Why Do Cats Meow?

If there's one thing we associate our kitties with, it's the totally unique sound they make. Some cats are very vocal, but other cats are quieter. However, we notice that even with quiet cats, they seem like they're talking to us.

But why exactly do cats meow?

Cats meow to communicate with us.

Because cats are pretty smart, they understand that we mere humans can't understand their complex signals. That's why they meow at us, so that they can more easily communicate. Of course, they have a pretty complicated system of different sounds to let us know exactly what they want.

Cats may sometimes seem like they don't care, but they crave our attention, and they're not subtle about demanding it.

little kitten
credit: Nevena1987/iStock/GettyImages

Cats actually learned to meow for humans.

Although a meow might seem like it's a natural sound, some experts believe that it's a sound that developed over time to appease humans. They believe that the meow developed to what it is today because it resembles a baby crying. That's pretty crazy to think about. This means cats have evolved to manipulate us down to the noises they make. And it is effective.

However, meows may not have been entirely developed for humans. Kittens make noise when they want something, so cats probably naturally developed a noise to indicate they want something. Adult cats don't really meow around other cats, which suggests that it's something that they learned to do to communicate with their humans.

Cats meow as a greeting.

Because cats evolved many of their vocalizations for the benefit of humans, they also learned to say hello this way. Because humans say "hello" verbally, it makes sense that cats would learn to do that as well.

Cats often meow because they want something.

Since cats evolved to manipulate humans, obviously they use their meows to demand something. Cats meow when they want food, or sometimes they meow because they want attention. For most cats, it's occasional and not too annoying, but some cats can take their demands to a higher level. If your cat is nonstop meowing, you should take that more seriously.

Cats sometimes meow because there is something wrong, and you should see your vet.

There are a number of serious conditions and diseases that can make your cat meow a lot. If your cat is in pain, it will communicate that my meowing. Also, conditions like hyperthyroidism or feline hyperesthesia syndrome can also lead your cat to meow to express their discomfort. Also, conditions like hearing loss, vision loss, or senility can cause your cat to meow as well. So if your cat seems to be meowing to an unusual degree, take them to the vet to rule out any serious conditions.

Adorable tabby kitten looking up and meowing
credit: suemack/iStock/GettyImages

Cats also make noises to express some of their other feelings.

When they're content, cats purr to show you that they're happy and comfortable. They also squeal when they hurt themselves. Cats make a longer, more drawn out yowl sound that they use to communicate with one another when breeding.

Yeah, our cats accomplish a lot of communication with only a few sounds.

But are we really surprised? Cats are already so good at ruling over the house and getting us to do what they want; it's no wonder they've mastered their perfect method of communication, too.