The secret language of cats

Some people seem to think there are two kinds of people in the world, cat people and dog people. The ones who prefer cats over dogs and the ones who like dogs more than cats.

The latter often believe that cats are a bit antisocial and generally untrustworthy. Winston Churchill once said, “Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us.”

Well, it’s quite the opposite. According to an Oregon State University study most cats preferred interaction with their human over food, toys and scents and that the better we know our cats, the better we get along. So, does your cat have a secret language that we humans are simply misinterpreting?

Cats communicate through body language and miaows

What is your cat trying to tell you?

Just like dogs have different barks, cats have different miaows. We’ve talked about cats communicating through body language before, but what are they trying to tell you through their sounds?

What does meowing mean?

You might have seen your cat communicating with other cats without using their voice and using their bodies instead. Some believe cats miaow to manipulate people and their owners to get what they want. And it works!

They miaow to be let out, let back in, for attention, for food and these can take place during the day or while you’re fast asleep. So, what do all the different pitches and rhythms mean?

The cat growl

Cats growl too! It’s quite low-pitched compared to our canine friends and it’s used as a warning. Your cat is not a happy kitty. You might hear this growl while feeding your cats, if you have more than one. They do not want to share, and a fight might break out.

Be sure not to put their bowls too close to each other.

The creaking door miaow

You might hear this one when your cat’s hungry. There may be more than one miaow at a time as they communicate their impatience and hunger. All cats have a different way of trying to tell you it’s food time, but you should be able to recognise this miaow if you’re a cat owner.

The one-syllable miaow

This is often recognised as a greeting that you might hear in the morning or when you come home from work. These are short and sweet and often sound like “meh”, “eh”, or “mew.”

Owners get to recognise their cats different miaows

Miaow after miaow

Your cat is probably excited about something if they’re miaowing over and over again. They might be happy to see you or looking forward to a treat or two as they hear the packet ruffling.

Once you hear this call you’ll know, and you’ll love hearing it over and over again.

The caterwaul

If your cat hasn’t been spayed or neutered and you hear them performing this shrill, wailing noise then they might be trying to let cats of the opposite sex know that it’s time to mate. Uh-oh!


Take note of the noises your cat makes and what they mean to get to know what your feline friend is trying to communicate. Each cat will behave differently and not all miaows will mean the same thing each time, but you will come to recognise them over time.

Cats are funny creatures and their mysterious behaviours have been illustrated in kids’ books and written about in great detail in novels for a long time. Some of the most famous examples (link to cats in fiction blog) of these can be seen for free at Cats on the Page, an exhibition celebrating all things literary and feline which we are currently sponsoring at the British Library.

Looking for more cat advice?

We’ve written some handy cat advice guides, to help you unlock the secrets of your mysterious moggy.


Need cat insurance?

Cat insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your cat gets injured or falls ill.