Why Do Cats Meow Back At You When You Talk To Them

Cats often kept as pets and some roaming the streets often times meow at you but what does that actually mean for us? As scientists have started observing the minds of many cats you can’t help but think of a scenario in the future that someone should invent a cat translating program just like google translate but make it for felines.

Engaging in a conversation with our feline companions raises an exciting question about the nuances of why do cats meow back at you? And also as a cat owner you start to question about the potential loss in translation that happens between human speech and felines ability to meow.

Is meowing merely a vocalization, or does it serve as a genuine means of communication? Do cats reciprocate meows intentionally, seeking a form of dialogue?

Why do cats meow ?

Well the simple answer is that cats have actually evolved their meowing patterns as a way to communicate with us humans. Their meows can convey a variety of different messages ranging from a simple desire for attention to a friendly greeting or even signaling us a request for something specific.

While cats do meow at us for our attention we should look more in depth about this way of feline communication. So cats most of the time are branded as indifferent individuals, they’re actually one of the few domestic animals that evolved their communication skills to specifically interact with humans.

cat loves you

According to Anthrozoologist John W.S. Bradshaw, “the domestic cat is the only member of the Felidae (meaning all feline species), to form social relationships with humans.” The rules of human cat communication actually don’t apply to other felines, it’s only exclusive to humans.

Bradshaw also adds on that “cohesion in colonies of cats is expressed as, and probably maintained, by allorubbing and allogrooming.” What that means is that the first ever cats that formed social groups when out in the wild used a combination of smell and body language to communicate instead of the vocal sounds they produce. The intricacies of our cats behavior is truly fascinating, shaped not only by the process of domestication which lasted over 10,000 years ago in the Near East but also influenced by their early experiences in kittenhood.

During this crucial phase, young kittens start meowing as a means to interact with their mothers, using it to attract her attention when hungry or feeling lost. It’s noteworthy that the communication through meows is predominantly limited to kitten interactions, emphasizing the unique role of meowing in the early stages of a cat’s life. The captivating aspect of cat meows lies in their high-pitched frequency, making them remarkably challenging to ignore.

This characteristic serves a purpose, as cats utilize their meows to capture the attention of their human companions. Karen McComb, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Sussex, suggests that cats might be strategically leveraging our innate nurturing response, akin to how humans instinctively respond to a baby’s cry. When we engage in conversation with our cats, responding to their meows, it is not merely a one-sided interaction.

It becomes a mutual exchange where we signal to our feline friends that they have our undivided attention. This reciprocal communication is significant in understanding the dynamics of the human-cat relationship. Interestingly, as our cats perceive that they have successfully captured our focus, their meowing often intensifies, serving as a nuanced indicator of their needs. Whether it be the request for a replenished food bowl or a gentle scratch under the chin, the escalating intensity of meows becomes a subtle yet effective way for cats to convey their specific desires to their human companions.

So when we’re exploring the intricacies of feline communication it reveals to us s a captivating side of the dynamic of cats that meow back at you the human.  The attempt to bridge the gap between human language and the unique vocalizations of cats.

Do cats understand when we meow ?

Unlike humans, who predominantly rely on language for communication, cats utilize a diverse array of signals, such as body language, tail positioning, and scent, to interact with each other. While vocal sounds play a role in specific situations like mating or fighting, meows are not part of their typical communication repertoire for intra-feline interactions.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to us as their human companions, cats reserve the special use of meows. This raises the intriguing question of whether cats can understand when we, in turn, communicate with them through meows or words.

Despite their inherent intelligence, cats may not comprehend the literal meaning of our words or meows. However, they possess an awareness of our responsiveness, acknowledging the interaction. Some cat parents choose to engage in meowing exchanges, while others go for verbal communication.

The likelihood of cats grasping the explicit meaning is considered slim. Nevertheless, what they do perceive is the tone we use. Dr. Uri Burstyn, a veterinarian from Vancouver, has stated that using a high-frequency tone when calling our cats is more effective. This nuanced understanding of tone adds a layer to the feline-human interaction.

Drawing parallels to the way cats communicate with their mothers, it appears that they are more receptive to a conversational tone resembling our way of communicating with babies. Professor Bjarne O. Braastad from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences has emphasized “Animals that live with humans tend to use their baby behavior towards humans because they find that it works.”

