The Silent Meow

What Is My Cat Trying To Tell Me?

In doing the research for this article, I was amazed to learn that there really is not a lot of information out there about this fascinating but mysterious behavior in cats known as The Silent Meow. If we have been observant, we may have been fortunate enough to have a cat bestow upon us the favor of a Silent Meow. In order to understand what the Silent Meow is and why cats do it, we have to learn a little more about the ways cats communicate. When referencing her cats, a good friend of mine says, “My cats are just little people in fur coats who walk on all-fours and speak a different language. I don’t understand a word they are saying to me!” However, honestly, all we need do is listen and it is possible to understand what our cats are telling us.

When I was a child, one of my favorite books was “Alice through the Looking Glass”, by Lewis Carroll. What an amazing imagination this man shared with us in his stories! A particular quote from this book rings true to anyone sharing their heart and home with cats. Mr. Carroll wrote, “It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens that whatever you say to them, they always purr. If they would only purr for ‘yes’ and mew for ‘no’, or any rule of that sort, so that one could keep up a conversation! But how can one deal with a person if they always say the same thing?”

Cats have absolutely no problem understanding other cats. They have very subtle ways of speaking with one another and use various means to communicate, but they mostly rely upon body language. You see, cats exist in a society where words are not necessary. Cats are able to determine another cat’s mood by just looking them. They can have an entire conversation with another cat and not utter the first meow. Posture, tail movement, eye contact, and even scents all send signals to other cats. In fact, it is rare to see cats meowing at another cat. There are exceptions to this, of course, for instance during mating rituals, raising kittens or aggressive behavioral events.

However, when communicating with us, we see that cats will very often meow as well as display different body postures. Each meow may differ in meaning by the tone, volume, pitch, rhythm, and pronunciation. Any cat owner can tell you that their cat makes many different sounds. We know that our cats cannot make “words” or have a vocabulary like humans do, but they still communicate with us. It is up to us to interpret what they are attempting to say!

Our cats make a variety of different sounds, all designed to get our attention and to communicate to us whatever needs they may be feeling at that particular moment. Let us look at some of the different things they may be saying to us:

Meow – Depending on pitch, attention, inquiry, or conversation.

Low-pitched rumbling growl – Warning! Danger or other threat perceived!

Warble – Most often used to display Affection.

Trill – Can denote affection but also inquiry, mother cats use this sound to call their kittens close.

Low-Pitched Meow or Howl accompanied by Purring – Pain, discomfort, stress or fear.

Purring – Comfort, happiness and security, but can also denote pain or discomfort.

Howl – Depending on pitch, sadness, pain, extreme fear or stress.

Silent Meow – Most often denotes gratitude and affection.

If we have been fortunate enough to have a cat look at us with narrowed eyes, ears comfortably pointed to the top and a relaxed body posture while opening the mouth slightly but emitting no sound, we have received quite an honor! The Silent Meow!

Unless a cat has an illness or other health issue preventing them from meowing normally, the Silent Meow is special and should be received with the importance and care in which it was delivered. It is a very high form of compliment, a way of saying thank you for all the things you do for her and it is her way of showing all the love and affection she feels for you!

So, the next time you are gifted with this special honor, remember to return the favor and thank your cat generously for being your beloved companion.

Written by Gaye Flagg

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12 comments on “The Silent Meow

Linda Biddiscombe July 25, 2020
Cercei was a rescue and wow what an expressive cat I have who will literally attack usually a Male friend if she thinks I'm threatened. My personal body guard. Anyways, she was pregnant when I got her and she had her 4 kittens a foot and a half away from my head one night while sleeping. Thankfully one of the 4 kittens could make noise so that I woke up but I was shocked to watch the other 3 that had a silent meow. They are 3 weeks old now and still no noise. I get the silent meow when I pick them up but not sure they are too pleased.... I believe they were telling me off waking them up for a 10 second cuddle. I have never had a cat with a silent meow. I hope remember those it once in while. I talk to them every day.😊
Antonio65 October 17, 2018
My Lola was extremely talkative, and would express her gratitude for what I was doing for her by meowing and purring. She never performed a Silent Meow, in fact it was quite the opposite, but I'm totally sure she was deeply grateful. She showed her gratitude to me everyday of her life with me, and she always did it loudly. She had a variety of sounds for different situations and messages to be conveyed. But her meow was rough, not like any other cat, so pitch and tone were abstract concepts in her case :) On a couple of occasions she also emitted sounds that were real words. She also pronounced a short sentence to express her fear for going to the vet on an afternoon. It wasn't a random combination of sounds, it was a proper sentence expressed at the right moment. It gave me chills down my spine! On another occasion she insulted me for not trusting her. From that day on I would blindly believe and trust her! Unlike Lewis Carroll wrote, Lola did have a way to say Yes and a way to say No. We were able to do long chats, and they all made sense. It was always so easy for me to understand what she needed, and a couple of questions with a clear "no" or "yes" from her could clear any doubt. I'm sure she learned most of our vocabulary. I love you Lola :bawling:
kashka June 22, 2017
My beautiful orange tabby Bailey is the most loving kitty anyone could ever hope for. He reminds me of my son when he was a little boy as every time I'd enter a room he was in he's always say hi even if I walked in out and back in again. Well, it's the same with Bailey as he also always greets me with that silent meow as our eyes lock when I enter a room. I suppose some people who only have one cat forget just as they are our main and often only source of companionship we are theirs as well. It's such a lovely connection.
DrHannibalLedford April 17, 2017
Simon does this a lot! I'm really glad to know that the Silent Meow is a good thing
segelkatt January 10, 2016
My Persian ONLY makes silent meows unless she is hurt (stepping on her tail) or feels threatened by another cat when she hisses and screams. Any time she talks to me it's a silent meow which I used to call "whispering" because that's what it sounds like.
    Barbara Olivieri June 19, 2020
    Silent meows are a breed specific trait for Persians just like loud frequent discordant ‘talking’ is normal for Siamese (my Nadia & Nikita). But, it is charming. My traditional white blue eyed Persian Emma does it.
Kat0121 July 7, 2015
Henry has been doing this more and more. First to my DD and now to me I had no idea what it meant. He's getting more confident and more affectionate all the time.   : )
helsic December 5, 2014
wow! my kitten do the silent meow quite often to me and my husband, it's so cute~~ but I didn't know the meaning
crazypetlady August 12, 2014
I found this article interesting. When I first got my kitten the only way he communicated was a silent meow, purring and head butting and a chirpy sound this continued for a few weeks, he found his voice now but still uses the silent meow now for when he seems to want to be picked up and thinhs like that. I thought it was unusual as if never seen the silent meow before, glad its a good thing
tinykisses September 17, 2013
I just now received a silent meow!  That was the reason I came on here to look.  Freddie does this to me quite a lot and I always wondered why.  Now I know!  Love my boy..
phyllisjones May 28, 2013
my boo boo gives my the silent meow when i get home from work. She'll be waiting by the door, look at me with those green eyes and give me the mute mewo. I don't know if she's happy to see me or she knows it dinner time. either way I love it.
jaypantheress December 10, 2012
my cat, Pandora, will constantly Silent Meow at me. Infact, she is doing it right now! I know she is not ill since I have taken her to the vet because I thought she lost her voice! She will purr while silent meowing so it is like a chortle but with no meow. She must REALLY like me a lot since she does this to me everyday. She frequently has Silent Conversations with me. Haha she is the sweetest cat I have ever known!

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