START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good

What is Kitty Trying to Tell You?

  • 2 of 3

Speaking Felinese
Animal behaviorists have identified sixteen distinct feline vocal patterns, including chirps and trills, hisses and growls, purrs, and meows. Recently, researchers from England determined that besides the regular persistent meows that cats use to get what they want, they also have a special “soliciting purr” that’s a meow embedded into a purr, and it’s especially useful when asking for a midnight snack or belly rub since the frequency and pitch mimic the urgent cries of human babies.

To cat owners, this isn’t news. Cats love to communicate with us, but they know that we prefer vocal communication to body language. Cats are experts at learning simple commands (words like “treat” and “play”) and their name, but what they usually respond to is the particular tone and pitch that humans use when talking to cats, and not necessarily the words themselves. The way we speak to pets is the same way we speak to babies, a simplified language called “baby talk” or “motherese,” and it’s full of repeated syllables, simplified words, and exaggerated facial expressions.Cats learn to respond to humans’ vocalizations by creating vocalizations of their own, even though their larynxes aren’t built for actual speech. They reply to human vocal communication in much the same way that babies learn to speak, through listening and imitation.

Cats and humans both use high-pitched tones to indicate friendliness or affection, and low-pitched grumbles when they’re displeased or upset. They even learn that certain sounds can serve different purposes. In my house, a request for dinner or a demand for play sound nothing like the particular sound made when my cat just wants to say hello. Cats quickly learn that when they respond to our vocalizations, they’re rewarded with food or attention. They learn to mimic our tone and expression just like babies do, so it’s no wonder that people think of their pets as furry children.

  • 2 of 3

Read more: Behavior & Communication, Cats, Pets

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love


At, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at


+ add your own
7:45PM PDT on Mar 23, 2015

Meow, Meow, just don't stand there looking at me, I'm hungry. Cute adorable little kitten.

7:42PM PDT on Mar 23, 2015

Thank you for sharing, kitty just asking for tucker.

3:21PM PST on Feb 3, 2015


3:21PM PST on Feb 3, 2015


5:07AM PST on Dec 22, 2014


8:09PM PST on Dec 20, 2014

Thanks for sharing

12:06PM PST on Nov 21, 2014


12:05PM PST on Nov 21, 2014


3:37AM PST on Nov 15, 2014

Knowing one's need is the way to love them

3:45PM PDT on Oct 31, 2014


add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

sharks are very interesting, thanks

Philodendron is one that is poisonous to cats.

Good Luck Little fellow!!

Baby Budi is a miracle.


Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.