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Feline Sounds

  Although there are numerous subtle variations in the sounds that a domestic cat will make, there are only seven basic messages:

  1. Anger. Adult cats become very noisy when fighting, this will include snarling, growling, wailing and howling. All these forms of signal are given a different name, but carry the same message, 'Get lost, or I will attack you!'

  2. Fear. When cornered, a cat will perform a yowling noise. The message is: 'I am scared, but do not push me too far or I will turn on you anyway.' If pushed further, it will lash out and probably hiss and spit.

  3. Pain. If a cat is in great pain it will scream in a way that is understood by any human being.

  4. Wanting attention. 'Miaow' can say many different things in many contexts, but will always have the same basic message, ' I want your attention.' In wild cats it more or less disappears when they reach adulthood, with domestic cats it persists throughout their life. It originates from when they were kittens, letting their mother know when they needed help, and they will use it like pseudo-kittens towards their human owners. They will build on it, developing it into many different miaows, modified to suit each occasion.

  5. Asking you to follow. A soft chirruping noise is made when your cat wants you to follow, this comes from when the mother cat wants her kittens to come to her or to follow. It may also be used as a greeting, when she has been away from the litter for a while. This noise is often made while the cat is on the move and about to go towards the place they expect their food to be. 

  6. Inoffensiveness. That wonderful purring sound is your cat telling you that it is in a non-hostile mood, and is equivalent to our smile. 

  7. Ready to Kill. When a cat is on the prowl and has spotted its prey it will often make a clicking noise with its teeth. they also use a variant of this when seeing a bird through a window.

It is worth noting that purring noises do not only reflect happiness and relaxation, but can also reflect extreme discomfort of sorts. For example, some very scared semi-feral cats will purr when handled or examined, even as they are struggling and fighting.

There are many variants and subdivisions of expression made by domestic felines, but these are the seven most important:


Please do not link direct  to these sounds. If you would like to use one just right-click on the link and choose 'save target as' from the menu and this will save the file to your hard drive. I believe everything on these pages to be public domain, and therefore free to use. If you know different I would be pleased to hear from you.