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Why do kittens meow?

Black and grey cat meowing

Kittens meow for many reasons. Find out why

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When we hear kittens meow it’s one of the cutest sounds cats make. Their squeaky kitten voices are quite endearing, but why do kittens meow?

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:52

There is no doubt that when a kitten meows she is trying to communicate with you. She is probably looking for a response from you, since sounds are hard to ignore! Tiny kittens meow from birth as they “speak” to their mum or shout for food. Just like small babies, they have some extremely loud yells.

What do kitten meows mean?

There are many reasons kittens meow – here are just a few explanations.

No 1. Kittens begin to meow from birth

First of all, a kitten’s early call is probably going to be for her mum. When she is looking for attention or is hungry, the high-pitched yell will certainly gain mum’s attention. No matter how quiet the kitten is, the mother cat has remarkable hearing that picks up high-pitched tones. Similarly, she can very easily differentiate between the kittens to know which one is screaming out for her.

No 2. Your kitten may be feeling lonely

A small kitten is usually an energetic, bundle of fluff. They certainly need an enormous amount of physical and mental stimulation, while they are awake. A crying kitten could just be searching for some attention. Likewise, if you have just adopted a tiny kitten it makes sense that she will be missing her mother and siblings and will call out for them to be reunited with her. After all, it’s all she knows.

Try to make time during the day for playtimes with your kitten, and allow them plenty of safe spaces to explore but also to hide and learn how to gain confidence. Keep them in one or two rooms only and stay nearby so that you can keep the kitten safe. Gradually encourage them to play with toys by themselves, so that they are happily amusing themselves without needing your constant attention, too.

No 3. A kitten that keeps meowing could be confused or lost

When kitten owners first bring their new pet to the home, it’s very tempting to allow her free rein at the house. Imagine how frightening or confusing it can be to have such a large space to explore. A small kitten that meows constantly is probably calling for help. She might be lost in her new surroundings, and the rooms seem very large when you are as small as a human hand.

Perhaps she cannot find her way back to her cat bed or litter box. To help with this problem, limit the kitten to just a small area that she can call her home for the first week or so. Gradually introduce other rooms to her territory, as she gains confidence. And she will!

No 4. Of course, your kitten could be hungry

A kitten is just the same as a human baby when she is hungry. Her meow will be to let the mother cat know she’s ready for her next feed. When she has been weaned and onto more solid food, monitor to see when she does actually cry. You may need to change your feeding schedule to keep her satisfied and happy. Because a young kitten develops rapidly, she needs an adequate food supply at regular intervals.

No 5. Perhaps she needs to go to the toilet

When you first introduce a litter tray to a new kitten, it can take some getting used to. They may have become used to one at the breeder’s home, but at your house it is a new litter tray, in a new location.

Quite often they can be rather fussy when it comes to doing poops. A very young kitten will sometimes cry or meow just before elimination. Certainly, this is a normal action unless the kitten appears to be uncomfortable or straining. If you do notice her straining she could be constipated or have other medical issues. Don’t delay if you think there is another problem. Take medical advice as soon as possible.

No 6. Kittens meowing when in pain or distress

If a kitten is hurt or is suffering, she will very soon let you know. A penetrating, high-pitched meow is a certain sign that something isn’t right in her world. Immediately locate the problem and assess the condition of the kitten. Perhaps she is stuck under the sofa or has someone stepped on her tail?

No 7. A sick kitten will meow

If a cat is feeling under the weather she will let you know with sorrowful cries. The situation is the same with a kitten. If your small pet is lethargic, looks vacant and is meowing pitifully, she is in distress. Illness isn’t always visible to a cat owner at first sight. Some poorly kittens don’t have the strength to cry at all. Keep a check on their behaviour if you suspect something might be wrong and don’t delay calling your Vet, as kittens can get very poorly very quickly.

No 8. A maturing kitten may be coming into season

At around 6 months of age your kitten may start meowing excessively. This is a common sign among females in heat (also known as ‘in season’). If you are worried, do call your Vet as it may be another reason, but females yowl when in season. It’s a sign your little kitten is growing up!

Why is my kitten meowing so much?

Often, pet owners ask “how do you get a kitten to stop crying?” There isn’t always a definite answer, unfortunately. Kittens meow often for no specific reason, it is their way of communicating with both the mother cat and their owners. It’s important that you realise that most kittens do meow for a reason and it’s up to you to discover why. You are your kitten’s new guardian and carer, so make sure all their needs are taken care of.