There are days when you and your cat seem to be speaking different languages. Then there are the times when you’re certain you know what your cat said.

The reason why we can tell what a cat says sometimes is due to their body language. From the tone of the cat’s voice to the motion of their tail, it’s possible to interpret their intentions, feelings, or wants.

Here are the different sounds a cat makes and what they are saying.

1. Meow

This sound is their all-purpose vocalization. It is used as a greeting, as a command, or as an objection. Some cats will use it for their announcements to you as well. Most cats will even talk to themselves sometimes using this vocalization, especially as they get older.

2. Trills

This sound is used by mother cats to encourage her kittens to listen. Female cats may sometimes use this vocalization with their owners, which means, “Follow me.” There’s a good chance that the cat has seen the bottom of the food dish. It doesn’t matter if there is still food in it. If you can see the bottom, then in the world of cats, that equates to “my food dish is empty.”

3. Chirps

Cats will also chirp when they want to show you something. It sounds like a half-meow and is often included with numerous vocalizations at once. If your cat has moved from trills to chirps, that means they are growing impatient with your lack of response. When you get up, the cat will run to another location in the house, trying to get you to follow them.

4. Chatters

This unique vocalization is part of the hunting mechanism of the cat. Although some people describe it as “bird talk,” it would be more accurate to call it a self-motivational tool. “There’s a bird, so I’m going to pounce… I’m going to pounce… I’m going to… never-mind.” Some cats like to verbalize chatters when they see birds, squirrels, or rabbits outside from their window perch. It should not be confused with trills or chirps.

5. Purring

Cats will purr when they are happy. They will also purr when they want something from you (like a full food dish). Some cats will purr when they feel sick or anxious because it acts as a soothing mechanism. Think of a cat purring as the equivalent to a child sucking their thumb. If you’re not sure what their purring means, look back at when it started. Were they purring before you began to pet them? Then they want something. Did the purr happen after? Then they’re content.

6. Growling

When a cat growls, then anger is likely present. This vocalization may indicate annoyance, especially if accompanied by a slapping tail. If the ears are back and hissing or spitting is also involved, you’ll want to leave this kitty alone. 

When a cat’s ears are forward, they are interested and alert. If they swivel, then they’re attentive. Then check the fur. If their hackles are raised, they are in a defensive posture, ready to attack. Putting these elements together with their vocalizations will help you have a better conversation with your cat today.