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Speaking “Cat”

shutter cat 008As passionate pet parents, many of us can honestly admit that we talk to our pets, but have you tried speaking with your pet in their own language?

In the 1940s, cat lover Mildred Moelk discovered that cats meow differently to people than to cats. She categorized 16 sounds used in cat-munication. These 16 sounds are formed by your cat into 3 different patterns and when expressed, can be loosely translated to meanings like “hello,” “pay attention to me,” “give me,” “please give me,” and “I like” or “I don’t like.”

The 3 patterns:

  1. Greeting or satisfaction: Soft murmurs or consonants made with the mouth closed
  2. Request or complaints: Vowel sounds from an open-to-closing mouth as in meowing
  3. Arousal or stress: Loud sounds called strained intensity patterns, emitted from a wide open mouth

Cats meow in different ways to convey:

  • Friendliness
  • Confidence
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Pain

So, here is your guide to speaking with your furry feline. To pronounce these sounds in “Cat,” use the partial phonetics based on Moelk’s system; An apostrophe (’) means an emphasis, and a colon (:) means the sound is drawn out. Good luck!

Murmur Pattern

  1. Purr (’hrn-rhn-’hrn-rhn)
  2. Request or Greeting (’mhrn’hr’hrn)
  3. Call (’mhrn)
  4. Acknowledgment or Confirmation (’mhng)

Vowel Patterns

  1. Demand (’mhrn-a’:ou)
  2. Begging Demand (’mhrn-a:ou:)
  3. Bewilderment (’maou?)
  4. Complaint (’mhng-a:ou)
  5. Mating Cry – mild form (’mhrn-a:ou)
  6. Anger Wail (wa:ou:)

Strained Intensity Patterns

  1. Growl and Anger Wail
  2. Snarl
  3. Mating Cry (intense form)
  4. Pain Scream
  5. Refusal Rasp
  6. Spitting

While many experts agree that a cat’s vocalizations are meant to communicate specific messages, they are still not sure exactly what cats are saying!  It is also believed that a cat’s meow is meant to manipulate their human into doing whatever they think the meow might mean. So, try speaking to your cat in their own language tonight and see what happens. We are interested to find out! For now, we will ask if any of our kitty guests have any ’mhng-a:ou (complaints) so we can quickly see to them, so we hear nothing but ’hrn-rhn-’hrn-rhn (purrs) from the catteries!