Your cat might be meowing while playing because they are treating their toy like prey and calling on you, their owner, to either share with the “food” or to praise them for their accomplishment. They might also be meowing to call your attention to something they want addressed, like an empty food bowl or if they just want attention.
If your cat likes to make noise while playing and you want to know why, then keep reading.
Cat vocal stylings and what they mean
Before we dive into why your cat meows while playing, let us first discuss the different vocal sounds your cat emits and what they could possibly mean.
This is an all-purpose sound that can be used as a greeting, a command, an objection, or an announcement. Some people have observed their cats walking around the house meowing to themselves.
Purring is usually a sign of contentment. Cats purr whenever they are happy, even while they are eating. Sometimes cats purr to comfort themselves when they are anxious or sick, just like a toddler sucking their thumb.
3. Trills or chirps
This is a mother cat’s way of telling her kittens to follow her. When a chirp is aimed at you, it could mean that they want you to follow them, usually to the food bowl to inform you that it is empty. If you have more than one cat, you may hear them communicate with each other this way.
4. Hissing or growling
This is from a cat that is angry, annoyed, or frightened. It is best to leave this cat alone until they calm down.
5. Howling or yowling
These sound like loud, drawn-out meows. It might be your cats way of telling you that it is in some kind of distress, even something as benign as being stuck in a closet. But it could be something urgent like your cat being in pain. Search for your cat immediately if they are making these noises.
Sometimes unneutered and unspayed cats may make these sounds as part of their mating behavior.
If you have a senior cat, they may yowl because they are disoriented, especially if they are suffering from a cognitive disorder, such as dementia.
6. Chattering or twittering
This is the noise cats make when they are sitting in the window watching birds or squirrels. It usually translates to excitement or they may be contemplating snack time.
Why does my cat meow while playing?
Cats treat toys like prey
The most likely reason cats meow with toys in their mouths is that they are treating them as they would prey. This is not surprising since the value of play for a cat is to simulate hunting.
Cats meow to let other cats they are close with, such as their kittens, know that they have caught food. They are basically calling the family down to the dinner table.
In your house, your cat might be calling your attention to what they recognize as their catch of the day, and if you have other cats, they are letting them know about the prey they just took down.
They do this either to share their blessings or to look to you for praise for their accomplishments.
Your cat might need attention
If you are not playing with your cat regularly, or they are feeling ignored or neglected, they might be craving attention.
It may seem annoying, and could be indirectly teaching them to seek bad attention, such as waking you up at 2AM. But your cat does not know this is bad and is acting wholly on instinct.
Hunting behavior is natural to a cat and it is something they got praised for as kittens while learning to hunt.
Punishing your cat will not solve the problem, and ignoring them will not either. Instead, spend more time with your cat at appropriate times, so they will not beg for attention while you are trying to sleep.
How do I teach my cat to not make loud noises at night?
Redirect the behavior by providing daytime play sessions
Cats need daily play sessions to thrive. Being active keeps their bodies and minds healthy. And being active when you choose will benefit you as well because if you get a cat’s energy out during the daytime, they will not be waking you up at night.
Play with your cat for 40 minutes daily, but separate this time into two to three sessions throughout the day. The best time to play is right before mealtimes. This way, the cat can “hunt” right before eating, just as they would in the wild.
Then after dinner, have another play session so they will be tuckered out and be ready to sleep.
If playtime does not work, change your routine
Many people think that cats are nocturnal, but that is a myth. Cats actually sleep 15 to 20 hours a day, so there is not just one time a day during which they sleep.
Cats are creatures of habit. Their energy cycle is just hunt, eat, sleep. Following this pattern, a cat’s energy will spike more before mealtimes, then die down after eating.
You can use this to your advantage by feeding your cat dinner right before bed. This will signify to them that it is time to sleep.
If your cat has suddenly become more vocal, take them to the veterinarian
While this behavior is normal for some cats, it may not be normal for your cat.
Anytime your cat’s behavior changes drastically, take them to the veterinarian for a consultation. Cats tend to hide their illnesses from you and they may only manifest in what are mistakenly harmless behavioral changes.
Increased vocalization may be their way of telling you that they are in pain or sick.
Your cat is meowing while playing mainly because they treat playtime with toys like hunting for prey. When they bring their toy over to you or your other cats, this is their way of showing off their catch of the day. They are calling you over to share with the bounty or to sing their praises for being a great hunter.
Other reasons your cat might be meowing more than usual is that they might be feeling neglected lately, so make sure to spend quality time with them everyday.
If your cat is suddenly meowing much more than usual and you cannot seem to figure out why, bring them to the vet because they might be sick or in pain, causing them to be more vocal.
Image: istockphoto.com / Elayne Massaini