What does MRROW MMROOW MROOOOW *stuffed cow* mean from a cat?
November 22, 2014 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Any theories as to what my cat thinks she's doing when she meows loudly and brings me her stuffed toys?

Ever since she has been little (she's 13 now), several times a week, my cat brings her favorite stuffed toy from another room to whatever room I am in. She often does it at night, but not exclusively. She makes this very distinctive MROOOWWWW sound while she's doing it - it's really long, and sometimes comically lasts up to 5 seconds. She drops the toy about 2-3 feet from me. Often she'll just sit next to it and stare at me.

At first I thought she was bringing me toys to play with her. But if I threw it, she just looked at me like "why did you do that?" Other theories are... it's some sort of indoor version of bringing us prey, or ... she's a cat, and therefore weird.

Has anybody else experienced this?
posted by microcarpetus to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Ooh, it sounds like she might be doing the "mousie howl"! Here's a couple short clips I managed to get of one of my cats making the noise: 1, 2

I have no scientific references to cite on this, but I've long suspected it's some sort of specialized hunting behavior/instinct thing. It does seem to have a tone of "OH HAY I GOT DINNER!" to it.
posted by aecorwin at 8:50 PM on November 22, 2014 [17 favorites]

It's her battle cry and offering of her kill.

Be thankful your cat does not do this with cockroaches, as mine does. Nothing says love from a cat like a roach leg on your pillow accompanied by an extra-long meow that is filled with pride at top volume at 3 am.
posted by sockermom at 8:50 PM on November 22, 2014 [30 favorites]

Showed this question to a friend. He offers two possibilities.

1. He asks, does the cat's meowing seem to match up with the syllables of your name, like he's trying to say it? (This explanation amuses me, but I don't know how likely it is.)

2. Maybe he just wants to play?
posted by JHarris at 8:52 PM on November 22, 2014

Best answer: No idea, but you aren't alone. 1 2 3 4
The forerunning theories are either 'look at my cat babbye! here it is I will carry it to you' or 'check out mah prey I got I hunt so good pls attention me, no attention me more than that'. I'd love to know. Also, if you fuss over her instead of throwing the toy what does she do?

Preview: mousey howl!!
posted by Trivia Newton John at 8:52 PM on November 22, 2014 [11 favorites]

My cat does this every damn day. We call it his "Lonely Hunter" routine. He does it at night and during the day when we aren't at home. He carries one of his toy mice (or one of my knit hats) around the apartment, doing his low mournful cry. Sometimes he brings it into bed, sometimes he drops it into his food bowl, sometimes it's in one of my shoes.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:01 PM on November 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

Growing up, I had an indoor/outdoor cat who was an adept hunter, and his regular "I want in" meow was different from his "HEEEYYY I BROUGHT YOU A PRESENT" meow. The latter was louder and more insistent. I suspect your cat is making a similar announcement.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:11 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Our cat does this with his favorite toy bird. Mostly at night. He does bring it to bed, but he takes it other places too. He doesn't really bring it to us (other than in bed). In fact, he acts embarrassed if he sees us notice him doing it. If he's carrying his bird around and I walk into the room (or he comes around the corner and sees me), more often than not he'll immediately drop the toy and walk off pretending nothing happened.
posted by primethyme at 9:13 PM on November 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm telling secrets when I tell this...

My male cat did this, and it was sexual.

I'm too embarrassed to tell the rest of the story.
posted by jbenben at 9:14 PM on November 22, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I'm pretty sure that it means "hey you big dumb naked baby cat look I brought you a thing I killed" but it comes out of the convoluted tiny cat brain with stuffed animals and other things that aren't edible. So then you don't eat it, and you never manage to learn how to kill your own stuff, so they have to keep showing you.
posted by Mizu at 9:20 PM on November 22, 2014 [45 favorites]

We hear that in the wee small hours and it usually involves a red toy mouse whose position has moved by morning. We translate it as "I WIN AT CAT, don't you agree?"
posted by holgate at 9:29 PM on November 22, 2014 [15 favorites]

Oh my god, these are hilarious. The cat in the question is also my cat-by-marriage or whatever. I find the mrrrrowl really disturbing! Cora's mousie howl sounds eerily like it, too. Eeee!

Since she always carries around a tiny stuffed toy when she does it, I thought it was some kind of acting out of a repressed maternal instinct. Instead, maybe we should try eating the little yellow cow.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:35 PM on November 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ooh, it sounds like she might be doing the "mousie howl"! Here's a couple short clips I managed to get of one of my cats making the noise: 1 , 2

Both our cats sat up when I played these and one came over to inspect my laptop.

They both do the Mousie Howl; I've always interpreted it as "I bring you food, I am awesome!"
posted by rtha at 10:51 PM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Our cat does the Mouse Howl, too, though I've always interpreted it as "oh my god, help me, I have a mouse in my mouth, and I don't know what to do with it." But yes, my interpretation was that your cat has captured her stuffed animal and brought it to you to eat.
posted by slidell at 10:55 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mall Cop used to do this with his mice.

