Why Do Cats Trill? Should You Be Flattered or Worried?

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Why Do Cats Trill? Should You Be Flattered or Worried? 1

Cats are highly expressive creatures. They converse not only with one another but also with us, humans. They can communicate their needs and self through their body, facial expressions, and vocalizations. And one of the more peculiar sounds that cats make is trilling. But, what is it exactly, and why do cats trill in the first place?

Cat trill is one of the cutest sounds a cat can make, and as a cat owner, it’s one of the best sounds you may want to hear from your feline companion.

It is an extended “rrrowe,” which has vibrato and rises in pitch toward the end like a question. You might hear it when your cat rushes to welcome you when you get home or when it climbs up on your bed for a restful cuddle. Some cats appear to vocalize at odd moments for no apparent reason other than they just feel like doing it

What Does Cat Trilling Mean?

Simply put, trilling is a vocalization technique used by cats to communicate. Cats naturally produce a variety of sounds, from chirps to hisses, and purrs to meowing. But unlike many other sounds a cat makes, including meowing, the trilling sound is made with the mouth closed.

Cats use their vocal cords, which are found inside the voicebox, to force air through them to produce the trilling sound.

The sound of trilling is a cross between a meow and a purr. The human version would involve humming a tune while blowing air through your pursed lips like a raspberry. It's been referred to by many as a rolling “R” sound. 

The sound is frequently only produced for one or two seconds at most. The trilling sound is typically connected to happier feelings and higher-pitched sounds.

Trilling is a common social habit among cats, and between the ages of 2 and 7 weeks, kittens start to learn other important social skills. Beyond the age of six weeks, kittens who were housed alone with adult cats might never learn to trill.

Also read: Are My Cats Playing or Fighting?

Origins of Trilling

Cats' purring sounds originate from deep within their bodies, primarily from the voice box in the larynx. This is what produces the low pitch and deep thrum of the purr, which is similar to when people speak softly.

In contrast, a trill is mostly created in the mouth. Although the characteristic warble that makes up the first portion of the trill sounds may seem like a higher-pitched purr, it is really produced by rapidly vibrating the tongue, much like how Spanish speakers roll their “R”s. The final part of the trill has a heightened intonation that makes it seem like a question or a “valley girl” accent and resembles the end of a meow.

Kittens Learn to Trill From Their Mothers

A mother cat is the best at commanding her kittens because she is an expert at doing so. For comfort and maternal attachment, sounds are crucial. It's important for the mother to talk to their kittens frequently since they pick up on her voice from the noises she makes.

Kittens respond well to forceful yet delicate sounds, such as trilling, which are calming to them. Everyone (including humans) finds cat purrs to be comforting, and a trill, which sounds like a cross between a purr and a meow, is the ideal combination of calming and attention-grabbing. A quick series of trills and chirps is generally sufficient to gather up all the kittens and signal them to follow her when it's time to move.

Like other animals, kittens mimic their parents to learn new skills. Although kittens first create little meows and squeaks, they soon learn to imitate their mother's sounds, starting with trills.

The kittens learn to trill as a way of saying hello and as a quick, lighthearted acknowledgment of one other. What starts out as a vocal exercise quickly becomes a preferred method of communication.

Why Do Cats Trill

Why Do Cats Trill?

There are many different reasons why cats trill. And usually, the motivations for trilling are extremely favorable. A cat's inclination to trill can, in part, be seen as an indication of their confidence in you and sense of security.

When a cat sees or approaches a recognizable and liked person, cat, or other animals, it will trill. According to studies, it is particularly connected to pleasant and comfortable circumstances. They may be receiving gifts or seeing a beloved favorite toy from someone they know, but the person, not the action, is what makes them trill.

Remember that a cat could not trill, but it doesn't indicate it's unhappy or doesn't love its pet parents. Due to their tendency to be more gregarious, some cats trill significantly more than others – and that's just it.

Given that female cats who are in heat (looking for a mate) commonly trill, hormones may also affect this form of vocalization.

Below are other educated guesses or most rational explanations as to why cats trill:

Communication Between Mother and Kittens

Often, female cats are the ones who trill. This is partly because the mother cat will frequently trill at the kittens when they are very young in an effort to get them to follow her or to get their attention. Also, some cat mothers appear to trill affectionately at their little ones. She might also just be warning them to keep close so they won't get lost.

It also appears that mother cats will trill as they approach the nest, letting her kittens know the sounds they are hearing are secure. Again, trilling conveys positive messages!

Kittens pick up on this method of communication early on and, given their propensity to mimic noises, will employ the high-pitched trilling vocalization to greet other animals or people or to draw attention to themselves.

Communication With Their Feline and Human Companions

Cats communicate differently with other cats than they do with people. Meows are mostly utilized for human communication; they are rarely used by cats to communicate with one another. Yet, trilling is a form of communication that cats employ to communicate with both people and other cats since, regardless of the species, friends are friends.

