Author Topic: The cats miaow - or not  (Read 424 times)

The cats miaow - or not
« on: August 12, 2018, 08:27:07 pm »
One of the things we’ve learnt about our new cat is that she can’t miaow. Well not absolutely, but  best she can do is a quiet squeak. Stealth cat  ;D
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Mrs Pingu

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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2018, 09:13:58 pm »
Back in the days when Pingu & I were a courting, there was a cat on his street called Charlie who just used to emit a strangled sort of 'ekk' noise.
I'm afraid we used to take the piss out of him a bit https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charley_Says
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Jaded

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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2018, 09:32:42 pm »
I think it can depend on the breed, but also on them being talked to. Our Burmese were all vocal, but the Abbys are quiet. The younger one has discovered that talking back to us gets her more attention. Now the older, previously silent, one is beginning to make a noise when she wants the tap turned on, or some food.
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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2018, 09:36:51 pm »
Isn't the miaow the noise cats make to converse (hah!) with humans? they don't use it between themselves. So, your cat doesn't feel like talking to you, and you are surprised?

Kim

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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2018, 09:45:40 pm »
Isn't the miaow the noise cats make to converse (hah!) with humans?

Yeah, pretty much.  It's the calling for their mother noise, persisting into adulthood when they're socialised with humans as kittens.  If the juvenile behaviour doesn't persist, they're only likely to make meowing type noises when fighting or shagging.

I've known cats who go through the motions of meowing but without actually emitting sound[1], and others who've made tiny little squeaking noises.  And I've known Siameses who've conformed to the stereotype of being endlessly vocal.

Others soon learn to modulate a meow with a purr to trigger the human's "I must attend to my baby" response.


[1] They might be doing something ultrasonic that our puny human hearing can't detect?  IIRC cats can hear up to 50kHz
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hellymedic

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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2018, 01:03:28 am »
Blackie miaows and sometimes whines like a toddler when exerting pester power.

Big Tom has a MUCH deeper call, goes 'geow' and eck. Big Tom's call is very guttural.

ian

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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2018, 09:46:24 am »
Bad Cat miaows constantly. She's loud and talkative. She's no good at sneaking up on anything as she has to miaow at it. When she catches something, also MIAOW (usually it's a just ball or toy these days, they've mostly stopped with the live stuff, no idea why).

LMC doesn't miaow in general. She's silent. She can miaow, she once got confused in the neighbour's garden and spent a few hours wondering why their patio door wasn't letting her in* and loud plaintive yowling was audible streets away. She'll also make the same noise when she's back from the cattery or otherwise thinks the humans have abandoned her. But other than those, the best you'll get out of her is a faint meep.

We have encouraged miaowing since we'll carry on the 'conversation' so it's curious while one of them has taken to miaowing and the other hasn't.

*I was going to suggest this is a good example how dim cats are, but then I remember that when we visiting the building site to check up on the house we'd bought, we went in that one by mistake and were very confused that everything was backward. It took us a while to realise that we were in fact next door to our actual house. We didn't miaow.
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Kim

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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2018, 12:26:36 pm »
Blackie miaows and sometimes whines like a toddler when exerting pester power.

Big Tom has a MUCH deeper call, goes 'geow' and eck. Big Tom's call is very guttural.

When the BBC did those lovely cat SCIENCE programmes a few years ago, the boffins came to the conclusion that different cats' meow vocabulary was random, but their own staff would learn the meaning of specific 'words' and reinforce them with useful behaviour.

Certainly the cats I grew up with had distinct sounds for "hello", "give me food/attention"[1], "come with me", "where ARE you?"[2], "I'm non-specifically annoyed" and "let me out", as well as the usual silly play-fighting noises.  And the blood-curdling call of a Siamese cat on heat, which is the sort of thing that echoes through your brain for the rest of your life, like an auditory equivalent of the smell of Lynx Nevada.

But most cat communication is body language.  It's difficult to reciprocate properly as a biped without manoeuvrable ears and a tail, but they certainly respond to humans mimicking their eye contact.  (I recon this is why they're magnetically attracted to people who don't like cats, because human cringing and hoping the monster will go away is cat for "look, I'm not threatening, I'll be your friend".)


[1] I think the overloading of this one is down to certain humans giving food to stop the cat pestering for attention, so they never became distinct.
[2] A rare example of a meow directed at another cat.
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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2018, 12:44:26 pm »
We have twin sisters, now a year and a bit old. Both are Norwegian Forest (cross). We previously had a Norwegian forest who died in the spring of 2017. She had a great meow, vocal and very pretty. The two sisters we now have, one squeaks a bit, usually when pestering for food and the other is almost totally silent, she really needs provoking to get a squeak out of her.

So, I think it depends on the cat.
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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2018, 02:25:57 pm »
Our cat is very vocal. I'm convinced that some of her calls are imitated 'human' words:

Her greeting is a very distinct two syllable "Hello",
She uses a curt "No!" to show mild displeasure, e.g. on being picked up,
Feed Me, sounds like a more prolonged "NOWWWW!",
A 'I don't like this and am feeling vunerable', such as when she is unwell or has been caputred for examination or flea treatment,  is a quiet "awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww".

It has probably helped that we repeat the word back to her to reinforce the understandable 'language' between us.
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Kim

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Re: The cats miaow - or not
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2018, 04:31:58 pm »
It has probably helped that we repeat the word back to her to reinforce the understandable 'language' between us.

That's a natural part of how humans establish language with their babies, though I'm sceptical that the cat gets much out of it beyond the human actually paying attention to their sound (and potentially learning to respond in a way that that works for the cat).  If you watch kittens meowing at their mothers, they don't take turns to mimic noises (or indeed signs) like humans, they just wait a few seconds and if mother cat doesn't attend to their needs they pester again.

Seems to be just luck that juvenile cat behaviour meshes well enough with human nurturing behaviour that we've been able to domesticate each other.
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