One of the primary ways cats commuicate is through body language, but they also express themselves vocally. And most cat’s vocal expressions go far beyond just “meow.”
Even though I have no scientific evidence, in my experience, when it comes to being talkative, tortoiseshell cats have most other cats beat. Buckley was one of the most vocal cats I’ve ever come across. She had a range of expression from an almost silent meow to a very loud, demanding cry that almost approached a scream. I often heard her meowing or chattering somewhere in the house. At first, I always went looking for her, concerned that maybe something was wrong. I soon realized that she just loved to “talk.” It was almost as if she felt compelled to provide a running commentary on her activities: “I think I’ll go in the bedroom now.” “Oh, maybe I’ll jump up on the window perch. That looks like fun.” “Oh, look! There’s a big blue bird by the feeder!” It seemed that her constant delight at everything in her life needed to be expressed out loud.
Amber wasn’t much of a talker, but she purred more than any other cat I have ever known. She purred if you so much as looked at her.
Allegra’s most frequent vocal expression is a little “brrpp” chirping sound. She uses it when she sees a favorite toy, when she approaches me after a nap, or when she wants attention.
Ruby squeaks a lot. It’s a very happy little sound. She squeaks when I talk to her, she squeaks when I touch her, and she squeaks to announce her arrival in a room.
They both chatter at the birds at the feeder.
Allegra rarely purrs, and her purr is quiet and understated, like her personality. Ruby doesn’t quite approach Amber’s level of purring, but she, too, purrs frequently and intensely.
Ruby hisses and growls at Allegra during rough play sessions, but even though hissing and growling are generally expressions of aggression, in this case, it’s all play because it only lasts a few seconds, and then she’s back to chasing Allegra with both cats’ tails held high into the air (a sign of happy cats). I’ve never heard Allegra hiss or growl.
And then there’s Ruby’s drama queen scream that also happens during rough play. Allegra barely has to touch her and Ruby will make her displeasure known. I’ve even seen her do it during play when she throws herself on her back before Allegra has even so much as touched her.
One of the funniest feline sounds I hear at our house is Ruby’s low growl when she gets excited about a toy. It’s a different growl from the one she uses when playing with Allegra, it’s more like a low hum. To me, it sounds like a combination of excitement about having caught her toy and a warning to anyone else to stay away from her prey. This used to disturb Allegra when they both play with me at the same time, but she’s learned to ignore it now because it happens so frequently. If cats could roll their eyes, that’s probably exactly what Allegra would be doing when Ruby does this.
The two cats in this video are having a very intense conversation, using a whole range of different cat sounds:
Do your cats talk to you? What sounds do they make?
Photo of Amber and Buckley © Ingrid King