Felines have a wide variety of ways to make their moods and needs known, but they’re apparently too subtle for most of us to grasp. The squint of an eye, the twitch of the tail – these non-verbal signals come through loud and clear to another cat, but are typically overlooked by the rest of us. They have therefore condensed seven simple messages – fear, anger, excitement, affection, defense, aggression and enthusiasm – into 10 sounds and variations that they hope you can somehow figure out.
Understanding Her Every Meow
Meowing comes in numerous forms, differentiated by pitch, rhythm and volume. Cats meow to say hello, to make a demand or suggest aggression. Sometimes they’ll open their mouth without uttering a sound. This “silent meow” usually means they want something, but in rare instances
can be a sign of choking. Murmuring is softer and lower than the meow, and can also indicate a greeting, a request or general contentment. Moaning occurs prior to coughing up a hairball.
Purring has different meanings depending on their purpose. Generally indicating contentment or relaxation, purring has also been shown to be a method of self-healing or comforting when the cat is in pain. Growling is an obvious warning that registers anger. Hissing may take it a step further, with teeth bared and ready for action. Spitting, used along with the hiss, is a more intense indication that kitty’s quite upset. Shrieking is heard during a catfight or to show pain, and needs no translation. Caterwauling, a form of yowling, demonstrates strong emotion, from confusion to sexual desire. You may also have seen her at the window chattering in rapid-fire fashion. She
could be expressing frustration at being unable to get at something – or someone – outside, which could also account for the caterwauling.
Stop, Look and Listen
Observe your cat carefully. Her body language is just that, an intricate method of communication all its own. The tail, for example, is a virtual vocabulary of emotions. The twitching tail can convey excitement, but can also indicate territorial arousal and lead to aggression. A tucked tail suggests
fear. Broad swishing shows annoyance, while small motions signify curiosity. The quivering tail is a gesture of affection she saves only for her favorite human.
Body language may also be her way of communicating an urgent need for medical attention. Sudden non-stop meowing while eating, grooming or using the litter box could indicate illness.
Refusing to eat or groom might also be a symptom of disease. Watch for repeated scratching or sneezing, and especially for any trouble urinating or breathing. You don’t need a Berlitz course
to master Cat Chat. Just pay attention, and you’ll soon find that every sound and motion has a meaning, and they’re all meant just for you.