As a life-long cat owner (well, nearly — my family got their first cat when I was about a year old), I’m familiar with the wide range of vocalisations that a cat can produce. Someone who’s only recently started sharing their life with a cat might be a bit surprised when the cat starts to make sounds that are outside of the standard meows, purrs and hisses. One of my very favourite sounds is the soft chirrup of curiosity that a cat makes when you wake her from a nap, or when she comes up to find out what you’re doing.
Why does my cat sound like a pigeon? Cats make cooing or chirruping sounds when they’re curious, affectionate or initiating some kind of interaction with you. These sounds are normal and no cause for concern. Changes in your cat’s typical vocalisations may be a sign of ill-health, however, and should be investigated.
You’ve landed on this page because you have questions about your cat’s vocalisations. Maybe your cat has always made cooing, pigeon-like vocalisations, and you’re curious as to why and what these sounds might mean. Maybe your cat has started producing sounds that are different to her normal range of vocalisations, and you’re concerned that something might be wrong. Perhaps you’re just curious as to what sounds might be normal for cats. Whatever your situation, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out more about the fascinating world of feline communication, and to find the answers you’re looking for.
Why Does My Cat Sound like a Pigeon?
Cats can make a range of different sounds, some of which are quite confusing if you’re not accustomed to the oddities of kitty speech. Most people know that cats meow and purr, although even these familiar sounds can be confusing sometimes. There was a touching story in circulation recently about an older couple who’d adopted a rescue cat and sought professional advice about the strange rumbling noise the cat made sometimes. They were afraid that the cat was sick. They were reassured that the cat was in fact purring because they were doing a great job as her new guardians.
Different cats have different voices, with some breeds being more talkative and louder than others. My British Shorthair is a fairly laconic chap, who seldom meows or makes much noise at all (except if his meal is late). A Siamese cat breed, on the other hand, will be inclined to talk your ear off.
There are a lot of factors involved in the way a cat sounds: the age and size of the animal, what sounds she learned to make as a kitten, and other factors can all come into play. The shape of the cat’s face can strongly affect the way she sounds. I recommend that anyone who needs a mood lift look up videos of Oriental Shorthairs; their funny honking meows are bound to put a smile on your face.
If someone came to me to seek advice about their cat’s pigeon-like vocalisations, the first question I’d want to ask is whether this was normal for the cat or whether it was something new that had just started to happen. Cooing and chirruping are completely normal vocalisations for cats. They typically make these sounds when they’re happy and feeling curious or friendly. A cat will often make a little “Prrrook?” noise if she’s sleeping or doing something engrossing, and then you walk up and pet her. Cats may coo or chirp when you’re petting them, or when they want you to play.
If your cat frequently makes cooing sounds during her usual activities, you can rest assured that she is happy and enjoying life. Those cooing noises tell you that she’s feeling playful and her curiosity is engaged. As part of your cat’s usual vocabulary, it’s really not something you need to worry about.
Changes in Vocalisation
On the other hand, if this is a new phenomenon, I would be a little concerned. Cats can pick up infections of the nose, throat and respiratory tract much as humans do, and this can make them sound different. Cats can also develop allergies and get similar symptoms to a human. If your cat previously didn’t make those odd pigeon-like sounds and has suddenly started doing so, I’d worry that something like this was the cause.
If your cat sounds different for more than a day or two, it’s well worth talking to your vet about the changes. While most kitty colds or minor infections will burn themselves out in a short period of time, they can get quite nasty if they’re left to linger untreated. If your cat seems feverish, is off her food, is using her litter-box more than usual (or having accidents outside of it), I’d be inclined to suspect an infection.
You should also take a look at your cat’s face, head and throat to check for injuries. Any signs of blood, swelling or abrasions should be treated with care. A blow to the nose, for instance, could change your cat’s vocalisations quite significantly until the swelling goes down.
Why Does My Cat Squeak Instead of Meowing?
There are lots of funny little sounds that your cat might make. Something I have encountered from time to time is an adult cat who still squeaks like a kitten. This can happen when a cat doesn’t have human company during the first few months, and whose mother cat was not reared around humans either. Meowing, you see, is not precisely a natural sound for cats to make. It’s a compromise between their natural vocalisations and human speech. Put another way, meowing is an attempt by cats to speak in a way that humans will respond to.
There’s a rather unpleasant theory going around that the cat’s meow is an attempt to sound like a human infant so that adult human will be moved to take care of them. This is unfounded and somewhat unfair. It may be that meowing might sound a bit like a baby, but it’s really just a random human-audible noise that a cat’s physiology can produce. Cats aren’t trying to dupe or manipulate us into looking after them. They’re just trying to be understood.
Cats can learn to meow if they are raised around humans as kittens, or sometimes if they have a mother cat who meows at them when they’re young. If they reach maturity without having learned to meow, it’s likely that they never will. The result is an adult cat who can only produce a high-pitched, kitten-like squeak.
Cats can make all sorts of noises for all sorts of reasons. Loud cries can be a sign of distress or irritation. Hissing and growling are warning signs — they are a clear indication that the cat is very angry, and should be left alone. A prolonged yowl is common among some cats, especially females in heat, and can be quite disconcerting.
Some cats make an unusual chattering sound, a sort of “ekekekek” noise when they see birds. Not all cats will do this, and it can be a little startling if you aren’t used to it. It’s an instinctive attempt to mimick bird calls, in the hopes of luring this tempting prey species closer. I’ve seen cats make a similar noise in response to other flying creatures, too, including large insects.
One of the strangest types of feline vocalisation is speech. I didn’t believe this was possible until I heard it for myself. Of course, a cat can never learn to speak in the same way that a human can, but in very rare cases a cat might be able to produce one or two words. The “talking” cats I met only knew one word each. One had learned to approximate her owner’s monosyllabic name. The other had learned to say “milk”. It was quite distinct. She only ever did it by the fridge. Now, I don’t recommend milk for cats (adult cats can’t digest lactose and it can upset their stomachs), but this cat definitely knew what she wanted.
Your cat might make any of these sounds, or none of them. It’s useful to pay attention to your cat’s vocalisations and thus build up an understanding of what your individual animal might mean.