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Do cats like it when you meow back?

Why Do Cats Meow Back at You? – 5 Reasons for This Behavior

black cat

If you have a cat, you might have noticed that they sometimes meow back at you when you talk. Some cats will even meow back at you when you sneeze or make any noise. The anecdotal explanation for this behavior is that your cat is talking back to you. But what’s the real reason that cats sometimes insist on answering us with a meow?

In this article, we’ll look at why cats meow back at you – some of them are not reasons you’d probably think of.

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The 5 Reasons Your Cat Meows Back at You

1. They’re Just Chatty

Some cats are chattier than others. Some cats hardly don’t meow at all, while others meow all the time. These chatty cats are likely going to meow back at you no matter what you do. If you talk to them, they’ll probably meow back. If you don’t, they’ll probably meow back. These cats often meow to meow, so often they’ll happen to meow back after you’ve talked.

There is little purpose behind these cats’ meows – besides the fact that they like to meow.

Cats may go through different periods of chattiness throughout their lives. They may be particularly chatty as kittens and then get quieter as they get older. Sometimes, the opposite thing happens, as the cats gain the confidence that comes with age.

cat meowing

2. They’re Trying to Communicate

Adult cats don’t meow much to each other. Kittens meow to their mothers and then gradually grow out of meowing as they get older. Instead, cats often communicate through body language, though hissing is used when the situation calls for it.

Meowing seems to be significantly saved for humans. No one knows why cats meow at humans when that isn’t their usual way of communicating. It could be that the cats know we talk to communicate and are trying to communicate back in a similar manner. It could have been that people preferred cats that meowed, so the trait of meowing got bred in as the cats evolved next to humans.

Either way, meowing seems to be a method of communication for humans in particular. Therefore, it is likely that many cats meow back in an attempt to communicate – even if they don’t know exactly what you’re trying to say.

3. They’re Looking for Attention

Meowing is an obvious way for cats to get their people’s attention. It’s loud without being entirely abrasive (in most cases, at least). When you’re talking or fake meowing, a cat may meow back to get your attention.

This may or may not be an innate behavior. While most cats seem to know from the day they’re born that meowing gets attention (though usually from their mothers at first), it is equally likely that the cat learned that meowing led to your attention. After all, if you pay attention to your cat every time they meow, it only makes sense that they’d make the connection at some point.

Therefore, your cat may meow back so that you’ll pay attention to them. If they only seem to meow back when they want something, this is even more likely.

cat sitting on wooden floor

4. They’re in Pain

Any change of behavior could be an indication that your cat is sick and in pain. Cats are very good at hiding their illnesses. In the wild, they wouldn’t want to be seen as weak and attacked, so they have evolved to hide their pain very well.

Usually, a change of behavior can indicate that they’re not feeling well. This can include a change in vocalization. If your cat suddenly starts meowing back and becomes rather chatty, then it could be a sign that something is wrong. Other behaviors can indicate that your feline isn’t feeling very good as well. For instance, cats may urinate outside the litterbox or stop grooming themselves properly. Inappropriate urination is the number one sign of a UTI or bladder infection.

Cats will often try to hide more when they’re in pain. They likely won’t play as much or be as active. If you notice any behavior changes, it is likely time to get your cat to the vet for a check-up.

5. They’re Excited

Cats tend to get rather chatty when they’re excited. Usually, this is a series of short meows. Sometimes, this is also an indication that your feline wants something, as they may be looking forward to playtime or a treat. Either way, excited cats are likely to engage in meow exchanges since they really can’t control their excitement!

These cats aren’t necessarily trying to communicate anything. They’re just excited.

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How to Make Your Cat Meow Less

Some cats are boisterous. Meowing itself isn’t often a behavioral issue. However, it can get a bit out of hand in some cases.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to make your feline meow less – if that’s something you feel like you need to do.

Still, you’re never going to stop your cat from meowing completely. It’s how they communicate with people, so your cat is likely never going to stop meowing altogether – nor should you want them to. However, if your cat is meowing nearly constantly, here are some things you should consider.

1. Ensure Their Needs are Met


If your cat is meowing at you every time you talk (and every time you don’t talk), they may need something. Cats meow as a way to communicate with humans. Often, when they’re meowing a lot, they’re trying to communicate. Usually, this communication is something they need, such as food. If your cat is meowing at you a lot, check to make sure they have everything they need.

