Cats are known for their vocalizations, from purring to meowing. Meowing is the primary way cats communicate with their humans, and it’s important for cat owners to understand when their cats start to meow. It is a common question among new cat owners, and the answer can vary depending on the cat’s age and development.
Cats develop their full vocal range around 3 to 4 months old. At this age, kittens start to meow to communicate with their mother & siblings. As they continue to grow & interact with their surroundings, they learn to meow to get their owner’s attention & express their needs. However, some kittens may learn to meow at humans much sooner, especially if they are raised in a human-dominated environment.
There are several reasons why a kitten may not meow. So if your cat or kitten is older, and is not yet making any vocal sounds, keep reading and we’ll go through why this might be the case.
In addition, we’ll also cover:
- how much your cat or kitten should be meowing by which stage of development or age.
- Other factors that may affect how much your cat or kitten may meow
- which other cats are known to meow (including some big cats like lions!)
Why Some Cats or Kittens May Not Meow
There are several reasons why a cat or kitten may not meow:
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- Some kittens may be born deaf, which can affect their ability to vocalize, and their deafness may not be apparant until much later.
- Some kittens may not meow because they have not learned to associate it with their needs just yet
- Some cats are simply not very vocal. We’ll take a look at the different breeds and their tendencies later in this article.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If a kitten is not meowing, and is also not showing other signs of communication, such as body language or gestures, it is essential to seek veterinary attention to ensure they are not experiencing any health issues.
Let’s take a look at the general development of cats beginning to meow so you can see where your own cat or kitten is in terms of development compared to age…
Development of Vocalizations in Cats
Cats start to meow and make noises shortly after being born. However, kittens don’t meow to communicate with other cats. Instead, they use their meows to let their mother know they’re cold or hungry. These meows are usually soft yodels or mewling noises.
As kittens grow and develop, their vocalizations change and become more varied. They start to experiment with different sounds, including chirps, trills, and purrs. By the time they are three to four months old, they have developed their full vocal range.
By the time kittens are three to four months old, they have developed their full vocal range.
Adult Cat Vocalizations
Adult cats have a wide range of vocalizations that they use to communicate with humans. According to French researchers, cats have a vocal range that includes more than 60 notes. These vocalizations include:
Interestingly, adult cats do not meow at each other. They only meow at humans. This is because meowing is a vocalization that cats have developed specifically to communicate with people. They use meows to say hello, ask for things, and let us know when something is wrong.
Adult cats also use body language and other vocalizations to communicate with each other. For example, they may hiss or growl to show aggression, or purr to show contentment. They may also use chirps and trills to communicate with other cats.
Overall, the development of vocalizations in cats is an interesting and complex process. Kittens start with simple meows to communicate with their mother, and then develop a full range of vocalizations as they grow.
Adult cats have a wide range of vocalizations that they use to communicate with humans, but they also use body language and other vocalizations to communicate with other cats.
When Do Cats Learn to Meow?
Cats are known for their unique vocalizations, including meowing, purring, and hissing. But when do cats start to meow, as opposed to making other vocal sounds?
Meowing in Kittens
Cats start to actually meow shortly after being born. However, these early meows are often soft yodels or mewling noises. As kittens grow and develop, their vocal range expands, and they begin to produce a wider variety of sounds.
At around three months old, kittens will develop specific meows to communicate their needs, such as a cry for food or attention. They learn to observe how their human companions react to different sounds and use the most effective meows to get what they want.
FUN FACTS: Cats can have more than 16 unique vocalizations, with some breeds, such as Siamese, known to develop even more!
Meowing in Adult Cats
While kittens meow to communicate with their mother and littermates, adult cats primarily use meowing to communicate with humans. Cats don’t often meow to other adult cats, but they quickly learn to use sounds to talk to humans.
As cats grow older, they may develop specific meows to communicate their needs and desires to their human companions. For example, some cats learn to meow whenever anyone enters the kitchen, just in case food might be forthcoming. Others meow to wake their humans up to serve them breakfast.
Meowing is the cat’s primary way to let their humans know what they want. Cats also learn to beg for human food by meowing, ask to be let in or out, and even to greet their humans when they come home.
Overall, cats learn to meow at a young age and continue to develop their vocal range as they grow and interact with humans.
Factors That Affect Meowing in Cats
Meowing is a learned behavior in cats, and it can be influenced by several factors. Understanding these factors can help cat owners better understand why their cats meow and how to address any excessive meowing behaviors.
Breed of the Cat Affects How Vocal They Are
Some cat breeds are naturally more vocal than others. For example, Siamese cats are known for their loud and frequent meows, while Persian cats tend to be quieter. However, it’s important to note that breed is not the only factor that affects meowing behavior.
Gender of the Cat Affect How Vocal They Are
Male cats tend to be more vocal than females, especially when they are unneutered. This is because male cats use meowing to attract mates during breeding season. However, once a male cat is neutered, their meowing behavior typically decreases.
The Age of the Cat Affects How They Are
Kittens meow more frequently than adult cats, as they are still learning how to communicate with humans and their surroundings. Older cats may also meow more frequently if they are experiencing age-related health issues, such as cognitive dysfunction or hearing loss.
The Health of the Cat Can Affect How Vocal They Are
Illness or pain can cause cats to meow excessively. For example, cats with hyperthyroidism or kidney disease may meow more frequently due to discomfort or confusion. It’s important to take your cat to the vet if you notice any sudden changes in their meowing behavior, as it could be a sign of an underlying medical issue.
By considering these factors, cat owners can better understand their cat’s meowing behavior and address any potential issues. It’s important to remember though that each cat is unique and may have their own reasons for meowing or not meowing!
Do Any Big Cats Meow? If So, Which Ones?
While domestic cats are known for their meows, it is not a vocalization commonly associated with big cats. Although the majority of big cats cannot meow due to differences in their throat structure compared to domestic cats, there are a few exceptions.
For instance, snow leopards, lion cubs, cougars, and cheetahs have been known to meow! Meowing can be used to locate each other or to communicate with their mother. However, these big cats do not meow as frequently or as loudly as domestic cats.
It’s important to note that just because a big cat can meow, it doesn’t mean that it will. Big cats have a wide range of vocalizations that they use to communicate with each other and their environment. These vocalizations can include growls, roars, purrs, hisses, and more.
NOTE: For more information about big cats meowing, check out my article “Do Big Cats Meow? Lions Tigers, Etc. Explained“