The language of cats can be fascinating. Some cats have more to say than others. Some purr a lot, and some hardly at all. As pet owners, we are left to wonder, just why do our cats purr? What does this sound really mean... and what are they saying when they meow?
When we brought our two kittens home from the pound, our calico Mabel was in "loud purr" mode from the get-go. I worried because our little tuxedo cat Lucy did not purr for the longest... weeks maybe... and I didn't know why. Ten years later, they both purr - sometimes so loudly we can hear them in other rooms of the house! I recently watched a program on the National Geographic Channel called "Cats in the Womb," and the purring of cats was explained. I learned that purring is caused by a relaxation of the throat muscles and the vibration of air passing across the back of the throat. I also learned that purring is not always a sign of serenity... cats also purr when they are agitated or excited as a defense/calming mechanism. Purring can be a cat's way of soothing itself. Now that I know this, I can think of times when our cat was sick or upset, and she would begin to purr and we would say to each other, "Oh, she is better... she's purring." Now I know that may not always be the case!
"Is that your cat I hear?" my mother-in-law asked as we talked on the phone. My cat, Lucy, had just given me a very loud warning that I was sitting in *her* chair (a.k.a. my office chair) and I should vacate it at once! Cats have an incredible repertoire of cries and sounds. Our cats are "talkers." They carry on complete conversations, ranging from the very loud, "I'm hungry" or "Come do this NOW" meow to their little warbles and grunts that are more of a general "conversation." There are whimpers and squeaky whine meows when they want to be especially pitiful and receive extra rubbing, and then there is the ear-piercing "MEOW!" delivered atop my head when Lucy wants me to wake up and pay attention to whatever she needs.
It is impossible to say definitively what cats are saying when they meow. Each cat has his/her own voice and meaning behind the range of decibel levels and tones. The scary thing is that my husband and I have come to understand our two cats, and we actually carry on "conversations" with them at times that, to us at least, make sense! Why do cats meow? For the same reasons humans speak... they have something to say. Are you listening?