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The Many Meanings of Meow

Posted by Briana Graber on

adorable, animal, cat

All of us are familiar with a cat's meow.  It's on kids toys that distinguish the types of animal sounds, we've heard it from our own cats, cats at a friend's house, or even on internet cat videos.  But fun fact: cat's only really meow at humans, not at each other.  Meows are the cat's language for communicating with us.  But meows can mean different things, and it's not always easy to discern which means which.  They're like a baby's cry, they know it gets us to respond and investigate, but they can't actually tell us what's up.  A meow could mean the typical "I'm hungry" or "I can't reach my litter box" but those don't happen at all hours of the nights.

Some of us have been unfortunate enough to succumb to a midnight mewling from the resident cat.  It's not fun to have kitty prancing across your face and meowing at your door when it's three in the morning and you just. want. to. sleep.  Thankfully there is an answer and a few potential causes to this midnight ritual.  A lot of times our kitties have just realized that meowing at this time gets your attention.  They just want to spend time with you or have your attention, much like a toddler who doesn't quite yet realize the world isn't all about them.  If this is the case, simply ignoring your cat (not even flipping a pillow over your head to drown it out, at least not if they can see you) will eventually help the behavior go away, albeit after it gets worse.  Earplugs are your friend in this case.  Or, your cat could be bored.  Cats need play and exercise, and since we've domesticated them to be almost purely indoor animals, you're going to have to supplement this.  It's part of their basic needs and care, and it helps you engage your cat on their level.  Try feather wands or catnip toys at scheduled playtime a couple times a day.  This should help ease your kitty's boredom.

Last, and most important, your kitty could be trying to tell your they're sick or hurt.  If there's a sudden increase in meowing from your feline friend, take them to a vet.  Make sure there's no medical or psychological reason behind it all.  Your cat can't tell you when it's in pain as different from when it's hungry, but they can tell you when they need you.  Make sure to investigate your cat's meos.  It could mean the difference between an a little boredom and an emergency surgery.