Cats have a reputation as non-verbal animals but most owners will tell you that a cat talking isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. Sure, your cat won’t turn into Top Cat just because you start to interpret their meows. However, with a greater understanding of cat body language, how they interpret tone of voice, and how a cat talks back to you, you can achieve a better understanding of your cat’s talking.
Cats can be conditioned to respond to certain words and tones of voice in just the same way as dogs. This can help you train your cat and answer back to cat talking. We can learn a lot about what a cat is trying to communicate from their body language. We can also look at the way they interact with other cats. Body language is a key factor in understanding your cat, you can typically judge more about their mood and what their meow might mean from the way they are positioned or acting. Cats very rarely use meows to communicate with other cats outside of the yelps and noises heard during fights. Instead, cat talking mainly allows them to interact with the verbal human world, cats only talk because we prefer them to. This means that most meows inside the house will be directed at you, or at prey.
How Does Cat Talking Work?
The body language of cats provides most of the clues that we will need to understand cat talking. Cats might not be the most expressive animals on the planet through their noises, but they can communicate an awful lot with their bodies. Cats have the ability to convey their mood through as little as a brief movement of the tail. Learning the meaning of this body language can be a big benefit to cat owners trying to communicate with their pets.
Some cats are bigger talkers than others. Some will develop their verbal communication better or sooner than other cats. However, all cats are fluent in body language. Each position or movement from a cat can betray their feelings and help you to interpret their meows. While many cats can be taught to communicate verbally with you, some might have some difficulty. Learning the body language of how cats communicate can help you understand cat talking even if your pet is opposed to excessive verbal communication.
Certain strange tweeting noises are more directed at potential prey. These are confusing noises but they are part of the hunting routine for a cat and help them get their food in the wild. If your cat is making these noises or crouched over in a hunting stance, waiting to pounce, then you can safely assume that they’re not directing it at you.
What Does Cat Body Language Mean?
The tail is the first area to watch out for. Different tail movements have different meanings. A tail that is held straight up or with only a slight turn at the top usually indicates that your cat is quite happy. A tail that is shaking or moving in place rapidly will show excitement, this is often at the sight of either their favourite food or their owner. When tails are low or curled all over, this usually means aggression, alert, or anxious. These movements are the type of cat talking to watch out for, it means your cat is either on the hunt or frightened.
A cat head is another important indicator of expression. Much like in ourselves, the face and head of an animal can often show their emotions. A cat with ears straightened out rather than standing is usually scared or anxious. Rubbing your face with their own head is a big sign of love, and licking is an even bigger sign. Rubbing their head or body against any part of a human is a sign of affection. These movements show how your cat feels towards you. Once you understand these, you can use them to infer their mood if you don’t quite understand their meows.
More vocal cats will meow in various different tones and lengths to get a message across. This method of cat talking is their best attempt at communicating with you. While you might not know the exact meaning, most cat owners will pick up that certain meows correspond to a certain message. Individuals pets are known to cater their noises specifically to what their owner responds to, but there are also some particular meows or patterns which most cats use for the same purposes. These meows give more specific information than body language.
What Do Different Meows Mean?
These are the main types of meow that most cats will do. While each adjusts their noises to their owners, these are the normal group;
- Greeting – When your cat is attempting to greet you, they will usually let out a short meow. This particular bit of cat talking won’t have much special to it in tone, it’ll just seem like a short regular meow.
- Lots of greetings – A lot of cats will repeat that basic getting over and over in a pattern to indicate that they’re happy to see their owner. This is a meow excited greeting. A shorter version of a regular meow can also mean the same thing, nothing weird about that considering how many words we have hello.
- Long meow – A particularly long and sustained meow is usually a call for something. This is most often used for food since cats have a habit of thinking with their stomachs. However, it doesn’t just apply to food. It can also be a call for a door to be opened, and then a few seconds later to be welcomed back in. Anything that your cat wants, they will try to use this meow to get.
- Long Low-Pitched Meow – This meow will be very similar to the previous one but in a much lower pitch. This meow means the same thing but Angrier! It can express displeasure or an urgent request for something. Cat talking isn’t always polite, sometimes they do just yell for things and complain with this low-meow.
- High Pitched meow – This instinctive noise is usually so shrill that it resembles a nail on a chalkboard. Typically means, stop stomping on my tail and feet in those big boots.
Answering Cat Talking
That is the basics of what each meow means, our best translation of the simplest types of cat talk. Knowing the meaning of these growls can help you understand how your cat talks, but what if you want to talk back? Cats do have an understanding of our words, even if they are less inclined to listen than a dog. Most cats have a basic understanding of the things that are being said to them. Cat talking isn’t the same as the way we talk, but they can learn. Since their meows are a deliberate attempt to talk our language (in the metaphorical but not literal sense), they will try to understand with the right coaching.
Studies have found that cats usually recognise their names. Through repetition and the context of our behaviour, cats will pick up that the certain combination of noises that we make refer to them. However, this doesn’t mean they care that their name is being said! They might recognise their name, but have no interest in responding to it. You should continue to talk to them with their name. This reinforces their knowledge of their name which will help them understand when words are addressed to them.
The most important thing when speaking cat is to control your tone of voice. The tone of voice that you use is the easiest way for a cat to understand you, much like how we understand their meows from their tone. When talking in a friendly way you should use a raised and relaxed tone, and a lower voice for a negative tone. With repetition, your cat will pick up on what these tones mean.
Teaching Your Cat Words
Your cat understanding your tone of voice is a good start for them understanding your speech. They can begin to interpret individual words as well as tone once they have more understanding. To teach them the meaning of a word, it needs to be repeated. If you repeat a certain word over and over while that activity is being done, your cat will begin to associate that word with what it is referring too.
An example could be going to sleep or going outside. When your cat goes outside or to sleep, you can repeat that word. With repetition, you should quickly have them recognising the word and associating it with the activity. To develop your cat’s response to specific commands, try and use firm language every time. You should reserve an assured tone of voice just for this sort of communication. Firmly say “No” to your cat, and do not praise them for responding. This will gradually build recognition from your cat that this word means to stop.
There is no shortcut for getting your cat to understand these commands and words. We have the benefit of scientific studies producing guides to what cat noises mean. Our pets don’t. Instead, they have to gradually figure it out from living with us. Most cats will get there eventually and begin to understand us and communicate directly to us. With some practise and understanding, a cat talking might be an ordinary part of your household.