetitive, it is a way of communicating how excited they are to see you.
Stress could be caused by abrupt changes around your cat. You can notice the meow every time you get maybe a new pet, change your home or have someone new to them visit you. This meow is just a way of the cat telling you they don’t like it. It would be good to help them get through this by spending time with them or by hanging out with them together with the new pet until they get used to the change.
Cats can become most active at night. They will not let you sleep as to them, it’s time to play. We love our sleep and this could annoy both you and your family. To help reduce this, have some interactive play session with your cat before you go to bed, followed by a food reward. Then put off the lights to communicate to them it’s time to rest.
You can also get them toys to keep them busy when you are sleeping. The last thing you should do is waking up to check out on them unless the meow is different and calls for your attention.
Can I go out?
Cats are curious creatures and they love exploring. A drawn-out meow may simply mean they want to go out and explore. They are asking that you open the door or window and let them out.
Let me in, please
When a cat meows outside your door, all they want is for you not to leave them out. This could be your main door or your bedroom door. Sometimes, they don’t want to come in but they just don’t want you to close the door.
I am in heat
When your female cat is in heat, they will yowl persistently. This is a way to get the attention of the male cat. The male will also be noisy when they notice a cat in heat nearby.
Depending on you, you can have your cat spayed. Or get ready to welcome kittens to your home.
I am getting old
Lastly, increased meowing is common in older cats. Just like us, as they get older, they become more confused. An old cat will have impaired vision and hearing. If they start bumping into things at night, maybe leave the lights on as you go to sleep for them to see clearer.
You might also want to visit a vet or an animal behaviorist so they can advise you on how to handle them.
By now I believe we have answered the question; why do cats only meow at humans? It’s an interesting discovery for most cat lovers because it makes us pay even more attention. However, sometimes you won’t understand why your cat is meowing and that’s okay. It gets better with time.