Talking cats

tortoiseshell-cats-talking

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:

httpv://youtu.be/z3U0udLH974

Do your cats talk to you? What sounds do they make?

Photo of Amber and Buckley © Ingrid King

31 Comments on Talking cats

  1. Vicki Ashley
    November 23, 2016 at 9:12 pm (3 years ago)

    I have two tortishell cats, both from shelters. Emma is more petite and doesn’t communicate much verbally, but is the most loving pet we’ve ever had. She constantly wants to snuggle and kiss your nose. The day we got her, we brought our golden retriever into the shelter and she immediately kissed her on the nose. We do have to give her allergy medicine or she constantly sneezes and has a runny nose.

    Adrian was a stray. I always came home and said, “hello kids”. Suddenly she started saying Hello in a drawn out voice “Hell-oooo”. She’ll say it 25 or more times in a row when she’s lonely and wants to come in the bedroom. I slowly started repeating words to her and after a few days or weeks she would say them. She is very smart. She also says “I love u, ma ma and milk”. For the most part she only talks when lonely or wants us to open bedroom door. But she’ll go on and on, very persistent. She also is a very proud mouse catcher, likes to show us her waggily tail on the doors and looks at us to tell her “that’s a nice waggily tail.” She doesn’t like to be held but likes attention. Do you hear of many cats that can really talk? If I can put camera outside my bedroom door and get her on tape, I’ll post it. Vicki Ashley

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 24, 2016 at 6:14 am (3 years ago)

      That’s pretty amazing, Vicki! Post a video on our Facebook page, I’d love to hear her talk!

      Reply
  2. LG
    August 1, 2012 at 11:44 am (7 years ago)

    My fiance brought his kitties to my house last summer so that we could all get used to living with each other. We have been trying to acclimate them to my domicile for quite some time now, but they are still setting up territory boundaries. Unfortunately, they’ve taken to fighting almost once a day, but we try to tire them out before bedtime so they don’t bother each other through the night.

    Shade is half Russian Blue and half domestic short-hair boy. He’s beautiful with an impish personality and an extremely loud purr. He loves to be cuddled and petted, and will trip you if you pet him for only a little bit and try to walk away. He loves attention. There are times when he just sits on the floor guarding the hallway and chirping/squeaking to Shadow, the tuxedo girl.

    Shadow is very quiet and keeps more to herself. She does not like to be picked up and will produce a high-pitched meow when she’s annoyed. However, she’ll come right on your lap and make you her bed if you’re sitting on the sofa watching TV. She loves to be with you, but just when it’s on her terms. You can hear her purr very faintly when she’s resting on your lap especially if you give her little nose a rub. She also begs for food constantly. The only time I’ve heard her meow is when she is excited about the possibility that you have food in the kitchen that she could have a little taste of. She purrs and lounges in her belly-up position whenever you are cooking, as if she anticipates something good is coming. Shade has no interest in human food.

    They were both strays that my fiance took in as kittens. Shadow was unfortunately declawed, but my fiance learned more about the process by the time little Shade came into the picture, so Shade has his front claws. Every day or so, Shade bothers Shadow. He wants to clean her and play with her, but she wants nothing to do with him. She’ll growl and hiss if he’s even 2 feet from her. He seems to actually like bothering her since he tends to instigate the confrontations. He goes looking for trouble, but she tries to keep her distance from him. I feel for Shadow because, although she’s twice his weight, she is not standing her ground against him. He ends up scratching her face, but thankfully he has not gotten her eyes, and he never injures her seriously. She does have a nasty bite, and she gets a few in from time to time.

    I hear Shade squeaking at Shadow mostly–not really to us. I don’t know what he’s saying, but it sounds like he’s taunting her or at least going on about how this is HIS spot. It’s actually a comical-sounding kind of “crowing,” much like Peter Pan would do. Shadow just stares him down as if to say, “Ha! Who cares?” I think she thinks he’s crazy. 😛

    Reply
  3. Sammy
    April 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm (7 years ago)

    I have had cats my entire life. I am 51. I have never had a cat like the stray I have now. He was almost dead when we found him and the size of a beer can. He did not make a sound for three years and I thought he was deaf.
    One day he made a noise, almost like a cat and scared himself! Our baby can talk! We were thrilled. He makes spoiled noises, whines and bird noises. I have only hear a territorial noise once when another cat was cat calling him outside. Glad to know he is normal! His meow is present now but it does not sound like any other cat I have ever heard.
    Now if I can teach him how to use the litter box correctly……he stands on the edge with all four legs and pees all over.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 11:11 pm (8 years ago)

    My cat Two Face is VERY vocal, though I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in a few different posts haha. She always seems to have an opinion on something, and her opinions tend to get very loud when she knows they aren’t wanted in the first place. My mister and I don’t have much time on hands, so cleaning our bedroom on a daily basis isn’t a priority. We’ll usually clean it every other weekend and when we do she sits in the most inconvenient places possible and talks as if she were says, “Oh, so you’ve finally decieded to clean up this pig pen! Good for you, let me tell you two something…” and it just goes on and on! (Let me just point out that my mister and I are still pretty young, early twenties, and we usually just have a bunch of clothes, papers, soda cans, books, and snack wrappers scattered about so cleaning isn’t too big of a deal for us.) Two Face is a loudmouth when she doesn’t get what she wants, total oposite of her sister Batman! She’s as quiet as can be and only talks when she needs something or if someone is having a bad or isn’t feeling well.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 23, 2012 at 6:03 am (8 years ago)

      It sounds like Two Face is in charge at your house, Elizabeth!

