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Why Do Cats Meow

So why do cats meow anyway? Did you know that cats meow to people, but not to other cats?

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Why do cats meow to people — Beautiful orange cat photo

Meows are not innate cat language — they developed them to communicate with humans!

“Cats use both visual and vocal signals to communicate with humans, but they need to vocalize to get our attention. With other cats, they tend to rely on visual and olfactory signals. When a cat says “meow,” it’s normally addressed to a human being, not another cat.”

Swedish cat lover and phonetics researcher Suzanne Schötz

Many cats and their human companions seem to develop a pidgin language in order to communicate better. We don’t know whether there are similarities in the languages or whether they’re specific to a cat/human pair.

Adult cats, living apart from humans, have very clear communication with one another. Cat language is spoken mostly through scent, then through facial expression, complex body language and touch.

Meowing is not part of natural cat language — it was developed almost exclusively for humans.

The only meowing in cat language is done between a mother cat and her kittens. A kitten’s tiny “mew” is a cute, endearing sound, used to solicit attention and care from mom cat. Once the kittens are grown, the mews and meows would stop, if not for communicating with humans.

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So why do cats meow to people?

Because meowing is what works. Your cat is dependent on you and quickly learns that you are clearly not picking up the scent messages she leaves on your belongings or the body language she is attempting to use.

The meows and mews are what get you to do what she wants. So the meowing develops into a second language to communicate to you.

Via National Geographic, Purina Source 1, Source 2.

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