Help me speak cat
October 30, 2022 12:44 AM   Subscribe

A young, healthy cat with access to plenty of fresh water; premium fresh dry cat food; a clean litter tray; and a very comfy cat bed but who is miaowing very indignantly for several minutes is most likely to be saying (options inside)

a) I'm bored, play with me?

b) I'm bored, cuddle me?

c) I'm annoyed that the other cat is hogging most of the cat bed

d) It's cold, turn the heater on?

e) you gave me hardboiled eggs the other day as a treat and they were delicious, why didn't I get any hardboiled eggs today?

f) something else which you will explain in the comments
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries to Pets & Animals (42 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Not.... really enough information to make a firm call, but I'ma go with F, cats are kinda assholes.

Possibilities include: You left the room without their permission.

Food in the bowl had been pushed to the side and they could see the bottom.


You didn't give cat their due as Supreme Ruler of the Universe.

The Other Cat Exists, and you have given them attention before.

Outside Cat was here in the past week and That Upsets Me Greatly.

I want to be let outside for .23 seconds.


I just remembered that you wouldn't let me stay with you in the bathroom and this hurt my feelings.

I am singing the Song of My People.

Seriously human, can you not. See. The. Ghosts???
posted by Jacen at 1:05 AM on October 30, 2022 [87 favorites]

My young cat recently lost his littermate and has taken to seeking more comfort from us by very very unfortunately jump-climbing up us with claws sunken in. We are dealing with it by meowing at him when he does that and whenever he meows, picking him up for immediate cuddles. In the last few days, he has started to meow for attention instead of jumping which is MUCH BETTER.

If you meow back at him and do something - pat him or give him a treat - he will fairly quickly pick up that Stupid Human has learned something useful from his helpful meowing.

Or you know. Cat. They do as they do.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:21 AM on October 30, 2022 [8 favorites]

I would go with a., I am bored, play with me.
This one is easily tested (play and see if she joins), and also this is what my cat tells me several times a day, even when we just played seconds ago. Alternatively: hey, Other Cat used my litter box and now i can smell her there, despite you changing it just now?
posted by 15L06 at 1:24 AM on October 30, 2022 [7 favorites]

f) I am cat, hear me roar.
g) all of the above.
posted by roolya_boolya at 1:47 AM on October 30, 2022 [4 favorites]

My cat announces her triumphant poops in this manner. Thanks cat, we're all very proud of you.
posted by socky_puppy at 2:23 AM on October 30, 2022 [25 favorites]

We were puzzled by this for a long time with our big talker cat. It was a). We became sure it was a) after we got him a playmate and the plaintive meowing and leg-accosting cut way back immediately. (They are best friends now. It’s adorable.) He still meows like this sometimes, but a few minutes with the laser pointer gets his wiggles out and he calms down. Your Cat May Vary of course.
posted by eirias at 4:34 AM on October 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Young cat? It wants to play. Constantly. Except when sleeping. Or eating.

Get a cat-dancer type toy and a cheap laser pointer so you can sit still and play simultaneously. Get a bunch of other little toys the cat can bat around and carry around by itself. I just visited my brother's new kitten, and that little guy tired me out. I could see him getting more and more tired, but just... needing to play. It's what they want, it's what they do. The cat will mellow out in a couple years. But young cats just want to play, constantly.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:38 AM on October 30, 2022 [6 favorites]


Mine caterwauls (loud mournful meows) for a few minutes every night after she either eats or poops. If you make eye contact she usually stops, walks away, and starts again from a different room.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:53 AM on October 30, 2022 [5 favorites]

Usually (a), play with me.

Sometimes (f), I have to use the litter box but I’m not quite ready yet, so I’m uncomfortable. If you put me in the litter box, that might help.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:00 AM on October 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

The inexplicable meowing at my house is

(f), I just ate and am going to defecate pretty soon, but not quite yet, maybe there'll be some trotting back and forth now?

(g) I thought I wanted attention but when you tried to attention me that really didn't satisfy me so meow you

(h) I remember when I used to be food motivated because of stress and scarcity and I want you to offer me table food that I can then refuse

A majority of the other meowing in the house is explicable, perhaps a slim 51% majority.
posted by majick at 5:11 AM on October 30, 2022 [6 favorites]

"I'm feeling insecure and I need you to stroke my fur and scratch my chin and tell me over and over what a pretty kitty I am until I get annoyed with your smothering attentions"

"I need more of that stuff that you have no idea i've been getting into because someone ate it all"

"BRUSH MY FUR FOR GOD SAKES" - most cats could stand to be brushed more than they are
posted by some loser at 5:27 AM on October 30, 2022 [5 favorites]

We have a totally deaf white cat who consequently has no idea how loud she is and I can tell you that I AM A MIGHTY HUNTER WHO HAS TRACKED AND SUBDUED THE PINK FEATHERY PEN AGAIN is very loud in the middle of the night.
posted by flabdablet at 5:58 AM on October 30, 2022 [9 favorites]

For ours it was “there might be a huge black dog behind the drywall”.
posted by Namlit at 5:58 AM on October 30, 2022 [4 favorites]

It's a. All cats, but young cats especially need stimulation. One of my cats meows non stop unless you follow her into the living room where she takes to you where the laser pointer sits and meows at until you play with her.
A good window to sit and see stuff from also helps.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 6:09 AM on October 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

I knew a cat who did this until her servants opened the shutters so she could sit in the windowsill to survey her kingdom.
posted by corey flood at 6:17 AM on October 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Could it be : I want to get out and take a stroll ?
posted by nicolin at 6:39 AM on October 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have a talkative cat who always informs me when something has fallen over or is otherwise out of place.
posted by annathea at 6:41 AM on October 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Mine tend to do this when their cat sibling and chief of staff are not in the same room with them. It’s been dubbed “the lonely hunter” cry, for previous kitties who would do this when carrying a toy mouse or even a sock around. Not to be confused with the “I JUST POOPED” call, usually combined with zoomies.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:04 AM on October 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Could it be : I want to get out and take a stroll ?

Both cats are strictly indoor-only, for their safety and the safety of the local frogs/birds/lizards/geckos.

They do have three giant floor to ceiling glass doors to look out at the garden though.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 7:25 AM on October 30, 2022

Is this a Siamese or Siamese-adjacent breed of cat? Because meezers just can't keep the drama to themselves.
On the other hand, our Snowy (shelter cat, long-haired with Siamese markings and blue eyes) was the type that barely whispered her meows.
Ragdoll cats are one of the quieter breeds: Ragdoll cats aren’t known for being too talkative, which is ideal if you prefer a quieter home environment. But if you’re looking for full-on cat conversations, you might want to consider another breed.
posted by TrishaU at 7:31 AM on October 30, 2022

Attention/affection and stimulation are the needs I don't see called out as being handled/easily available to the cat, so I'd say one of those. Cats like and will seek out attention from people (on their own terms - if I'm washing dishes or in the middle of a meeting or finally falling asleep and my partner comes and yanks me into a big hug I'll get pissed, doesn't mean I dislike hugs. Cats are the same.)

We often undervalue this in cats and assume they are asking for food all the time but when my cat walks around my ankles and meows it seems to usually mean "scritch me" with a side of "get your legs out from under that desk, I wanna sit on them". If the cat then starts going into murder play mode (attacking my hair, rolling onto their back and play fighting my hand) I go get a toy.
posted by Lady Li at 7:35 AM on October 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ragdoll cats are one of the quieter breeds: Ragdoll cats aren’t known for being too talkative, which is ideal if you prefer a quieter home environment. But if you’re looking for full-on cat conversations, you might want to consider another breed.

Bwa ha ha ha, she IS a Ragdoll.

But ever since she was a young kitten, she's grown up with a VERY vocal Siamese as a housemate, so she's a Ragdoll who has learned a lot of Siamese habits...
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 8:02 AM on October 30, 2022 [5 favorites]

John Bradshaw (cited in the article above) wrote a book i very much enjoyed: Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. The first part, on the history of domestic cats, was a bit dry and long but the second half on social life of and with cats is quite fascinating.

Re loud meows, my cat Mimi uses it mostly to get play from me and attention. Very often in situations when i talk with someone, or cook, or am otherwise distracted from paying attention to her. Or i stopped playing to soon for her tastes.
posted by 15L06 at 9:22 AM on October 30, 2022

Sneck! I have a sneck, looklooklook, mighty sneck huntress!
Pet me, now.
Oh god I walked into another room and there's nobody there, I'm so alooooooooone!!!
YOu make noises out of mouth when I'm trying to nap, so here you go.

If there's any kind of warble, it's barf time.
posted by winesong at 9:47 AM on October 30, 2022 [5 favorites]

For one of mine it's almost always:

"Where are you, you were just here?!? COME BACK!" (Even though it was her who moved, not me)
"The food dish has displeased me"
"The water dish has displeased me"

The other cat is:

"You must pet me now!"
"No seriously, I demand pets!"
"The dog exists. This is not acceptable"
"You have displeased me and are too dumb to know it"
posted by cgg at 9:50 AM on October 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

One of my cats goes into the finished basement in the evenings and does this. We respond with "kitty are you lost? Kitty, we're up here!" and he eventually stops and rejoins us in the living room.

