Do Cats Understand Human Meows? The Interesting Answer

Last Updated on: May 15, 2023 by Crystal Uys

When our cats talk to us in their language, it’s human nature to mimic it. After all, we can mock what we hear, unlike many species. But when our cats hear us meow, is it a recognizable thing? Or rather, is it like trying to repeat a foreign language with awful pronunciation and inflection?

Even though you might try to get on your cat’s level and share the lingo, the truth is, they just don’t see it that way. A human meow sounds like just that—another weird human sound. Let’s understand how cats view us and our communication methods so you can gauge the perspective.

Human Meowing: How Does It Work?

Humans need help with their own language barriers between all of the different nationalities of the world. It’s even more complicated when we try to mimic the sounds of animals. Even though your cat will certainly recognize the meow coming out of your mouth, it won’t resonate the same way.

A natural meow carries a specific frequency and vibration that human beings cannot match. We just aren’t cats, and our vocal cords do not operate the same way.

You might have one of those cats that meows back when you meow to them. It might seem like you’re truly on their level and communicating in their style. But that is just because they recognize that you’re speaking to them and responding accordingly, not necessarily because your meow is convincing.

Ragamuffin cuddle affectionate with owner
Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

The Human Voice Through a Cat’s Ears

We talk to our kitties all the time. I know I do! How do our cats perceive it in all those strings of sentences and diary entries we spew aloud? It’s nice to believe that our best buds know exactly what we mean, but in reality, we know there’s a language barrier.

However, our cats still pick up on frequently used words. For example, you probably already know that your cat knows their name. It becomes instantly recognizable to them when they hear it, and they learn to respond accordingly.

Cats are extremely receptive to their environment, picking up on sounds, movements, and visual stimuli. They recognize the plastic bag of treats being opened in the kitchen, and they might even know when it’s time for their daily meals. You might also notice in their body language that they recognize certain verbal cues.

Researchers call this associative learning, and all mammals are capable of it!

Why Do Cats Meow at Us?

When our cats meow at us, it might be a natural inclination for you to want to meow back. But what is the real reason cats need to communicate in this fashion?

Meows can tell us lots of things. For example, if we are angry, we might shout. If we are happy, we might laugh. A cat’s meow has the exact same variations. A cat might meow when they want something, like attention or a snack. They might also meow when they are agitated or distressed.

Sometimes, it might be easy to tell and more challenging in other cases. Also, it depends on the individual. Some cats are relatively silent, while others are real chatterboxes. Some cats naturally are inclined to meow more than others.

Just like people, cats have different personalities and vocalize in various ways. Your cat might be quiet unless they really need something, and another might just like hearing themselves meow.

Tabby cat meows with its mouth open
Image Credit: Kaan Yetkin Toprak, Shutterstock

The Power of Cat Vocalizations

We understand that our cats have a completely different way of expressing themselves than we do. In ancient Egypt, cats were revered for their god-like abilities. Modern-day science has proven that cats quite literally have healing potential. It helps to rejuvenate not only themselves but also those they encounter.

You might have been comforted by your cat’s purr many times. When they snuggle up to us and start to purr, there’s a sense of ease and comfort that comes with it. But did you know that it may be actually beneficial to your health? It’s true!

The frequency of the cat’s purr is precisely 26 Hertz. This is the exact level of frequency used in vibrational therapies which aid in tissue regeneration of the body. But that’s not all! Here are other magical ways your cat’s purr can actually help you:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Heals infections
  • Provides pain relief
  • Enhances mobility
  • Lowers stress

Cats purr for several reasons, both when they are happy and distressed. It’s equally essential for a cat to purr while they are dying or giving birth as it is for them to purr when they are receiving affection. You can consider the purr of the cat a self-healing mechanism that soothes themselves and those around them.

Talking to Your Cat Is Still Important!

Don’t think that just because your cat can’t understand your language, you shouldn’t talk to them. It’s absolutely essential to communicate with your kitties. Talking is still a socially desirable thing, even for cats. They definitely will understand that you are communicating with them.

Talking is one of the many ways we can bond with our cats, even if neither of us is familiar with what the other is saying. But there are plenty of other things that you can do to spruce up their relationship. Continually learning and educating yourself on the new findings about your pet will enhance your relationship.

cat owner looking at her pet
Image Credit: U__Photo, Shutterstock


The truth is, humans are still researching the ways that our pets communicate with us on a regular basis. As the days pass, we learn more about communication styles, body language, and other barriers we have in order to understand our pets better.

So even though you’re unable to replicate the meow of a cat correctly, they’re still aware that you’re communicating with them, and that’s all that matters. However, you don’t have to continue trying to purr at their level. Your cat would be just as pleased if you talk positively to them.

Featured Image Credit: Olesya Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

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