Why Do Cats Meow?

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  • At a glance

    About: Meowing is a form of communication between cats and humans.

    Why do cats meow?

    • Asking for something (food, open the door,
    • Pain
    • Talking (greeting you, thanks for opening the
    • Grieving
    • Confusion
    • Boredom
    • Female cats in heat

    Sudden meowing: A normally quiet can become quite vocal when he or she is unwell, confused (which can be due to dementia), or if a female is in estrus.

    Talkative cat breeds: Siamese, Bengal, Oriental, Burmese, Maine Coon, Sphynx, Egyptian Mau, Himalayan,


    Communication is vital to all creatures, which includes cats. There are several ways to communicate, which includes body language (putting the ears back, puffing up the coat, tail position), scent marking as well as vocal communication.

    Cats are capable of making several different types of noises including hissing, growling, meowing, purring and chirping. Meowing is the most common vocalisation that cats make with their human family.

    Meowing is a cat’s way of communicating with humans, they don’t meow to other cats

    Some breeds of cats such as the Siamese and Bengal are more vocal than others and will talk with their human family all day long, other cats will meow when they want something, and then some rarely meow at all.

    Why do cats meow and what does it mean?

    We can take cues from our cat and decipher some of what they are trying to tell us.

    • Hunger: If we walk into the kitchen, open the pantry door where their food is, and he rushes over meowing, we know he’s telling us he is hungry and to “hurry up and feed me“.
    • Let me in/let me out: We all know how indecisive cats are, the moment you let them outside they ask to come back inside. Many cats will give us a “thank you” meow as they run past us.
    • Welcome home: Often when we return home from work we will open the door to a sleepy-eyed cat who looks up and greets us with a “hello” meow.
    • Missing a companion/grieving: Cats will often show signs of grief over the loss of an animal companion which often includes meowing, which may be because they are looking for their companion/
    • Attention: Hey, I’m over here, put down your book/computer and give me some strokes.”
    • I’m lonely and scared: Upset, stressed, distressed cats may meow excessively — a kitten in a new home, a thunderstorm or a dog outside.
    • Calling for a mate: Female cats in heat will do a mixture of a meow/wail when they are in heat to attract a male companion. It will continue for several days until she comes back out of heat.

    Choosing a cat

    Some pet owners love a talkative cat; others prefer the strong but silent type. Do your research and ask if the breed (if you are getting a pedigree cat) is a talkative one or not. Unfortunately, I have heard stories of cats who were surrendered to a shelter because they meow all the time.

    Talkative breeds of cat

    • Siamese
    • Bengal
    • Oriental
    • Burmese
    • Maine Coon
    • Sphynx
    • Egyptian Mau
    • Himalayan
    • Balinese

    My normally quiet cat has started meowing all the time

    Cat meowing

    Meowing can be an indicator that something is not right. If you have an ordinarily quiet cat who suddenly starts meowing or a talkative cat who becomes quiet, it may well mean that he is not well. Any changes to normal behaviour warrant a and with the vet. Even if the cat appears fit and well, there may be an underlying cause that hasn’t become apparent yet. Early intervention is always crucial for your cat and his health.

    • Meowing may increase as your cat advances in years. This can be because the other senses such as eyesight and hearing begin to deteriorate or the cat feels more anxious or confused due to the onset of dementia.
    • The cat may be feeling unwell and be in pain. Urinary problems and blockages are common causes of meowing in cats. Any cat who is unable to urinate, or is crying in the litter tray must be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.
    • A new cat moving into the neighbourhood who enters a resident cat’s territory can cause an increase in vocalisation as the cat becomes frustrated that his patch is being invaded by a newcomer. This is the same with wildlife such as possums and birds etc. If this occurs, try to block your cat from seeing the intruder if at all possible (close curtains on a night, or keep the cat in another room).
    • The cat may be bored when you go to bed. Schedule a play session with the cat before bedtime, followed by a meal. This mimics how a cat behaves in the wild, hunt, kill, eat and sleep.

    Nighttime/morning meowing

    Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn. While we are looking forward to a well deserved weekend sleep in, our feline companion may have other ideas and would like you to get out of bed and feed and/or play with him or her.

    Leave enough dry food before you go to bed, so the cat has something to snack on during the night or provide the cat with a food puzzle.

    Do not get up and feed the cat; your doing is reinforcing to the cat that persistent meowing will eventually result in you getting out of bed. The best way to handle a cat who meows excessively during the night/early morning is to ignore it. If possible, shut the cat in a different part of the house to you and make sure there are food and toys available.


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio