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MEOWING SOUNDS

Meows (or miaows) can be assertive, plaintive, friendly, bold, welcoming, attention soliciting, demanding, or complaining, sad, or even silent. A meow can be varied almost indefinetely, and there are several subtypes, including the following:

a. Mewing

b. Squeaking

c. Moaning

d. Meowing (or Miaowing)

e. Trill-Meowing (or Chirrup-meowing)

Adult cats mainly meow to humans, and seldom to other cats, so adult meow could be a post-domestication extension of mewing by kittens.

The image to the right shows the phonetic characteristics (waveform, spectrogram and pitch contour) and gives a short audio example of a domestic cat meow. Additional examples of different meows can be found below.

MEWING

  • A mew is a very high-pitched meow, often with [i], [ɪ], or [e] vowels, and sometimes followed by a [u]. Kittens mew to solicit attention from their mother, and adult cats may mew when they are anxious or in distress and need the help of their human caretakers. A mew often sounds like [mi], [wi] or [miu]. The following examples are of my adult cats, but I hope to be able to include some video examples of kittens soon.

VIMSAN IS MEWING SADLY

When we found Vimsan, her leg was badly injured. We took her to the vet and treated her wound before she was introduced to our resident three cats. Back then, Vimsan often mewed in this sad way. We still don't know for sure if it was because she was in pain or because she wanted to get rid of her uncomfortable elizabethan collar and be allowed to go outside again.

VIMSAN MEWS BECAUSE SHE IS WET AND HUNGRY

Vimsan has just come in from the rain and mews because she wants food. I ask her (in Swedish) if she is hungry, and talk to her about her being soaking wet because she has been outside in the garden during the rain.

SQUEAKING

  • A squeak is a raspy, nasal, high-pitched and often short mew-like call, sometimes with an [ɛ] or [æ] vowel. Often ends with an open mouth: [wæ], [mɛ] or [ɛu].

DONNA SQUEAKS DEMANDINGLY

Sometimes a few long and demanding squeaks are all you need to get your human to come with you to open the door to the garden. :-)

DONNA SQUEAKS AND TRILLS

The domestic cat Donna squeaks and trills and also produces combinations of trills and squeaks whenever she wants something urgently; in this case to be let outside into the garden. It is always as if she was saying "Come, follow me to the door!"

DONNA SQUEAKS AND PURRS

The domestic cat Donna often combines or merges soft squeaks or trills with purring – is it a soft squeak embedded within a purr? – when she wants to cuddle (and after that she purrs and trills in various combinations).

MOANING

  • A moan is a complaining or sad sounding meow, often with [o] or [u] vowels. Often used by anxious, stressed or demanding cats. Sounds like [mou] or [wuau].

DONNA, ROCKY, AND TURBO MOAN AT THE VET'S

Donna, Rocky and Turbo are sitting in their cat carriers in the waiting room at the vet moaning. These sounds were used in one of our listening experiments. Can you hear how the melody of these moaning sounds often falls towards the end?

KOMPIS MOANS, MEOWS, HOWLS AND GROWLS

Kompis has just been to see the vet, and on his way home he moans, meows,  howls and growls because he so dislikes being locked up in his cat carrier. The message is clear: "Get me out of here!".

MEOWING (OR MIAOWING)

  • Meowing is the typical meow sound, i.e. a combination of two or more vowels resulting in the characteristic [iau] sequence. Used in cat-human communication to solicit attention, food or to pass an obstacle (e.g. a closed door or window). Often sounds like [miau], [ɛau] or [wau]. There is an indefinetely wide variation of meow sounds. Here are a few examples produced by my cats and other cats that I have met.

ROCKY AND TURBO MEOW TO SOLICIT FOOD

Rocky and Turbo meow because they have noticed that I am preparing shrimp in the kitchen and they also want some.

TURBO MEOWS AND PURRS

Turbo often uses these hoarse meows when he wants the attention of his human caretakers. In this video clip I think he just wants (or should I say demands :-) to be lifted up and be cuddled. When he gets what he wants he stops meowing and starts to trill and purr instead.

ZORAN MEOWS BY THE CELLAR DOOR

Zoran, who lives with our friends Peter and Marie, often sits by the cellar door and meows until they open the door for him.

DONNA AND TURBO MEOW TO SOLICIT FOOD

These six food soliciting meow sounds by Donna and Turbo were used in one of our listening experiments. Can you hear how the melody often rises towards the end?

TRILL-MEOWING

  • A trill-meow is a combination of a trill (chirrup) and a meow (miaow). Always with a rising intonation or melody: [mrhiau] or [whrrrau]. Next to the meow, the trill-meow is probably the most human-directed cat sound.

DONNA TRILL-MEOWS AND TRILL-SQUEAKS

The domestic cat Donna often combines trills with meows or squeaks in complex vocalisations with rising melody when she wants my attention and doesn't get it right away. In this video clip she probably wants me to play with her.