Furthermore, the choice of vocal pitch becomes significant, as many individuals, particularly women, instinctively use a higher voice when addressing cats. This preference could come from cats perceiving higher tones as more trustworthy, while deeper tones may be perceived as threatening. The utilization of such vocal techniques is not uncommon among cat owners, with the resulting response often manifesting in purring meows and affectionate slow blinking.

When trying to converse with a cat there is a chance that it might not want to engage in a back and forth communication and of course there are cats that love it and if you’re lucky enough to be a cats favorite human there might be a chance that the cat reserve their meows just for you. But as mentioned earlier in this article cats can’t understand what our meows mean but most likely will understand the tone of your voice when you meow at them.

Why do cats meow back at you ?

Well now that we have a higher understanding of how cats react when we try to engage in a conversation with them thought meows, it is also good to know the reason why cats meow back at us. And the usual answer to that is that cats want something from us right? But how are you going to know what they specifically want? How will you be able to translate that in our human language?

You might be interested: 6 Reasons Why Your Cat Lost Its Voice

They ask for attention

As we discussed earlier when a cat meows its very attention grabbing. And some studies show that humans that own cats find their cries to be very pleasant to their ears, establishing a foundation for our responsiveness to their vocalizations. There are many many reasons why cats seek for our attention.

Usually if you come back from work or basically anywhere our cat might start going in circles around your legs rubbing off you and using more of a purring kind of a meow that means that your lovely little feline friend is greeting you. The combination of vocal greeting and a straight-up tail mirrors the signals that usually kittens show when they greet their mothers.

In this context, your cat is not merely seeking attention but is also expressing a sort of closeness to you. Also a cat may use meows to draw attention to unmet basic needs. A prolonged and insistent meow might be a distress signal, guiding you to the source of their discomfort.

An empty or partially filled food bowl may be unacceptable to them. Similarly, an urgent meow could signify the need for a clean litter box, or your cat might be inviting you to engage in playtime. Sometimes, their meows suggest a belief that their undeniable cuteness deserves your acknowledgment in the form of a well-deserved treat.

Too many meows

Every cat tends to have its own character, with each cat possessing a unique quirk. While some cats love the sound of silence, others are very very talkative, expressing themselves with an excessive use meows that demand attention. It’s crucial for cat owners to understand that this split in communication styles is entirely normal and reflective of the diverse personalities within the feline world.

Certain cat breeds, such as the Siamese, are pretty well known for their excessive meowing and yowling. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes this characteristic trait, highlighting the breed-specific inclination for vocal expression.

However, if you notice a shift in the way your cat uses her meows then you might have to start paying more attention. If a typically reserved feline companion starts meowing excessively, it may serve as an indication of an underlying health issue. Observing the context in which this increased vocalization occurs becomes pivotal.

Take note if the meowing coincides with activities such as litter box usage, meal times, or grooming sessions. Similarly, a sudden transition from a chatty demeanor to uncharacteristic silence may signify potential health problems or stress-related issues. The spectrum of increased vocalization extends beyond the prime of a cat’s life.

Senior cats, as elucidated in a recent study by Petra Cerna, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University, might experience age-related cognitive deterioration leading to behavioral changes. Excessive meowing emerges as one such change, signaling the need for attentive and specialized care in the twilight years of a cat’s life.

Now that we are more familiar with the reasons why do cats meow back at you, it is also important to know the differences and the approximate meaning of their meows. Some studies that were done in Japan claim that cats most likely possess the ability to recognize different words that are usually related to foods and their own name.

Types of meowing

Simple meows

One of the most common types vocalizations cats choose to use around you that is very intricate and unmistakable. Typically perceived as a greeting, the length of the meow carries a nuanced urgency. This vocalization can signify various needs, ranging from hunger to a plea for attention.

A low-pitched meow might serve as an indicator of underlying illness or injury. In some independent research done cats meows very on the fact if they have eaten or not, with cats that haven’t been fed tend to have more longer meows. When a cat continues to vocalize even with a full food bowl, it could be a subtle request for the owner’s presence while they eat. Additionally, a keen awareness of a cat’s body language, especially the tail, provides valuable cues to their emotional state.


