Charles Darwin guessed that the vocal range of a cat amounted to half a dozen different sounds, and professionals today have estimated this range to be from 20 to 600. It has even been suggested that cats have an expressive language, complete with a large vocabulary containing words for “meat”, “mouse” and other important objects in the cat universe.
Probably one of the most distrinctively aggressive cat sounds is the caterwaul. This is usually heard when two rival cats come together, and often signals the beginning of a fight for access to a female on heat. He who growls loudest probably fights hardest, so a weaker cat may actually back off once he hears his opponent’s caterwaul. When this happens, the “lesser” cat’s caterwaul might become more of a gutteral yowl – expressing fear but not necessarily defeat, kind of like saying, “Okay, you win, but don’t cross me again!”
One of the loveliest cat sounds, besides the purr, has got to be the chirrup. The short chirrup is somewhere between a miaow and a purr and serves as a friendly greeting from mother to kittens, from one cat to another, or from cat to owner. Cat-loving humans generally see the chirrup as a cat’s form of saying “hello”.
The chirrup may also be used when cats bring their owners “gifts” of dead birds, lizards, mice and the like. To a kitten, the chirrup in this instance would be a signal to pay attention to the hunting lesson to be learned. To humans it appears to mean “This is for you because I like you” – even though the response they get from their human is often more of a shriek and a fierce desire to leave the room in a hurry.
Then of course there is the miaow. From birth, kittens mew, and the miaow is the natural adult extension of this. Cat owners are usually able to figure out what a particular miaow means, such as “I’m hungry”, or “I missed you, where have you been all day?”.
And finally, one of the most pleasant cat sounds has got to be the purr – the ultimate sound of feline bliss – although cats are known to purr when they are stressed, injured, and in female cats when they are in labour. It is said that the frequency of a cat’s purr actually promotes healing, similar to ultrasound.
In our opinion, of all the sounds a kitty makes, what could be nicer than a happy, purring cat curled up on your lap? Or should we say cats?
– Article posted by Phillipa Mitchell