How to decode your cat’s meows

If you’ve ever responded to your meowing mate with “What do you want?” …we’ve got just what you need. Here’s our guide to helping you identify your cat’s meows.

27 Feb 2017 By Lizzie McClenaghan Comments

You’ve probably heard before that adult cats don’t meow to each other; it’s a form of communication that they use specifically to communicate with humans. So when your cat meows, they’re not trying to converse with the other cats in the neighbourhood – they’re trying to tell you something.

Sometimes, particularly if you’re a new cat parent, it can be tricky to identify what each meow means. Like a newborn baby, it can be difficult to know at first what exactly they want when they’re crying; “Is this your hungry cry, or your tired cry?” “Do you want attention?” “Are you gassy????”

15 years of cat ownership has helped me create this guide and hopefully it’ll help you understand what it is your cat is trying to tell you.

The “PAT ME” meow

Let’s start with an easily recognisable one.

In my experience, this sort of meow often accompanies the solicitation purr – that adorable, high-pitched, “pat me, love me!” purr.

When either of my two cats, Angel (13) and Meester (7), wants a pat, they’ll meow in different registers, but the phrasing is basically the same.

We’re talking half purr, half meow and with these happy, purr-mixed meows, they’re asking you to pat them, to shower them with love and attention, up until they inevitably tire of it and signal to you that they no longer require your attention.

Tip: Their eyes are sometimes half-closed when they use this meow as well, so keep an eye out for that and you’ll know if this is the meow you’re hearing.

The “FEED ME” meow

The meow my cats use when they’re begging for breakfast is not altogether different from their respective solicitation meows.

You’ll be able to differentiate this meow from the “pat me” meow because their eyes most likely won’t be half closed, and the solicitation purr won’t be quite as loud.

Tip: Sometimes accompanied with jumping on kitchen counters and an excessive amount of rubbing up against legs and feet, so this should help you further differentiate between this meow and the “pat me” meow.


I’ve had different experiences with this meow.

The first instance was when I was younger, and it would be 3am, and I’d be fast asleep.

And then suddenly I’d hear, “Moooow? MRAAowwww? MRAAAOWWW?????????”

I soon identified that this was the sound of my dear Angel vocalising her confusion as to where all her humans had disappeared. Not that she wanted cuddles or anything; she’s never been the type to sit on you and beg for a pat, she was just wondering where everyone had gone.

Meester, on the other hand, reserves this meow strictly for when ‘his Bobby’ (my older brother, and his favourite human) leaves the house. The instant he realises his Bobby is gone, he’ll start up with this sound:

“Mowwww. Mraaowww. MRAOWWWW. Mrowwwwwww. Mroowwwww.”

It’s a very loud, and a very pitiful, sound.

It’s basically a cry of loneliness; even though there’ll almost always be another person home, it’s his Bobby he wants. It’s a cry for attention, even though they don’t actually want attention.

Tip: If your cat makes this cry at 3am, or when someone leaves the house, just make some noise and reassure your furry friend that you are still home.

The “HELP ME” meow

One fine day, I discovered Meester had jumped into one of our outside bins, and of course he couldn’t get out. I heard a:

“MOOOOOOOW. Moooooow! Mooooooowww!”

A very high-pitched, pleading sort of sound.

This sound may be unfamiliar to you, as some cats have too much pride to ask for help, and would rather struggle in silence. Angel, for instance, once got her claw stuck in a jacket hanging off the back of my mother’s bedroom door, and rather than cry for help, she just went to sleep there, with her paw still stuck in the jacket, front leg in the air.

Tip: Don’t laugh at your cat when they get themselves in these precarious situations, no matter how hilarious! Their feelings will be hurt, and cats are known to hold grudges.

The “LET ME IN” meow

A very disgruntled meow, with a little bit of the “help me” meow mixed in.


*scratch scratch scratch scratch, bang bang bang”

Tip: Often accompanies a scratching or a banging on the door they wish you to open for them.

27 Feb 2017 By Lizzie McClenaghan Comments

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