Often considered as the sweetest of sounds, purring possesses a frequency with almost hypnotic qualities in its steady rhythm. Beyond its role as an expression of happiness, purring has healing properties linked to promoting bone growth. Gary Weitzman, a Veterinarian and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society, has said “Purrs at a frequency of 25-100Hz correspond with established healing frequencies in therapeutic medicine for humans.”


The endearing sound of chattering emerges as an expression of excitement overload, particularly when a cat spots potential prey just out of reach. My own cats are fervent chirpers, perched on their cat tree by the window, engaging in a hopeful dialogue with passing birds. The animated chatter seems almost strategic, as if the cats believe their vocal efforts might lure the elusive prey closer.


Yowling, a recognizable drawn-out moan, often signals more than just playful instincts. While cats engage in yowling during their mating period, this behavior should be absent in neutered cats. Yowling can also indicate pain and stress, with factors such as moving to a new house triggering distress over perceived lost territory. Extended periods of owner absence might elicit yowling as a manifestation of loneliness. If yowling persists without an apparent cause, a dedicated play session each day can serve as a remedy. However, if the behavior endures, seeking professional veterinary advice becomes a prority.

Hiss, Snarls, and Growls

The spectrum of feline vocalizations takes a somber turn with angry sounds, including hissing, snarls, and growls. Common in feral or stray cats, these expressions arise when a cat is extremely frightened or angry. Cats also employ these sounds during conflicts with each other, accompanied by distinctive physical cues like an arched back, puffed hair, flattened ears, and a bushy tail. Spitting may also occur in moments of heightened tension. Handling a cat exhibiting such signs requires caution, and addressing the source of their anxiety becomes the top priority for responsible cat owners.

When it comes to morning meows they can get pretty annoying pretty fast especially when they act as a replacement to your usual alarm clocks or when you want to unwind on your day off of work.

When that happens you should find the source of your cats calls. If there are no issues with the cat and they are meowing just for attention it’s best advised for you to just ignore them and not give in to their antics. Unless you want to give them your attention no one is stopping you.

If you are sleeping in the same room scolding your little feline companion is a solution or removing them from your room. And by using this tactic for more than a few days their morning meows should stop because you’ve put an end to their habit. But if the cat doesn’t stop then consider not letting that cat share a room with you. Another reason why your cats meow during the morning is probably because they are bored and want you to engage in playtime with them.

To prevent this from happening try tiring your kitty before bed time every night for 15 minutes. This should tire them out completely and allow you to have a peaceful morning. Another reason as to why your cat meows back at you during the morning may be because they’re out of food. But you can easily avoid this problem by purchasing and automatic feeder like the Cat Mate C500 which has a hefty timer so your cat will always have food during the morning hours.

If you have an already neutered cat and they still howl at night make sure to rule out any possible health concerns and if you are very sure that your cat does not have any health problems then the most likely reason why they still are being vocal is the fact that they might be bored.

Cats are classified as nocturnal creatures which means that they are most active at night. While you peacefully sleep, your cat has approximately eight hours of free time to indulge in various activities. Although a substantial portion of this time is dedicated to sleeping, they also engage in hunting behaviors.

So to effectively tire them out and avoid this problem is to thoroughly play with them them out before going to bed. Another way to avoid them from disrupting you sleep schedule is to conveniently place some of their toys within their reach. So if they ever decide to wake  up during the night instead of bothering you they will mind their own business and play with their toys. But also do keep in mind to keep your door closed so they don’t wake you up by jumping and rolling around.

Understanding your cat’s behavior is crucial, especially when it comes to excessive meowing. While it might be tempting to ignore persistent meows you should not let it slide just like that. So next time if your cat meows try to find out if its just for attention or if there is some kind of underlying health issue.

Cats, similar to humans, are unique individuals with their own set of quirky behaviors. If you happen to have a talkative or emotionally expressive cat, embracing and accepting their communicative style is vital for their overall well-being. Refrain from scolding or resorting to physical punishment for meowing, as it may lead to adverse consequences such as stress and potential avoidance behaviors. It’s important to recognize and appreciate your cat for who they are.

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