      Reply
      • Elizabeth
        February 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm (8 years ago)

        She is indeed!

        Reply
  5. Esme
    February 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm (8 years ago)

    I love the BRRRRRRRRR noise. Both of mine are talkers-purring, meow meow-Penelope cannot do anything without announcing her presence-I am talking going to the bathroom, running up and down the stairs, waking me up, kneading-M. is also quite the talker but not as talkative. P. makes an announcement as she goes off to tuck her in. Then there is the chirping when they see a murder of crows. The lower lip quivers as the chirping starts. I adore hearing their little voices.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm (8 years ago)

      Penelope sounds a lot like Buckley with the running commentary.

      Reply
      • Esme
        February 17, 2012 at 9:34 am (8 years ago)

        Yes that is a perfect way to describe her-you are the only one to say it this way-she does comment on everything. I wonder Buckley is who Penelope is talking to. She has a lot to say.

        Reply
  6. Sammy, One Spoiled Cat
    February 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm (8 years ago)

    Sammy’s a talker – very distinctive sounds for calling me, asking to go outside, asking a question, etc. but he pretty well SAYS at least one very distinguishable word and that would be my favorite……”MA MA”. He says “OWWA” when he’s standing by the door asking to go outside. He’s always making some kind of sound though – including heavy purring when he’s on my lap or playing…..I’ve had cats in the past that never purred or talked and one very adorable and precious “big boy” cat who surprised people when he’d open his mouth because all he could muster for such a large cat was a tiny, high-pitched squeak. Cats are wonderful communicators – even those who don’t talk….they absolutely TOTALLY make it very clear what they want and like all the time. Amazing creatures.

    Pam (with Sam supervising what I write!!)

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm (8 years ago)

      I love that Sammy says “Mama!”

      Reply
  7. Juliet Farmer
    February 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm (8 years ago)

    My first cat (a female dom shorthair) was quite talkative, especially when she saw birds–she would bark at them! The two cats we have now are each vocal in different ways. The female (black shorthair) is, i swear, part Siamese, because she is VERY vocal. She meows, chirps, squeaks, squaks–you name it. Ironically, her purr is so quiet you can barely hear it. Our male (Orange tabby) isn’t as vocal, but there are times that he speaks–usually when he’s passing a crystal (he had surgery for it, which widened his “opening,” but he still passes the occassionl crystal). We know when he’s about to because he walks around the house yowling first. The other time he’s very voca is when he’s hungry, in which case his meow sounds like, “Now? Now? NOW!” (no joke, it really sounds like he’s saying now!) His purr is also huge–like a motor. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm (8 years ago)

      Juliet, it’s funny that you should mention that your female’s purr is so quiet, even though she’s so talkative. That was the case with Buckley, too. With Amber, it was the reverse: she rarely talked, but purred very loudly.

      Reply
  8. Ryker'z Boyz 'n' Allie
    February 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm (8 years ago)

    Faraday is a typical Tonk – just like Ryker, he’ll yowl at the top of his lungs for us to Get In Here!! when he wants attention. Even chatting us up in person’s at a pretty loud volume.

    Maxwell’s an exception to the Siamese rule, but that’s because he was completely deaf for the first year of his life. Even now, with partial hearing restored in only 1 ear, his meow is this tiny little baby “mew” – and only on rare occasion. Even his purr is a bit off-kilter, not the steady thrum most cats have.

    Allie, on the other hand – oh my! When she is upset or angry, her voice gets hoarse and her wail sounds like a cross between Marge Simpson and Edith Bunker (not terribly attractive, LOL!). But her happy noises are breathy, girlish little trills – adorable, and totally fitting with her personality.

    Both she and Max tend to vocalize a bit when they jump up & dismount – kind of a kitty “ooomph”.

    Maxie’s the only one who chatters at birds, but he does so silently (so cute!).

    Before we lost Ryker to the Rainbow Bridge, I thought he was the loudest kitty on the planet. I’d find him yowling in the shower, the closet, facing the wall – sometimes I wondered if he enjoyed places that made his voice more resonant!

    And boy did he like to chew out Allie. She often deserved it, having used playful kitty terrorist tactics on him (all in fun of course, at least in her mind! She couldn’t understand why the Old Geezer wouldn’t PLAY with her!!).

    He’d finally snap and just get in her face and chew her out at the top of his lungs. But man, his body language was telling another tale (see what I mean in this video here: http://vimeo.com/9168176 )

    We never could figure out what was going on in his head over her….