Also - if you watched him walk around while carrying and crying, and he noticed? He would just get livid! Put the toy down, walk away, and wait for me to leave, giving me death glares the entire time.

We called it his Kill, and would praise him heavily for presenting it to us.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:59 AM on November 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Did your cat learn to hunt from her mother? Is it an outdoor cat?

I saw a BBC series on cats recently and it was very striking -- the behavior differences from cats that learned how to hunt properly and cats that kinda half-assed it.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:00 AM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

One of ours is an adept hunter and his successful hunt cry is also different than his "let me in" cry.* Another has a toy mouse that she carries around in her mouth while doing the mousey howl, usually after dunking it in the water bowl until it is completely waterlogged for extra middle-of-the-night specialness.

* He has recently figured out how to open the door, so this is less of an issue.**

** I am not making this up. Sometimes he just opens the door and releases his (still live) prey in the house. We only recently have become locking the door at night people for this reason, because he can open it from either side.

posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:15 AM on November 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

Oh. Yes. The mournful cry of the prey/baby - carrying cat. Always the same cat. Always balled-up clean socks. Always left in conspicuous places,such as hallways and on the stairs. NEVER viewed in real time, except in a fleeting glance. It was some strange, personal cry of rage against the universe.

Now there's another cat who does similar with a toy, only this time it is clearly and unashamedly all about the lovin'. Purple snake with benefits, and the benefits are all one way.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:05 AM on November 23, 2014 [15 favorites]

My Daenerys does the Mousie Howl too! She'll come to me with a mouthful of stuffed catnip toy (always a catnip toy) and howl with her mouth full. Then she'll drop the toy and look at me.

I know she had at least one litter before she came to the shelter where I got her. I'm pretty sure she's expressing some remnant of maternal instinct and trying to teach me, aka the Giant Hairless Kitten, how to hunt and eat prey.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:35 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

We've learned to inspect the house very carefully when we hear this sound, because there's a small neatly killed thing *somewhere*. I've had other cats mistake stuffed animals for prey, so I'd also guess that she wants praise for showing you furless two-legs how to murder.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:02 AM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

For the longest time I thought we had ghosts or I was losing my mind because every morning I'd get up and I'd find my underwear on the floor of a room where it hadn't been left. Sometimes it was a sock, sometimes a bra, sometimes a bikini bottom.

One night I got up to get some water and standing in the middle of the hallway, intent as can be, was our cat Mama Puffles with my t-shirt in her mouth, laboriously dragging it from my room to my son's bedroom.

I went into his room and under the bed was a massive pile of my clothes. My running tights, socks, bras, gloves, my pink angora sweater that I swore my daughter took to college, at least four pairs of tights.

I went out to the hallway and Mama Puffles was staring at me like, "What did you think I did every night, human fool? " That cat had been busy killing her clothing prey and dragging it to her lair.
posted by kinetic at 5:24 AM on November 23, 2014 [44 favorites]

My big guy does the mournful howl a lot. Some of the time, he's bringing one of his mangled mousie toys, but most of the time he's just wandering around seemingly looking for people.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:07 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Related AskMe that's a really fun read.

These days, we have two cats who came to live with us at the same time. Roaster's been here since she was eight weeks old, and Willoughby is about a year older. Willoughby had a litter and lived in empty houses before she came to live with us. When Willoughby doesn't like what's offered at mealtime she gets to work, complete with yowling. Here's what the alternate meal choice was earlier this week. (Roaster is pictured, gore is not.)
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:08 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

We have a cat who yowls like that that too. He hunts items he finds in the bathroom (always the bathroom!) and brings them into the living room for us. We take the yowling as our cue to praise him for his bravery in hunting down and bringing us that tube of makeup (or whatever it may be).
posted by whatideserve at 8:13 AM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh my god this thread has made my day. Thank you everyone for your answers and hilarious anecdotes. There was much giggling! I'm glad to know that we have fellow MRROOW owners, and am amused to see that the phenomenon remains, as of now, not entirely explained. It's also interesting how each cat has its own twist on it (ours never looks embarrassed for instance - though frankly I think she should). I do love the expressions "Mousie Howl" and "Lonely Hunter!!"

It's only fair to show you a picture of the cow. Oh ok, you can see a pic of the cat if you want too.
posted by microcarpetus at 8:18 AM on November 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

My parents have a cat who does this. He'd never done it before, but started as soon as one of their other cats died. So every day for the past six years, he has grabbed a giant stuffed animal and dragged it into the living room and howls mournfully. It is so sad yet you have to give him credit for being so consistent.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 8:19 AM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

What a gorgeous kitty! I love the markings on her face. Her little cow friend is cute too.

Anyway, my roommate's cat would do something similar. In his case, it was a toy mouse, but it was a very specific one out of the 30+ other toy mice they had kicking around. If he was ever locked out of a room, I would often hear him standing outside the door meowing loudly, and if I opened the door, inevitably he would have that same mouse in his mouth. Other times, I would hear him crying in the other room and I would call out to let him know what room I was in, and then he would come bounding in and deposit the mouse in front of me.