Siblings are the ideal targets for these amiable tiny sounds. Kittens practice trills on each other because the familial link fosters an immediate sense of intimacy and trust. Even as adults, they enjoy making entertaining trills to their friends, especially other cats.

Multiple cats at home that are attached to each other can be seen by their owners quietly doing trilling sounds back and forth.

A Way to Greet Their Owners and Other Cats

The trill is probably what most cat lovers first hear from their feline companions when they get home from work. While many cats will decide to lie down in front of you, some will prefer the trill as their go-to greeting technique! Depending on your luck, you might even get both!

Cats do, however, meow to say hello. So, how is the context of trilling different?

It all comes down to what your cat wants! Meowing can signify a variety of things, from a straightforward welcome to a request for more food or to open a closed door. As opposed to a demand, a trill may simply be your cat's way of saying hello or expressing joy.

To Catch Your Attention

Cat trilling coupled with body language may be able to reveal more. When you try to read or watch TV and your cat headbutts you and cat trills you, for instance, their message has probably changed from “follow me!” to “hey, listen up!

To Attract a Partner

Female cats in heat will make a variety of noises, including the sporadic lengthy trill, in an effort to attract a male cat. In addition to being generally louder, female cats in heat may also trill more in the direction of their owners.

Trilling is usually a fairly straightforward sound of delight, and this is the rare occasion where it isn't. Although they often feel a variety of emotions at once, including impatience, cats in heat are not necessarily unhappy.

Feline Equivalent of the Expression “Huh” in Humans

It occasionally seems as though our cats use the trill to inquire about what is happening because it already has the rising intonation of a query.

The most frequent instance of this is when you go to pet a cat while it is dozing off. Be aware that cats typically don't sleep as similarly to humans as you might think before you worry that they might be trilling out of fear.

Understanding The Difference Between Trilling and Other Cat Sounds

Trilling is distinct from other well-known cat sounds. Knowing the other types of cat vocalizations might help you better grasp the distinctions. Here are some of them:


Meowing is generally the first sound that comes to mind when you think of cat sounds. The sound of a cat meowing is very adaptable. Meowing can be used to express a variety of emotions, including hello, feed me, play with me, and I'm in pain or ill.


Purring is produced by the fast flapping of the larynx and diaphragm. Even certain wild cats, like cheetahs and bobcats, have been known to purr. According to experts, purring signals a mother cat that her kittens are healthy.

 Later, adult cats utilize it for communication. It's an indication of tension or even hunger sometimes, yet it also says “I love you” other times. When cats are ill, they may purr to soothe themselves and hasten the healing process because purring has medicinal properties as well.


Cats produce these noises while observing birds and other animals outside the window. The Humane Society notes that “chittering” or “twittering” are other names for chattering. While some speculate that it is imitating the bite that cats deliver to their prey, experts aren't completely sure what to make of it. 

Hissing or Growling

Generally speaking, hissing and growling are not particularly amiable sounds. Cats typically have a fear (including the unknown). That includes conflicts with other cats. When cats are under extra stress, such as after a recent move or the addition of a new pet to the family, they will occasionally hiss as well. Your cat may also hiss when it is in agony.

Why Do Cats Trill? Should You Be Flattered or Worried? 2

Should You Be Worried About Your Cat Trilling?

Generally speaking, you should view your cat's trilling as a sign of positivity or even a compliment. Trilling usually signifies they enjoy and feel at ease in your presence.

The trilling of your cat, though, can be a sign of something more severe if it is older or starting to get elderly. If this is the case, you should pay attention to your cat even more.

If a cat starts trilling louder than normal and also appears less receptive to other sounds, it may be experiencing hearing loss. Because they can't tell how loud they are being, cats who have hearing loss generate louder noises that may be deafening to others around them. A trip to the veterinarian is necessary if you believe your cat may have hearing loss.

Dementia in senior cats might cause them to trill inexplicably or randomly. See a veterinarian if your cat starts trilling for no apparent cause and displays additional symptoms like disorientation or excessive sleeping. When dementia is detected and treated early, its progression can be delayed.

Why Do Some Cats Trill A Lot While Some Don’t?

Not all felines trill. Most of the time, trilling is also an expression of your cat's character. Trilling is more likely to occur in cats who are vivacious and outgoing.

On the other side, if your cat is very shy, you might notice that they don't trill as much because it's harder for them to convey their feelings. Similarly, some breeds trill more frequently than others. For instance, breeds such as Siamese, Scottish Fold, or Maine Coon tend to chatter more.


Cats can convey a variety of demands and emotions through various body language and vocalizations. Simply put, trilling is an additional method of communication, usually a good one. Out of all the cat sounds, it’s easy to love trilling the most.

Not only is it adorable, but as mentioned earlier, it's also virtually always interpreted as a show of friendship, joy, and affection! So, if your cat is trilling at you, rejoice!

Also, why not use the chance to trill back and interact with your cat in a playful way when it greets you, asks for attention, or just wants to be petted?

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