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Why Do Cats Make a Chirping Noise?

One theory for chirping is cats use it to signal to others it has spotted prey.  That does not seem to be entirely logical because cats remain quiet when they are stalking. In any case, cats are normally solitary hunters though some reports exist that they occasionally cooperate — apart from tigers this is certainly the very much the exception rather than the rule.

If chirping is truly a signal used in hunting then this could be related to chattering — something many cats do when they spot a bird and which some experts say is done to practice a killing bite.  In this case I think that the chirp and chatter have a purpose humans simply do not understand.

Then again it could be a “follow me” signal but I believe that a trill serves this purpose. Instead a chirp seems to me to be an expression of pure pleasure and excitement — a kind of “a-ha that’s wonderful.” It is perhaps pure communication of mental state rather than something that serves a purpose in the sense a trill or chatter does.

In the wild chirps seem to be restricted to kittens rather than adults. Some people say that a domesticated cat always remains a kitten in its head. I think this is plain wrong and that cats just have more fun when they live with a loving person and thus have a lot more to talk about.

Here are three examples of chirping. First of all listen to a wild cat – in this case a young Serval – doing so.

The wild kitten chirp:

This is just a kitten and the sound is more like a tiny bark than the chirp of a domestic cat. Now lets hear a domestic cat:

Why do cats make a chirping noise — domestic cat Chirp:

That is a definite chirp. If anything the cat seems to be saying “what’s going on?” or “why are you doing it” – definitely not a response to hunting.

Now another one — this time a Maine Coon — starts with a slight purr, a chirp and a trill. Is that a chirp or a short meow?

Why do cats make a chirping noise? Most cat language is still a mystery to humans though we often make out we understand. When does your cat chirp and have you a theory what he or she is saying. Please let us know.

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19 comments

  1. When he chrips, he is saying hello, how are you doing.

  2. Noel Chris Miller

    Mine chirps all the time when he’s perched in a window watching the birds, the evil tormenting birds. Sometime I think he is trying to induce with some power he has yet to reveal. Perhaps he’s trying to get into the mind of his prey and speak their tongue. either way his chirps are very subdued but different from his meows

  3. my cat seems to do this when she first sees me. (like a little hello) and when something is strange or something out of the ordinary is happening. (a sort of – ohh whats that)

  4. I have a Maine Coon mix and I always thought his chirping or super short meows were interesting. But as he’s doing it now. He just saw another cat run by. Now it could be prey, but he’s a really relaxed cat. So it leads me to think. Because they’re domesticated, chirping is how cats do communicate with us. Our other cat never did this. But my baby boy does. He does it when we first get up all the way until we go to bed. I honestly think they’re mimicking human speech patterns. We all know they’re smart enough.

  5. My cat also does the same thing as the Maine Coon when she is greeting me, also if she wants to be petted. Occasionally if she wants me to follow her.

  6. We have a tortiseshell that chirps and she is 3 years old. She doesn’t do it often but when she does its because she wants something.

  7. My Maine coon kitten chirps at me often when I pet her, or when she walks up to me. Seems like an affectionate chirp. Similar to the one in the third video it turns into a purr often, and she kneads her paws. My other Maine coon chirped when he was stalking

  8. My cat is a black tortie and she chirps all the time when she wants my attention or to play. She will quite literally sit in different places around me chirping at me until I get up and play with her. It’s pretty cute, that’s for sure!

  9. I have a 16 lb Norweigen Forrest Cat who chirps when he’s sitting on his perch looking out the window. His chirping literally convulses his whole body! Almost like a full body shiver! AMAZING,

  10. What? None of those cats in the clips were chirping? They were just your regular cat response to what the cat would think is nothing important.
    Only looked this up because my chat actually chirps like a bird when she sees one.
    She can mimic their sounds in long spurts.
    My theory would be that its a hunting technic she uses and I wondered if all cats do it.
    It seems like a pretty dumb technic to me as it doesn’t get her the bird but the rest of the theory’s on here also sound pretty dumb.

  11. I have two cats 2 weeks apart – piccolo chirps and his whole mouth vibrates when hes sitting in the window and sees a bird, but both him and kami run around chirping when they are “cracked out” i think its for excitement and telling everyone around, but i talk to my cats and they chirp back, i think it helps with the relationship.

  12. Our cat sits at our back door early in the morning and talks(chirps) to the birds. When I sat and listened to them I just started saying she was talking to the birds.

  13. Completely agree with Kirsty’s comment. None of these clips were chirping. The author of this post needs to research the subject before writing on it. Chirping is a hunting or pre-hunting noise, not one of affection.

  14. My tortie chirps when the dogs are at the back door wanting in

  15. My tortie chirps whenever she wants me to follow her. She does this thing where she cozies up in my bed and chirps for me to go in and pet her. She definitely does it more when I first come home. I think it’s a “oh mom is home…maybe if she’s gets in bed, she won’t go anywhere else” sort of thing. It’s pretty cute.

    • James Lautner, Senior Cats Editor

      Thanks for letting me know Dani, that’s exactly what mine does too… It’s definitely cute :-)

  16. I have 3 cats and only one seems to chirp while the other two never do they all sit in the windows and watch the birds and only he will chirp he also does it when he is in the bathroom with me and when he lays under the covers with me

  17. One of the cats makes chattering noises when I softly play my guitar. She’s particularly partial to Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, and The Eagle’s Hotel California.

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