I called it his "worry mouse" since it always struck me as a sort of transitional object. (He was very needy and insecure.) He also had a perpetual spot at the very tip of his tail where it was almost bald, and we eventually determined that it was from licking and chewing the end of his tail (although we only caught him once or twice doing it). The tail thing made me think of a small child that sucks their thumb.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:42 AM on November 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

My cat does this too (she only does it when we've snuggled onto the couch for movie watchin', or when we get into bed to go to sleep...good timing). I've been calling it her "walking the moors" cry, as she walks up and down the empty hallway in the dark wailing. Then she drops the (soggy, been dragged all over everywhere including the bathroom) toy into bed with me, sometimes on my sleeping FACE.

Desmond Morris has this old book called Cat Watching where he comes up with guesses to answer a lot of "why is my cat so fuckin weird" questions (like why they make that chirping noise when they see birds out the window, their creepy mating rituals, etc.). IIRC for this one he says something like housecats never see you actually hunt so they might think you don't know how to, and indeed they're trying to teach you. Kinda makes sense in our case, where it does feel both like a "display prey and feed your poor hapless starving human" (nevermind that I open your cans with my superior can opening skills, cat) and a maternal thing in my (lady) cat's case.

I too have had the "look under the couch and find years' worth of missing socks, underwear, and hair ties" revelation. And often when I go to bed, all of my cat's bajillion toys are in the living room in a pile in her favorite box, then when I wake up in the morning, they're all neatly lined up beside the bed right where I get out. My endlessly laboring cat valiantly working the night shift, letting me know she works hard for her keep!

Of course then there are the times she brings them into bed and weaves them between the bedding as we sleep, so that days later I pull out the laundry from the dryer and find everything smells like catnip because her teabag toy got washed with the sheets. D'oh.
posted by ifjuly at 8:47 AM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Wow. That mousie howl is the noise my younger cat (okay, my "younger" cat is still, like, 14) makes when she's standing on her cat furniture getting thumped (she likes to be thumped). She is clearly enjoying herself, standing all stockily and leaning into the thumping and turning around and headbutting and otherwise grooving on it, but from the sound of it you'd think she was being tormented horribly.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:39 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Our male cat Indigo did this for the few months before and after our baby was born. He did it with a Kermit the Frog doll, which he would also meticulously lick from head to toe. Sometimes he would enthusiastically cuddle Kermit while howling; other times he'd seem to get confused and would claw Kermit.

When we lived in a house that saw the occasional mouse invader, Indigo killed the mice - but he did not do this howling weirdness. He would instead growl at us like we were going to take his gross old mouse corpse. Never any howling or attempts to give us the dead mice.

Indigo is largely baffled by our baby and definitely doesn't love her, so I don't know why he only exhibited this behavior right before and right after she was born. It really seemed like the cat had decided Kermit was his baby, because of the way he'd groom Kermit affectionately. But then something in his brain would say, "wait I am not a mother cat maybe I should kill?" He wasn't often aggressive with Kermit, so we didn't get the idea he was presenting us with muppet carcass as an offering.

Weirdly enough, our female cat also developed a bizarre attachment to Kermit at the same time. She didn't howl, though. Just possessively snuggled him.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:56 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

My cat does this. It means she wants to fetch. We throw the stuffed animal and she gleefully dives after it and retrieves. Super fun.
posted by Cygnet at 2:18 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have heard the long-drawn-out 'Mousie Howl' many, many times from feral mother cats returning to their kittens with a dead bird or rodent.

Before we made her an indoor-only housepet, a friendly neighborhood stray would deliver half-dead birds and mice to me with the same call. Like some other folks have said, they must think we are painfully incompetent hunters and, out of love or self-interest or whatever, are offering us provisions to keep us around. The indoor kitties are just doing the best they can with the 'prey' at hand.
posted by Lycaon_pictus at 9:10 PM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ha! My Meera does this too. Always one of her pom-pom balls, usually in my bedroom, most often either when I've just gone to bed or else at 3 in the morning. I have a feeling she may be going somewhat deaf (she's 16), because her howl has become tremendously louder over the last year or so. (Either that or she's like, "Damn it, human! I'm not long for this earth. Learn to hunt already!")
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 7:01 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Haha, one of our cats does this, dragging blankets and scarves down the stairs; we call it "singing the song of her people". It's hilarious and awesome, especially her thousand-yard stare afterwards.
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 9:33 PM on November 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yes. From Elizabeth Thomas's "Tribe of Tiger":

"Very alert, head high, he'd wait, still listening. Soon his mother would call him, with a booming, echoing meow." (describing an adult cat being called by his hunting mother)

My middle cat will do this but seems not to know how to complete the ritual, or maybe I don't, though I've tried picking it up and miming eating, or allogrooming her to thank her for the delicious ratty faux mouse.
posted by Nyx at 10:42 AM on July 9, 2015

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