Sometimes, cats will meow for something that isn’t always obvious. They might need a door opened, or there might be something sitting on their sleeping spot. You may not notice these things right off the bat, so it can seem a lot like your cat is just meowing for no reason. However, once you start paying attention, you might realize that your cat does need something.

2. Get Your Cat Spayed

If your cat is female, you should consider getting her spayed. Female cats that are in heat tend to “yowl,” which is a loud meow. There isn’t anything you can do about this excessive meowing besides fixing your feline. It’s instinctual and not something you can train out or anything like that.

A cat that isn’t spayed will go into heat every 18 to 24 days through its breeding season. This breeding season is usually months long. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is usually between February through September. That’s a lot of meowing!

This whole time, your cat is trying to attract a male. They may also attempt to get outside more often and become extremely affectionate.

3. Take Your Cat to the Vet

Sometimes, excessive meowing may be a sign that something is wrong. Usually, cats will try to hide their sickness or pain.

vet doctor checking up the cat

However, you can sometimes tell they are sick due to a behavior change. Most cats will get quieter and hide more when sick, but some may meow excessively as a sign of pain.

If your cat suddenly starts meowing more, you may want to visit a vet. Sensory deficits and cognitive dysfunction are particularly prone to cause excessive meowing and are most common in senior cats. If your cat is older, a vet visit is absolutely in order.

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Conclusion: Why Do Cats Meow Back At You

Many cats meow back at their people when they meow or talk. Cats reserve meows for communicating with people, so it only makes sense that they’d meow when you communicate to them. Usually, this behavior is not much of a problem. However, some cats meow excessively.

A sudden increase in meowing can be a sign of an illness. Cats usually don’t meow more when they are sick since their main goal is to hide and draw little attention to themselves. However, some cats do get chattier when they’re in pain, and some particular diseases may cause cats to meow more than usual.

Otherwise, excessive meowing maybe your cat’s personality, which is difficult to change. Females and males may meow more during mating season, though females are particularly prone to this problem.

There are several reasons why your cat may be meowing at you. Usually, these have to do with communication. Your cat is trying to tell you something or is entirely happy that you’re there.

Featured Image: Skitterphoto, Pixabay

Your Talkative Cat


It’s a fact of life – cats meow. It is one of the ways they communicate their needs to us. If you believe that your cat’s meowing is excessive, you need to understand why your cat is vocalizing in order to change his behavior.

Overnight Meowing

Cats, especially young ones, are naturally most active late at night and early in the morning.

Ignore the behavior. Rewarding your cat with any kind of attention will reinforce this behavior. Many times people will get up to feed their cat, play with him, or chase him out of the room if he is up meowing, thus teaching him that disturbing you works.

Exercise your cat earlier in the evening. Tire your cat out by providing him with a few sessions of interactive play early in the evening.

Manage your cat’s environment during the night. Confine your cat in a cat-proofed room overnight with a litter box, water, bedding, and some toys.

Awaken during the day. Cats who sleep all day while their families are at work have more energy to use at night. Set wind-up alarm clocks to wake her a couple times during the day. Put out a special toy that she only gets when you are gone (remember to put it away when you get home). “Hide” Kitty Kong toys with a couple treats in them around the house. Play a DVD with birds, fish, and other visuals designed to entertain cats. If possible, have a friend or pet sitter visit her in the middle of the day (even if it’s only once or twice a week, your cat will appreciate it).

Change of Routine

Cats like stability and predictability. Changes, whether major (moving, a new pet or person in the home, altered schedule) or minor (rearranged furniture, new litter) can upset some cats. Excessive meowing can many times be a reaction to this stress.

Provide a new toy and offer some quiet cuddle time with your cat. Doing so should help to reduce his stress and get his mind off what is worrying him.

Provide as much consistency and stability as you can. For instance, if you have moved, keep feeding him at the same times as you did before the move. It is also helpful to decide from day one where the litter boxes and pet beds will be and put them there, rather than moving them as you unpack. When he is more comfortable with the change the meowing will stop.


A sudden increase in vocalizing, especially in an older cat, may be an indication that he is sick. Cats do a good job of hiding their illnesses; often a behavior change is the first sign that there is something wrong.

Take your cat to your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination to make sure he is healthy.

Seeking Attention

Cats often meow in order to get attention, and much of the time they are successful. This can become a vicious cycle: you pet your cat to make him be quiet, he learns that being noisy gets attention so he meows more, so you pet him more….

The cure for this type of meowing is to ignore it. Any type of attention, including telling him to be quiet, reinforces the behavior. Walk out of the room if you must, but don’t give in to your cat’s calls. Do give attention when he is quiet or engaged in another behavior that you find acceptable – sitting in the window or rubbing against your leg for instance. For more information, read our article on Improper Attention Seeking.

Breed Tendencies

Some breeds, such as the Siamese and Tonkinese, are predisposed to being talkative. This can be modified somewhat by not giving attention during meowing.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email

Meowing Back At Your Cat (Does It Work?)

meow back at your cat

Any idea what I just said? Probably not. But there’s a good chance your cat does. Meowing is one of many vocalizations that cats use to communicate. Many have stated that cats only reserve meowing for communicating with humans but I’ve heard cats meow at other cats too.

Many cat owners are curious to know if meowing back at our cats helps them understand what we are trying to say.

I’m guessing no one can safely ascertain if cats understand human meows. But as an avid animal lover, I would like to think that my decades of pet ownership have given me some sort of unexplained superpower to communicate back with my cats.

Let us take a deeper look at this mysterious world of how cats communicate and how we can learn to talk in their language.

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Why Do Cats Meow?

A cat’s meow has to be one of the cutest sounds in a cat’s vocabulary. Cats didn’t just start off meowing their heads off when they started to roam the planet.

We first need to understand how cats communicate in the wild.

A wild cat communicates with another cat by leaving a scent trial. Cats will mark their territory by urinating on objects and rubbing their faces on things.

When another cat comes along and smells the scent, it is being indirectly told that this spot is taken and it’s time to get lost.

When two cats meet face to face, they won’t start meowing right off the bat. If both cats are friendly, they communicate by touching noses and rubbing their heads with each other (also called bunting).

This allows the cat to exchange scents with a mutual understanding to keep things friendly.

It was only through the process of domestication that a cat’s meowing started to evolve. Humans welcomed stray and feral cats into their homes and provided shelter in exchange for their pest hunting prowess.

These cats were smart enough to realize that we humans didn’t have a good enough sense of smell to communicate like they do so they had to come up with another more effective way to convey their intentions to us.

This was the moment when different meow sounds started to form.

That being said, newly born kittens have the ability to meow. They do this to communicate with the mother cat when they are feeling hungry, cold or in danger.

Meowing In Feral Cats Vs Domesticated Cats

feral cat sitting on the rocks

There’s a stark difference when it comes to meowing between our domestic cats vs feral cats. It seems that our cats carry this mode of communication with humans even when they mature into adult cats while wild cats don’t.

In the journal called Behavioural Process which publishes interesting studies on animal behavior, it was reported that feral cats were more likely to make aggressive vocalizations like growling and hissing as compared to the domestic cat.

House cats were shown to meow more often at humans which means that our cats learn from a young age that meow gets our attention.

Do Cats Understand When We Meow?

Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated by the movie “Dr. Dolittle”. This movie was about this doctor who had the amazing gift of being able to communicate with all species of animals.

There haven’t been any concrete studies or evidence that show cats truly understand the way a human meows.

It might seem that way at times when your cat meows back at you. Your cat might not comprehend the exact meaning of your meow but it feels the intention behind it.

Different Types Of Meows

If you were to listen carefully to how your cat meows next time, you’ll notice that a cat uses a certain meow to convey a specific intention.

You can also use this variation of cat meows when trying to meow back to your cat. Here are the different meows and cat sounds that you can hear your cat vocalizing.

The Short Meow

This short and soft meow usually means that the cat is trying to say “hello” to you. I hear this meow from my cat when I return home after being out for a few hours.

It is a happy meow that shows that your cat is happy to see you and wants some affection.

The Long Meow

You can definitely tell the difference between a long and short meow from your cat. When your cat gives you a long meow, it can sound like a fog horn.

It has an underlying demanding tone to it and it’s one meow I hear often when my cat is hungry and wants food.

My cat likes giving me a long meow when I’m on the phone for too long. It is his way of telling me to get off the line and get him some love now!

He emphasizes his point by laying on my phone to try and shorten my call.

High Pitched Meow

Not one meow that I want to hear coming from my cat as it means something is wrong. I’ve heard him emit a sharp high-pitched meow when I accidentally stepped on his tail a few times.

Not on purpose though.

He was sitting quietly behind me while I was doing the dishes. It was an accident waiting to happen.

If you hear your cat meowing like this, make sure to check on your cat to make sure it’s fine.

The Ambulance Meow

cat meow sounds like ambulance

I call this the ambulance meow because that is how it sounds like when a female cat is in heat. The correct term would be caterwauling.

The meow starts as a low-pitched sound before it crescendos into an all-out wail. Female cats use this sound to attract nearby roaming male cats to mate with.

Hearing cats caterwauling in the dead of the night can give you goosebumps.

Meow Meow Meow

The rule of thumb when it comes to your cat meowing is that the more number of meows per second, the more excited and happy your cat is at that moment.

Your cat might meow like this when it has not seen you the whole day. It is so happy that you are back and wants lots of love and kisses.

My cat does this when he knows I’m preparing his favorite treat in the kitchen. His meow comes out fast and furious.

The Sad Meow

It is hard to describe this cat meow in words but cat owners will know it when they hear it. It probably sounds lower than a normal meowing it hits you deep in your stomach.

Cats use this meow when they are feeling stressed about something. More often than not, I hear this meow when my cat knows he’s on the way to the vet.

It is the type of meow that just makes you want to hug your cat and say that everything is going to be alright.

Chirping Or Trilling

This is one cat sound that can sound really adorable and interesting. It doesn’t sound quite like a meow but more like a series of high-pitched repetitive noise that comes out in bursts.

A detailed study on the linguistics of cats observed that cats trill when they are happy to see people that are closely bonded with like their owners. It also shows that cats do recognize people that they love.

Another instance that you can hear your cats trilling is when they spot small critters like squirrels, rats and birds.

It usually happens when your cat spots them from behind the window. It kinda frustrates and excites your cat spots a prey but isn’t able to hunt it.


When a cat hisses, be sure to take note. It is your cat’s way of telling you that it is pissed. Cats hiss when they are hurt, in pain, unhappy or getting a shower.

If you hear a cat that you are not familiar with hissing, it would be best to leave it alone. It is a warning sign that the cat can attack you if you get too close.

The Purr

Last but definitely not least, a cat isn’t complete without its world-renowned purring sound. Cats purr when they are feeling comfortable and contented.

Give your cat a chin scratch or head stroke and hear it purr in total bliss.

Cats also use purring when they are injured. The frequency of a cat’s purr can help to heal minor injuries which is why many say that cats have nine lives.

Do Cats Like It When You Meow Back At Them?

There isn’t an absolute way to tell if your cat likes it when you meow back in response. As close as we can imitate a cat’s meow, it just wouldn’t be the same frequency-wise.

That being said, you don’t have to meow back at your cat to communicate with it. You don’t want to meow back something inappropriate which could translate to insulting your cat’s mother.

When our cats meow back at us, we can respond in a kind, gentle and loving tone to show our love and understanding.

Cat Breeds That Are ‘Meowers’

talkative bengal cat

When it comes to meowing, not all cats meow with the same frequency and loudness. Some cat breeds are known to be very talkative and love engaging in conversation with their owners.

If you are looking for a vocal cat, you can consider these cat breeds:

  • Siamese cats
  • Japanese bobtail
  • Bengal cats
  • Tonkinese cats
  • Sphynx cats

Is It OK To Scream At Cats?

It is never ok to scream at your cat regardless of how angry or frustrated you are. Using such an angry tone towards your cat can damage the bond that you have created.

This can have a bigger negative impact on cats that have PTSD or an abusive past.

If your cat has done something bad like sitting on your pillow after pooing, count to 10 before addressing the situation.

How To Meow “I Love You”?

When using feline language to communicate your love for your cat, vocalizing it isn’t the best way to do so.

Cats say “I love you” by using their eyes.

When your cat looks at you and slowly starts to blink, it is as good as giving you kisses and saying “I love you” simultaneously.

Make sure to reciprocate the same gesture to let your cat know how much it means to you too.


At the end of the day, it isn’t about sounding like a hairless human feline yourself but about how well you can decode and understand your cat.

That will make your cat feel more loved and understood. The cornerstone of every healthy and loving relationship is effective communication.

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