The Cat meow: all you need to know

Cats, oddly enough, do not communicate with each other in the form of a cat’s meow. They do it with a wide range of communication, in which they intervene, postures, movements, snorts, grunts, looks and gestures. But the meowing of a cat, ( except in “call” exceptions, such as when they are babies or cats go into heat ), is reserved for communication with humans.

We are going to tell you why they do it, what effects it has on us and why cats have been learning to use it in their domestication process, to get attention and favours. Who has not succumbed to a pitiful meow, when they crave something?

Baby cat meows or calls?

And it is that in cats, the high or low tone of their meows, implicitly carries a very different meaning and message. To explain it nothing better than to resort to the meows of small cats, which are under the care of their mother. These calls, generally are in a frequency that goes from 500 to 800 Hz, with a duration no more than 600 milliseconds (0.6 seconds). They are not communication meows, but rather attention.

Depending on the tone, a message

This results in a short, high-pitched sound. These “meows” are what small cats emit when they are hungry, cold or need protection and need to get the mother’s attention. But even within this range of calls, there are differences. For example, a meow of pain or cold, have a higher frequency, between 700 and 800 Hz. If a kitten feels trapped or trapped, the tone will be lower. If, on the contrary, the cat has been left alone, the duration of the meow will be longer and the tone will be intermediate and more often.

These calls will change as the cat grows and enters adulthood. And since they have different needs, the tone and message of their meows will also change. It can be said that a cat does not really meow, until 4 months of life, when they stop being small.

However, when a cat is already an adult, it can modulate the meow to achieve lower and shorter tones. For example, when he wants to pamper himself or wants you to put his favourite food on him. In these cases the meow is accompanied by a small growl of excitement.

The meow and the domestication of cats

Wild cats ( Felis silvestris catus ) have given way to domestic cats , and many of them already live among us, in our cities, in our towns or rural surroundings ( feral cats ), in our homes. Always close to the human being for the last 9000 years.

This factor has been essential in the change that cats have experienced, in their communication with us. They have developed a way, much broader than we think, of connection with humans. The meow is reserved, almost entirely, for humans.

How is the meowing produced?

The cat’s meow is produced when cats make the sound, opening and closing their mouths, progressively and withdrawing their tongues backwards .

What does the meow mean?

The truth is that the meowing of a cat can help us to know what our cat wants, since they are very specific calls, which make sense, in the context in which they are produced. But it is also true that cats know how to modulate their tone or duration, depending on their emotional state and what they want to let us know. These meows can convey a very specific message such as “open the door, I want to enter” or “I’m hungry and my bowl is empty”, but they are also capable of expressing their own emotions, such as pain, fear and discomfort. On these occasions, the cat uses meows that are longer in duration, deeper and less frequently, below 200hz.

Very different are, for example, the meows of the anteroom of a “good tin”. On these occasions, the cat will use higher and higher tones, even frenzy and excitement, lead them to emit small meows and growls. They are cheerfully telling us that it is time for their “aperitif” and to hurry up. Does it ring a bell?

How do deaf cats meow?

As a curiosity, say that deaf cats usually have a “different” meow from the rest of the cats or meow with less intensity. In these cases, it may be suspected that a cat is deaf, because its meow is more hoarse and high, modulating the tone worse. Of course, this will always have to be verified by a vet.

Meowing cats and their intelligence

As a summary to say, as we have already seen, that there is not a single meaning for the classic “Miau”, ( Mau meant Cat in ancient Egypt ) and it can have different interpretations.

However, we can intuit what they want to tell us, paying special attention to the frequency, intensity and especially tone ( high or low ) of the cat ‘s meow. On the other hand, the cat is a very intelligent animal and according to recent studies, it  may be able to modulate these messages, to obtain the expected result , from you, in certain situations. Have you realized that it is possible that he did it with you?

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