Why Do Cats Chirp? – Chirping Behavior Explained
Cats make all sorts of noises. They’re best known for soft little mews and contented purrs but also for irritated hisses and earsplitting yowls. The author’s brother had a cat that would catch rats then stand over the carcass and growl like a jungle cat as if to say “I caught this myself and I will eat it myself! No one touches it until I’m done! Got that?” One curious sound cats may make is chirping.
This sound can come from a throaty Maine Coon or a highly vocal Oriental Shorthair. But what does it mean?
Why Do Cats Chirp?
It all depends on the situation. Are they looking out a window? Is your
cat just a kitten or does she have kittens? Is Kitty looking at you when she chirps? Is she playing when she makes these noises?
Chirping is usually an expression of excitement or a call for attention from cats.
When you understand why your cat is chirping, you can figure out what to do to make your cat a happier pet.
Can Kittens Chirp?
A high pitched little chirp is one of the first sounds a kitten learns to make. A mother cat quickly realizes a chirping kitten is a kitten that’s not getting fed, so she’ll pull the blind and helpless little chirper closer to her so baby can nurse. Even after the kittens’ eyes open and they become more mobile, they’ll still chirp at Mama once in a while to get her attention.
They’ve already come to learn that chirping gets them fed so they’re saying “Hey, Mom, how ’bout some grub?” Mama cat may also make chirping sounds to call out to her wayward children to keep them close. “Stay where I can see you, young lady!” she’s effectively saying. If all seems to be going well, it’s best just to let Mama take care of her babies.
If Mama doesn’t seem to be doing her job (Maybe she’s young and doesn’t have this parenting thing down. Maybe she just doesn’t have enough milk for everyone.) you might have to take up the slack. Ask your veterinarian for a feeding bottle and further advice on how to nurse the kitten.
Chirping on the Window Perch
This is the most common scenario for chirping in adult cats who don’t have their own litter of kittens. Kitty will be sitting on a windowsill of back of a sofa looking out a window and she’ll start making some chirping noises. In this scenario, it’s because she sees a squirrel, bird or other creature that excites her hunting instincts.
However, there’s this big sheet of glass so her excitement is tinged with frustration. It’s like she’s saying “Here, birdy birdy birdy!” A real bird won’t be fooled by this imitation chirp and your cat knows it. If she’s earnestly hunting, she’ll go into stealth mode. If she’s just excited by prey, she’ll vocalize.
Even if your cat wants to hunt, you shouldn’t let her. Not only is it bad for local wildlife, it could be bad for her. For instance, the author’s husband once had a cat who thought the neighbor’s parrot looked delicious. Smokey soon found out Polly was even bigger than him and had a sharp beak. Another cat thought it would be fun to tangle with a rabbit. Peter Cottontail kicked said cat hard enough to knock out a tooth.
Foxes, snakes, opossums, raccoons and even mockingbirds might fight back. Some frogs and bugs are actually poisonous. That’s not even getting into the parasites Kitty might pick up. If your cat chirps while sitting at a window, try chirping with her as a show of sympathy, then offer her a toy she can chase. But also make sure that here predatory instincts are satisfied with proper playtime instead of something destructive like chewing on cords.
Chirping at the Owner
Don’t worry if your cat chirps at you! There’s no way a cat will see someone as big as you as prey. If your cat chirps at you, see the above paragraph about kittens chirping. It could mean that your cat sees you as Mama and wants you to pay attention to her, either with feeding, grooming or play time. She wants you, oh big two legged being with hands, to do something.
You’re the one with the highly evolved brain, so it’s up to you to figure out what she wants. Maybe she wants you to open a door to a room where she left a toy she wants. She could be trying to inform you that her supper dish needs filling or her litter box needs cleaning. One YouTube video shows a Maine Coon sitting in a bathtub and chirping until he got the bath he wanted. (Not all cats hate water.) You can figure out what Kitty wants.
Chirping at Inanimate Objects
Sometimes a cat will chirp at toys or flickering laser beams. That just means kitty is excited and having a good time. Cats love to hunt and chase and lots of cat toys and games cater to this instinct. Chirp along with her while playing so she knows you’re excited too.
Occasionally let her “catch” what she’s chasing after so she doesn’t get frustrated. Maybe give her a treat to reward her for getting rid of that pesky red dot that’s been bouncing around. Kitty might not be able to speak with you, but she can communicate in a way. Remember, to understand, one only has to listen.
- Identifying Prey Preference College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Medical Center Ohio State University
- Cat Chat: Understanding Feline Language The Humane Society of the United States
- Cat Communication by Linda Slavin, Co-Founder, Cat Depot
- Kittens recognize their own mother’s voice on DiscoverMagazine.com
- Turner, D.C.; Bateson, P.P.G; Bateson, P. The Domestic Cat: The Biology Of Its Behaviour. Cambridge University Press. p. 68.
- Why and how do cats purr? Library of Congress