meaning of cat sounds

The Meaning of 5 Cat Sounds

by Sam Salvati - 07/23/20

What do cat sounds mean?

The sounds cats make can be nuanced and difficult to interpret. Here are 5 cat sounds and what they mean.


Cats are known to purr when they are both content and anxious. An unhappy purr is usually louder and more distressed than a happy purr.

Although reasons for purring may vary, cats first begin to purr as kittens in order to form bonds with their mothers, which transfers to their owners.


As kittens become adults, meowing becomes a method of communicating with humans, not other cats. You may hear your cat meow if she is trying to get your attention.

If you notice a different and excessive meow from your cat, she may be sick. Excessive meowing is usually a sign that you should contact your veterinarian.


Caterwauling, a loud and sometimes painful wail, is typically a sign of distress. However, some cats use this sound during mating. If you hear caterwauling, go investigate but don't panic right away.


A cat sound for trying to communicate with other cats or sometimes humans is a trilling sound. It's often a method of attracting attention or giving direction.

It can also be used while hunting birds in order to mimic the prey.


Cats typically hiss as a warning to stop or stay away. Cats may hiss when in pain or when irritated.

Pasadena native Sam Salvati is the adoring dog dad to Pablo, Ester and Farris. He enjoys keeping abreast of and writing about the latest developments in pet care.