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How Many Sounds Does a Cat Make?

A cat can make about 100 different sounds. By comparison, a dog makes about 10 sounds. The majority of sounds cats make are actually made to communicate with humans, not other cats. Some researchers believe that domesticated cats developed their extensive number of sounds and combined them with body language so that they could make sure that their owners serve their needs. Common sounds cats make to communicate with humans include meowing, purring, growling and hissing. When cats do communicate vocally with other cats, it generally is either between mother cats and kittens or to signal that they are in heat and wish to mate, using a high wail known as a caterwaul.

More about animal sounds:

  • The screaming howl of a fox is often mistaken for the more commonly recognized hooting of an owl.
  • The world’s largest audio collection of animal sounds contains the vocalizations of about 9,000 species and dates to 1929.
  • Animals might have different dialects, depending on where they live. Those that live near the border of two geographic regions might actually be able to understand both area’s dialects.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many different sounds can a typical cat make?

Cats are known for their vocal versatility, capable of producing around 100 different sounds. This range includes various meows, purrs, hisses, growls, and chirps, each with its own nuances and meanings. Domestic cats have developed a rich vocal repertoire to communicate with humans, which is far more varied than that of their wild counterparts.

What does it mean when a cat purrs?

A cat's purr is often associated with contentment and relaxation, but it can also indicate a range of other emotions or states, including pain, fear, or motherly communication with kittens. According to researchers, the purring frequency, between 25 and 150 Hertz, may have healing properties or help in pain relief and bone growth.

Why do cats meow at humans but not at other cats?

Cats typically meow as kittens to communicate with their mothers, but as they grow, they generally reserve this vocalization for communicating with humans. This behavior suggests that cats have developed a special form of meow to communicate with people, which is not used in feline-feline interaction, where body language, scent, and other sounds are more common.

Can cats understand the different sounds other cats make?

Cats are quite adept at understanding the sounds made by other cats. They use a combination of vocal cues, body language, and scent to interpret the intentions or emotions of their feline counterparts. The context of the sound and the relationship between the cats play significant roles in how the communication is understood.

Do different breeds of cats make different sounds?

While all cats share a common set of vocalizations, some breeds are known for being more vocal or having distinctive sounds. For example, Siamese cats are famous for their loud, low-pitched meows, which some describe as baby-like cries. Each cat also has a unique voice, much like humans, which can vary by breed and individual.

Is it possible to teach a cat to make specific sounds on command?

Training a cat to vocalize on command can be challenging, as cats are generally less inclined to please their owners than dogs. However, with patience and positive reinforcement, some cats can learn to associate certain sounds with specific actions or commands. Consistency and reward-based training are key to teaching cats any new behavior, including making specific sounds.

Discussion Comments

By brookg — On Apr 21, 2016

I don't let my cat run free outside but he goes out in his carrier which I lovingly call his "outhouse". When he wants to go out he will come to find me, talk to me and get my eye contact but only when I ask him if he wants to go outside will he stop begging, then he dashes off and into his outhouse to wait for me. If I'm away from home too long for his fragile emotional status he meets me at the door, telling me how horrible it was being left for so long and then dashes onto the bed expecting me to drop everything and love on him. Of course I have to because he is so adorable. He has a special voice for this latter. These are only two examples of many. Never had a cat like this.

By Chmander — On Mar 19, 2014

@RoyalSpyder - I'm not sure about cats, but I do know that some dogs can understand human language, to an extent obviously. Either that, or they're more familiar with the sound associated with what's being said. For example, whenever I mention the words "eat" or "food" to my dog, his eyes will get big, and he'll get the food bowl from the kitchen. As another example, whenever I tell him "don't bark", he immediately stops.

On another note, I do find it interesting that cats produce certain sounds only for their masters. This doesn't seem to be the case for dogs, unfortunately. Overall though, this article really shows the bond a pet can have with their owner.

By RoyalSpyder — On Mar 19, 2014

You know, this article got me thinking, considering how cats (and possibly other animals) create noises so that their owners will listen, does that also mean that some animals (cats included) can understand what people are saying? Obviously, they don't speak English, but they must have some knowledge of when their owner is telling them right and wrong, right?

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