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What your cat is really telling you

CatTo some people, cats are little balls of mystery- knowing what they're thinking can be very hard to figure out. Veterinarian and behavior specialist Jeanine Berger has put together a feline dictionary to help translate what our kitties are saying (and to hopefully help avoid miscommunications that result in human injury).

  • Meow: An all-purpose greeting
  • Purr: Sign of contentment; however cats may also purr when anxious or sick (ie at the vet)
  • Growl, hiss, or spit: Cat is feeling defensive, scared, stressed, or aggressive- Leave that cat alone!
  • Squeak (high pitched, raspy cry): Used in play or feeding
  • Shriek (loud, harsh, high pitched sound): Aggression or pain- stop what you are doing.
  • Chatter (teeth chatter together): Cat is hunting or being kept from hunting
  • Estrus call (long-lasting, variable pitch sound): female in heat
  • Howl and yowl (loud, harsh, drawn out call): Aggression, distress, or elderly cat with cognitive disorder
  • Mew (high pitched, medium amplitude, long 'eee'): mother interacting with kittens
  • Moan (low frequency, long duration 'oo' or 'uu'): before cat coughs up a hairball

If this is a topic that interests you, please check out for Dr. Berger's full article. Her article also discusses body language, facial expressions, and specific scenarios where you would or would not want to approach your cat.