Why Do Cats Meow?

Understand your cat’s language to better understand your cat.

Did you know that cats meow to people, but not to other cats?
Adult cats, living apart from humans, have very clear communication with one another. Cat language is spoken mostly through scent, then through facial expression, complex body language and touch.
Cat sounds for vocal communication involve caterwauls for mating, chattering upon spotting prey, hissing to ward off an intruder or shrieking when hurt or terrified. Meowing is not part of natural cat language—it was developed almost exclusively for humans.
The only meowing in cat language is done between a mother cat and her kittens. A kitten’s tiny “mew” is a cute, endearing sound, used to solicit attention and care from mom cat. Once the kittens are grown, the mews and meows would stop, if not for communicating with humans.
So why do cats meow to people? Because meowing is what works. Your cat is dependent on you and quickly learns that you are clearly not picking up the scent messages she leaves on your belongings or the body language she is attempting to use.
The meows and mews are what get you to do what she wants. So the meowing develops into a second language to communicate to you.
Some scientists would go so far as to say that cats have refined their meows specifically to manipulate people. And we have to admit—it works!

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