It's a "cats are weird" thing.
posted by AzraelBrown at 10:21 AM on October 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

Hello, my ragdoll, may he rest in peace, was a vociferous meower because he needed A LOT of love and attention, like, A LOT. If your ragdoll loves close intense cuddles and calms down when wrapped in a tight hug, as did mine, may I suggest seeing if a Thundershirt helps give your ragdoll that extra needed attention at times you can't do it? Mine calmed down a LOT when I put one on him, something about the hugging nature of it. I'm not sure he liked it per se, it's more like it drugged him into contentment.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:24 AM on October 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

One of our cats often carries in a fluffy toy mouse that she caught in the middle of the night and then triumphantly wakes us to let us know dinner is served. We always thank her profusely.

Two other cats either meow because they want to be let out into the garden, or they want to play. The fourth cat will jump on the bed and commence to meow insistently and repeatedly, looking straight into your eyes. We meow back but have no idea what she wants and after a few back-and-forths she looks at us with exasperation and disdain (or so we assume) and leaves the room.
posted by fregoli at 10:58 AM on October 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Ha! Could be any of the above. Most likely the cat is bored and wants to play, bored and wants cuddles, or something else. I'd say just give it some attention playing and cuddling. I bet your cat will be happy. We have 2 cats about 9 months old. One of them is a talker for sure. He meows all the time. If we go and pet it or play with it he quiets down. Sometimes I'll pick him up and bring him to sit on my lap and he quiets down. There are times when he is definitely hungry if it's around dinner time. Lots of possibilities. Just remember you are the cat's slave and you must do as they say, lol.
posted by ljs30 at 1:13 PM on October 30, 2022

For my loud cat, it's generally one of the following:


- I'm thirsty; turn on the sink.

- Get into bed so I can smoosh myself against your face and get pettings.

Sometimes I really can't figure out what she wants--maybe she just wants a conversation.
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 2:16 PM on October 30, 2022

Cocoa Puff will do this in front of any closed door he feels should be open, as the interior of closets are also part of his domain.

We call this “announcement time” as in “Puff would like to make an announcement” or, “Did you hear Puff making announcements last night?”
posted by hilaryjade at 2:17 PM on October 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

My cat Gidgette will track down a piece of fake fur or an old toy mouse and carry it around singing the sound of triumph. I always tell her what a good girl she is for killing the fluff/mouse. Ivory just talks when she wants treats or an invite into bed. She never jumps up on her own accord. She yells at me until I pat the bed and say come on up.
posted by kathrynm at 2:39 PM on October 30, 2022

Somewhat more practically: I find I can sometimes satisfy my meowing cat by simply attempting and failing to satisfy her. I can offer an interaction, which might be rebuffed. Food might clearly not be of interest. Often, though, simply asking "what do you want, kitty?" a few times, then approaching, then sort of hanging around not actually being wanted, and then telling her "I don't know how to help you." is enough to get things to conclude with another meow or two.
posted by majick at 3:05 PM on October 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

If it were my cat, she would be upset over the lack of wet food (cats should have high-quality wet food over dry or a combination, never just dry). Might take awhile to get wet foods your cat will like, but it is worth it for their daily quality of life and also for their long-term health. Especially as they get older and not getting enough fluids is a thing.
posted by nanook at 3:17 PM on October 30, 2022

This door is closed and the human who owns this door is currently missing. I INSIST you open the door so I can ascertain that the human is ok. How dare you change out the knobs so I can’t check on my own any longer? I am very much concerned about this human.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:01 PM on October 30, 2022

Mini dancinglamb's rescued therapy cat, Sporky, is a Siamese. He is more than happy to let you know exactly how poorly management is being run around meal times. More specifically, when Sporky feels meals should be served. I was the recipient of a nice finger bite at around 6am when staying in a hotel with Sporky and his parent when school started in September. His vocalizations will continue ramping up until he is satisfied that he's gotten enough food (preferences for wet food) and attention. This will happen again at dinner time.
posted by dancinglamb at 6:09 PM on October 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

How did we get 34 answers into this thread and there is no cat tax mentioned or paid?

Sporky protests mightily!
posted by dancinglamb at 6:11 PM on October 30, 2022

If our cat meows, it’s to let you know he’s awake. If he’s awake and not making any noise it means he’s sick.
posted by Ookseer at 7:23 PM on October 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Is this is the middle of the night, or some other time nobody is interacting with him? If so my vote is some offshoot of a and b called Pay Attention To Me
posted by kapers at 7:44 AM on October 31, 2022

Are any of the windows they look out of opened or openable? Access to smells from the outdoors provides another layer of mental stimulation.
posted by aniola at 10:09 AM on October 31, 2022

Bonus, open window means increased indoor air quality, also good for mental stimulation.
posted by aniola at 10:10 AM on October 31, 2022

Response by poster: Are any of the windows they look out of opened or openable? Access to smells from the outdoors provides another layer of mental stimulation

Yes, they have access to two open floor-to-ceiling-sliding-glass-doors, and unless it is raining or too hot or unusually smoky, the doors are fully open with only the tough steel mesh security screen as a barrier - so fully permeable by air/smells.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 10:13 AM on October 31, 2022

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