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Cats are such an extraordinary and unique species. They are by their nature they are fight or flight based animals that consequently can survive on their own (albeit not ideally) in the wild. In their wild state, they most commonly choose a solitary and territorial existence.
Yet despite their fight or slight and solitary nature, they so often give and accept abundant affection and thrive in human families, even among other cats and dogs within a household. While some cats are more talkative than others, many will communicate with their humans by meowing. Cats will meow for some or all of the following reasons:
To greet people.
To solicit attention.
To ask for food.
To ask to be let in or out.
From mental confusion or cognitive dysfunction brought on by age.
Interestingly, while kittens will meow for Mom’s attention and vice versa, adult cats do not meow at one another. During times of combativeness toward one another, cats they may hiss or growl and females in heat seeking to attract a mate sometimes make a characteristic yowling sound; but they do not meow at one another. That particular form of communication seems to be reserved almost exclusively for people.
I am amazed that I just recently learned of this feline phenomenon 15 years into practicing veterinary medicine! Once I read about it, however, I have repeatedly tested the general observation with my own cats and with cats who board at my practice. I will often sneak in and observe from around a corner to watch them play and interact with one another and time and again with not a sound heard from them. Once I walk in and they see me, however, I am greeted by a chorus of meows.
It seems that as cats have evolved across literally thousands of years living among and in close proximity with humans, they’ve gained an instinctual understanding that meowing at humans is an effective way to get our attention and express their wants, needs, and affections.
There are some people who do not particularly care for cats because unlike dogs they may not come when they are called, may be aloof, and as a result leave some with the impression that they do not truly love the pet owner as sincerely and completely as a dog would. For the people that feel this way, I would point out that while cats may express themselves differently than dogs, they express themselves nonetheless with a language that they reserve almost exclusively just for us.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.