Why cats miaow

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Having four cats, I know that each cat has a different sounding miaow. But what does a cat’s miaow actually mean?

Upon spending the weekend at a friend’s, who has a cat with diabetes, I was shocked that her cat’s miaow is used by the cat to alert her – my friend – to the fact that she – the cat – needs food/medication.

Now, as a diabetic myself, I know very well just how dangerous hypoglycaemia is – a low blood sugar level for a diabetic is a potential coma and even death if not treated urgently. So how on earth would a diabetic cat cope if his or her parent didn’t know they needed something to eat immediately, to bring their sugar level up? Thankfully my friend’s cat has developed a language of their own to alert her mum to her need for a glucose shot – or even some yummy wet food, which is better for diabetic cats than dry food.

I am sure that my friend’s cat miaowing when she is feeling low (sugar wise, not unhappy) is an unusual and talented way of communicating but what do non-diabetic cats’ miaows mean?

I think that a cat’s purr is the best and most relaxing sound in the world. Not only does it tell you that your cat is happy, it is also a sign that he or she loves you since cats only purr around people they genuinely feel comfortable with a close to. However, a cat’s miaow is also a wonderful sound as it means that your cat is talking to you. Did you know that cats only miaow because of us. Before humans, cats never miaowed at all. A cat’s miaow is essentially your cat mimicking you talking to it. So, when your cat miaows at you, he or she is speaking directly to you.

As a cat parent you need to know that miaows – no matter how cute or soft they sound – are essentially demands, requesting anything from a food bowl being filled to doors being opened.

In my recent post, Do cats speak with the same accent as you?, I noted that one researcher is looking into whether the difference in a cat’s miaows are regional due to them having accents.

However, I have found that all four of my strays have different miaows and they have all been born and raised in the same area so I’m not convinced by the accent theory. It is true that the same cat can make a totally different miaow sound when it is sad compared to when it is happy but it is the urgency and intonation that I know means either my cats want affection or are telling me off.

A cat’s miaow is a truly wonderful thing and there is nothing in the world that I love more than ‘talking’ to my four rescue cats. Each of my strays has their own personality and chats to me in their own way:

Akira is fairly quiet and doesn’t miaow much. He only really talks when he is annoyed about something – like the food bowl being empty or not being filled quickly enough. His miaow is loud and insistent when it happens at all.

Buffy – my only girl – is a real talker – she miaows constantly. Whether she is happy or sad or in between, she talks all the time and even miaows at the postman, milkman and passers-by. She has a very soft and gentle, low pitched miaow – it really is very delicate sounding.

Caesar only ever talks when he is excited. His miaow is high-pitched like a child’s voice even though he is the oldest of my four Fur Babies.

Like Buffy, Loki our kitten talks a lot. He has a very delicate, cute kitten sounding miaow even though he is nearly five years old now!

Studies have shown that when a cat becomes more insistent, it’s miaows will in turn become lower and more aggressive – kind of grating. So if your cat is miaowing a lot, listen to how insistent and high/low-pitched it is to determine whether s/he is asking for food or to be let out, or if your kitty is just after some affection.

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