Cat Chirping and Chattering: Q&A
By Dr. Carly I. O'Malley May 03, 2019
Cats are interesting creatures that we share our homes with. Some cats are very vocal, and there are a number of vocalizations they use to communicate. If you have a cat that likes to look out the window, then you are probably familiar with the chattering noise that cats make when they see a bird or a squirrel. This is known as chattering or chirping.
What Is Cat Chirping?
Chirping is a short call thought to mimic prey animals (Schötz, 2013).
What Is Cat Chattering?
Chattering is made up of quick stutters of vocalizations that are usually accompanied by quick jaw movements as well (Schötz, 2013). When cats chatter, their eyes are typically wide while they stare intently at a prey item. They might also be crouching down as if to pounce, and they may flick their tail back and forth.
When Do Cats Chirp And Chatter?
Cats typically make this vocalization at the sight of a prey animal, usually birds and squirrels. Some cats will even make this sound at toys and laser pointers (Johnson-Bennett; Schotz, 2013).
What Does Chirping And Chattering Mean?
Cat researchers are not entirely sure what this vocalization means. Since cats often make these sounds while they are looking through windows, some think it could be a sign of frustration at not being able to catch the prey (Schötz, 2013). Others think it is a sign of excitement or might be a reflex similar to how the cat would bite the neck of the prey animal (Johnson-Bennett; Schötz, 2013). Wild cats make chirping and chattering sounds too, suggesting that frustration at being behind a window might not be the sole reason cats make this sound.
Is Chirping And Chattering Meant To Mimic Calls Of Other Animals?
Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society observed that wild cats mimicked local monkeys with their chattering. This drew the monkeys toward them and made it easier to hunt them. This evidence seems to suggest that chattering is a hunting strategy in cats (WCS, 2010).
Do Big Cats Chatter Too?
Yes! The study from the Wildlife Conservation Society observed jaguars and pumas chattering in a way that mimicked their prey species (WCS, 2010). Studies have also been done on chattering in cheetahs (Ruiz-Miranda et al., 1998; Stoeger-Horwath & Schwammer, 2003). Other animals such as badgers, guinea pigs, and even rats also chatter (Schötz, 2013).
Cat chirping and chattering are some of the many sounds that cats make, and they are usually fun sounds for us to hear. Cats make these sounds when looking at prey or when they are feeling playful. So if you hear your cat chattering, then that is a great opportunity to play with your cat! The best way to get your cat excited about playing is to wait until they are motivated and then to move the toy similarly to how a prey item would move. The next time you hear your cat chattering, pull out your wiggle wand or some other fun toys. Enjoy a play session and let your cat burn off some of that energy they are feeling!
Johnson-Bennett, P. Why Do Cats Chatter? Cat Behavior Associates. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
Ruiz-Miranda, C. R., S. A. Wells, R. Golden & J. Seidensticker. 1998. Vocalizations and other behavioral responses of male cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) during experimental separation and reunion trials. Zoo Biology 17:1–16.
Schötz, S. 2013. A phonetic pilot study of chirp, chatter, tweet and tweedled in three domestic cats. Proceedings of Fonetik.
Stoeger-Horwath, A. S. & H. M. Schwammer. 2003. Vocalizations of Juvenile Cheetahs During Feeding at Schönbrunn Zoo. International Zoo News 50(8):468–474
Wildlife Conversation Society. 2010. Copycat of the Amazon. Retrieved April 29, 2019.