What Does it Mean When a Cat Meows?
I’ve seen it written that the only reason cats meow is to communicate with humans. I don’t know where they got their information (certainly not from the cat’s mouth), but I beg to differ. Watching and listening to my own brood, I hear them use their voices with each other on a daily basis, and those meows come in many flavors.
My little instigator and agitator, Mulan uses a very distinct and sultry meow to taunt Dylan into jumping her bones, though both were fixed long ago. Despite Dylan’s advanced age (he’s nearly 16), when he hears that meow, I guarantee he knows what it means, and gives Mulan exactly what she wants. When they first started this he said, she said behavior, I would yell at Dylan for chewing on Mulan. Once I realized she was usually the instigator, I switched my attention to she who starts it.
That’s not to say they don’t have special meows for communicating with their resident human and servant. My barn cats have an entire vocabulary just for me. It includes meows that say “I’m hungry”, “come outside and give me attention”, and the one that motivates me to respond immediately, “I’ve been out hunting and have brought you the fruits of my labor which I will proceed to dismember if you don’t come out right now and show me the appropriate amount of appreciation for my efforts”.
Controlling the Human Servant
The inside, more pampered ones have an extensive vocabulary as well. It might be “Pet me now. I don’t care if you’re in the middle of cooking and your hands are all gooey. Wash them and see to my needs!”, or “I’ve just used the litter box. Please come check it out, and you might clean it while you’re here.” Dylan’s most-used meow has to be a pitiful and weak “I haven’t had any treats in forever! Surely you can open a bag and offer me some” (while he stares longingly at the shelf where I keep them). It doesn’t matter whether it’s been two days or two minutes since I gave him some. He needs them now, and is weak from lack of treats. He’s also mastered a truly dejected carriage when I deny him.
Invariably, there’s some kind of conversation going on at the opposite end of the house from where I’m at. Sometimes, it gets so vocal, I have to stop what I’m doing to either listen attentively, or if it’s getting too loud, check it out to ensure they’re neither tearing each other limb from limb, nor shredding something besides one of their cat trees or scratching posts.
Healing Properties of Purrs
It isn’t just their meows which convey distinct messages. They purr in a variety of tones to express themselves as well. Those purrs are so distinct, I can tell who it is even in the dark. Scrappy Doo joins me soon after I lay down in bed to purr me to sleep. The purr he uses differs vastly in both tone and volume from the one he uses while sitting in my lap to soothe an ache or a jumpy stomach. Don’t ask me how, but somehow he knows when I need a soothing purr and a small, furry heating pad.
Dylan’s purrs can calm and soothe when he’s curled around my head, taking his half of the pillow out of the middle. When he claims his special place on the arm of the sofa where he’ll ultimately melt into my lap, his purrs range from quietly content to loudly demanding a la “I’m already purring. Don’t you think you should do something to deserve my melodious charms?”
In the morning when I’m at my desk writing, and have helped his aging bones reach the desk by turning so he can make use of my lap as a step stool, he might purr quietly in gratitude, or more loudly to encourage petting. He’s finally learned to lay on the side of my non-writing hand knowing he’ll get more pets. Though it means I write more slowly, he’s a big fan of multi-tasking—especially when it means more attention for His Royal Highness.
A Hiss in Time
Of all the sounds my cats make to communicate their desires and emotions, the one least heard around here is their hiss. That’s not to say it doesn’t come up, but I’d like to believe they’re more often content than annoyed. Mulan hisses at Dylan after she’s annoyed him to the point that he goes after her, pins her to the floor, and chews on her neck. Dylan and Pyewacket hiss when I have the audacity to trim their talons.
Lately, I’ve been working on knots in Dylan’s fur near his hind legs as his advanced age makes it harder to groom himself back there. I’ve earned a few hisses for it, despite my best efforts to be gentle, but I think part of his discomfort was caused by fleas biting his butt. I’m hoping the latest application of flea medicine will make him more amenable to my grooming efforts, despite the fact I use hands, comb, and brush instead of his preferred method of tongue and teeth. (Sorry Dylan. As a human I have limits. One is not grooming with my tongue, and the other is presentation and appreciation of butt to face).
Timing is Everything
Pyewacket is my chatter box. He is a large, fluffy black cat with a high, squeaky, loud voice which he uses most often in the middle of the night, or when I’m in the bathroom. The rest of the time, when I’m ready, willing and able to stop what I’m doing and give him the requisite number of pets, he’s nowhere to be found. I’ve learned he has a number of quiet, cozy spots where he sleeps away the daylight hours. Once in awhile, I’ll hunt him down and wake him in hopes he’ll allow me one night of undisturbed sleep. It hasn’t worked yet.
Above all, I’ve lived with cats long enough (and longer than most people) to know each one is a unique individual. Their personalities, voices, purrs, and habits are every bit as unique as those traits are in humans. As with humans, you recognize the differences when you pay attention, and are far more extensive than fur color and length, or whether or not they like their belly rubbed. I love all the opportunities I’ve had over the years to learn to recognize and love their differences. Now if I could only learn how to communicate more clearly with them, I’d have everything I want and need!
Grateful Every Day for My Furry Companions
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given to share my life with cats.
- I’m grateful for the love and comfort I enjoy from my furry, demanding roommates.
- I’m grateful for opportunities to share my writing on new platforms.
- I’m grateful for the many fosters and adoption agencies that help people find their furever companions, be they feline, or otherwise.
- I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, affection, attention, companionship, healing, comfort, responsibility, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, dedication, tenacity, peace, health, balance, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income.
If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward