All animals and living creatures on the earth communicate with each other or with other species or just give vent to what they feel or observe by producing a vast variety of sounds. Unlike human beings, who have developed much advanced sound communication in the form of linguistic skills, animals and other creatures have gone only a limited distance as far as the means of communication is concerned. They do it either by producing sounds or making gestures. For different moods and in reaction to different situations animals resort to their own peculiar kinds of sounds and gestures.
Of all the domesticated animals, cats have always held an important place in households across the globe as their domestication is as old as the modern civilization. They are one of the least aggressive, friendly, useful and attractive animals man has ever domesticated. It were Egyptians, around 4000 years ago, who domesticated cats in order to safeguard their agriculture produce from rodents. Being docile, friendly and pleasant looking, cats gradually started getting domesticated in Europe, the Americas and subsequently around the world.
Cats have been particularly studied for their communicative gestures and sounds as they react with a variety of those for divergent situations. Animal sounds, like cats’ vocalizations, have always been a matter of intrigue for humans, more importantly of those animals which it has tamed for help of sorts or plain companionship. Humans have always taken special interest in such sounds as barking, howling, meowing, growling, chirping etc. of domesticated animals. This inquisitive trait has been a handy tool in understanding their behavior, physical comfort and ease of living, necessitated by man’s own relaxed co-existence with them.
Cats’ vocal sounds are generally divided into three major categories 1. Sounds produced with a closed mouth; the purr and the trill. 2. Sound produced with mouth open but gradually closing; variety of meows. 3. Sounds produced with a tensely open mouth, often uttered in tense situations; growls, snarls and hisses. Cat’s meow is a part of a reformed communication skill which is different from their wild ancestors and bettered over the ages to suit their co-existence with human beings.
This sound of meow, pleasant to the ears and nomenclatured exactly at it sounds, is mainly produced to communicate with human beings only. Cats have a broad range of several types of meows. The best known of the cat’s meow sound is that of an unhappy animal. A short high meow in adults expresses discontent or unhappiness. A hungry cat shows displeasure with loud, almost screaming meows. A cat seeking attention or wanting to be petted will meow softly. This form of expression can at times be silent too, that is when cats open their mouth in meow pattern but do not vocalize. Adult cats do not meow to each other and that adult cats meow to humans is a trait picked from kittens demanding or seeking attention from their elders.
Domestic cats, having lost a cohabitant or someone in the household they are residing in, also meow softly to express sorrow. A cat who’s grieving is likely to vocalize more. When cats are unwell physically, which they let known not until they are very sick, meow softy to express displeasure. Some breeds of the animal are more vocal than others, like the cats from the orient are more expressive than others. Their frequency of meows and other sounds is more than that of the other breeds.
Therefore the sound of meow (also spelt as miaow and pronounced likewise) can be assertive, plaintive, friendly, bold, welcoming, attention seeking, demanding or complaining; perhaps something that the feline species has imbibed from our lives.