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm (8 years ago)

      Boy, Ryker sure had a lot to say in that video!

      Reply
      • Ryker'z Boyz 'n' Allie
        February 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm (8 years ago)

        That was after weeks & weeks of her picking on him. About once a month he’d give her a 5 minute lecture (she had him so terrorized he was almost catatonic. At one point I started sleeping in the guest room with the door closed so he could at least sleep in peace).

        He seems so mean in that video but Allie picked on him incessantly to the point we cheered when Ryker would stand up for himself! Though we always watched carefully to make sure he didn’t do anything more than chew her out.

        But yes…about once a month he had a LOT to say.

        Reply
  9. Anna
    February 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm (8 years ago)

    I’m always totally fascinated by the many different ways cats communicate with us humans. They all have their very personal, distinctive language — and as any cat lover and cat mom/dad knows, we would recognize each one of our cats just from their voice!
    In my own experience, I have noticed that girls are usually more talkative than boys — probably because they need to communicate more with their kittens (although this is true for neutered females too, of course).
    I have once read an extremely interesting article about the way cats communicate with their humans. It said that cats, as very intelligent creatures, understand that we as humans use the voice to communicate, and they kind of figure out clever ways to communicate with us. Particularly clever cats even go as far as trying to “imitate” the human voice, emitting sounds that may sound like requests, or angry protest, special sounds for special occasions (I want to go out, I want some cuddles, What are you doing? … etc).

    Our Little White Paws was the most intelligent, smartest, cleverest cat ever! She had an opinion about everything! Just like Buckley, she LOVED to talk. When she had a walk by herself she told us about her impressions, when we came home she asked us about what we had been doing… She had a questioning voice (it really sounded like there was a “question mark” at the end of the sentence!!) and she had a “stop it!” sentence. When we didn’t understand her well, she got impatient and she just expressed that. It was incredible. I never used “baby talk” with her, I knew she understood everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

    Reply
    • Ryker'z Boyz 'n' Allie
      February 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm (8 years ago)

      Has anyone ever heard this (and is there any truth to it?)…that cats don’t “meow” to each other, but rather this is strictly a cat-to-human form of communication?

      Not sure I believe it – Ryker sure loved to give Allie a chewing-out from time to time when she got on his Very Last Nerve…but perhaps a yowl and a meow are categorized differently?

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        February 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm (8 years ago)

        I vaguely remember hearing that about “meow” being directed more at humans than other cats, but can’t find anything about it. If anybody knows a source for or against this, let us know!

        Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm (8 years ago)

      Anna, it’s so good to hear from you! Little White Paws sounds amazing.

      Reply
  10. Stephanie
    February 15, 2012 at 9:54 am (8 years ago)

    My Hannah does a cute little “chirrup” when she sees me or when she jumps up on the bed to snuggle, waking me up in the process. Then there’s the sweet little meow she makes when ready to be fed. Tumbles, my little brown tabby boy is the most talkative kitty I’ve ever had. He has a wide variety of squeaks, chatters, meows, and other noises. He talks to us when he’s hungry or when he wants attention. He growls at his toys. He has a very gutteral cry when playing sometimes. He announces when he’s going to the litter box. He rarely purrs, but when he does it’s a very quiet, deep purr. When my husband fixes the kitties’ breakfast, though, Tumbles will purr VERY loudly! He’s just quite a conversationalist! Our new little tortie girl, Daisy, is a squeaker. She squeaks when she sees you, is picked up, jumps up/down, while playing. She also has a very raspy, grainy meow that’s very quiet. Her purr is very LOUD, though!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 15, 2012 at 11:24 am (8 years ago)

      Sounds like you have some very expressive kitties, Stephanie!

      Reply
  11. Deborah Julian
    February 15, 2012 at 8:24 am (8 years ago)

    Our black cat Billy is our talkative cat. He announces when he is leaving or entering a room–or the litter box. (Since he doesn’t cover his litter. It’s nice to be notified!) He chatters at the pigeons on our window ledge. And occasionally “ruffs’ like a dog when he is really excited about something.

    http://www.DeborahJulian.etsy.com

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 15, 2012 at 11:23 am (8 years ago)

      I think that’s the first time I’ve heard of a cat “ruffing,” Debbie! Too funny.

      Reply
  12. Marg
    February 15, 2012 at 7:45 am (8 years ago)

    I just love it when a cat trills is what I call it like those two kitties on the video. And that video sure did get the attention of our Tabatha so they must have been saying something very nice. We have so many different meows around here including three that don’t meow. The do not have a voice including Maggie and her daughter Mahoney. Lucky can’t meow at all. Great post.

    Reply

1Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Talking cats

  1. […] how to read feline body language is one of the best ways to understand your cat. Even though cats express themselves vocally, they primarily use their face, tail and body to communicate with each other and with the humans in […]

Leave a comment

First time visitors: please read our Comment Guidelines.