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How Cats communicate with humans

Posted by Mélanie De Nobile on

Are you the kind of pet parents who speak to their cats? If so, you might not be as crazy as you thought.

Cats understand us

In fact, cats can understand us, because they are essentially observers and strategists. Those two qualities were very useful before cats were domesticated, in a time they needed to hunt and hide to survive. Cats study us and familiarize themselves with our moods and our day-to-day rituals, gradually becoming a part of those rituals. Cats even train us to react a certain way when they meow at us. In fact, according to Dr. Gary Weitzman, DVM, coauthor of How to Speak Cat, cats “actually train us to respond to what they want us to do.” The truth is you know what your cat wants when he meows a certain way, and that’s because he trained you to react the way he wanted to!

Cats language

Cats communicate with human using around 16 types of meows. Meowing however is a language developed exclusively for humans, cats speak to each other through scent, facial expression, complete body language and touch.  The only meowing done amongst cats is done between kittens and their mother to have her attention. It also explains why cats meow at us: They know they depend on us and they learned humans do not respond to scent messages or body language. They use meowing as a way to communicate and scientists believe they have refined this language to specifically converse with humans. By paying attention to the different meow sounds your cat makes, you’ll be able to find out what he's trying to say.

To help you better understand your cat, here’s the common meows cats make:

Meow! or Mew! (short): Standard greeting.

Meow! Meow! Meow!: Excited greeting.

Mrrroooow! (Drawn-out): Demand for something.

Mrrrooooowww! (Low-pitch): Complaining about something wrong.

RRRROWW! (Loud): Anger or pain.

Over time, we usually manage to get a good handle on what our cat is trying to tell us!

Cats body language

You also probably noticed that your cat does certain things to express himself. He uses his hole body to tell you what he feels and what he wants. The way he blinks slowly to show trust and acceptance or that weird habit of rubbing against your legs to be affectionate and to mark his territory as well. Those are two examples of physical communication your cat uses with you. Tails can do a lot of talking, too. For instance, bottle-brush tail means your cat senses danger and has gone on red alert.

Cats are all unique, and only you can really understand what your cat wants when he meows at you!

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