Cats produce many different vocalizations to express themselves – whether they are feeling happy, excited, frustrated, or angry. But do you know that they also make specific sounds when they spot potential prey?
Cats often chatter their teeth when their urge to hunt or chase is triggered, either by a small animal or an interesting toy. Cat lovers call this chittering, twittering, or chirping. The odd sound you hear is often followed by grinding of the teeth or movement of the jaw, signaling your cat’s intense desire to catch the creature that has caught her attention.
So, if you are wondering why your cat is chattering her teeth, it is likely because of her normal predatory instinct – she gets frustrated or excited when she has her eyes on her prey.
There are also some other reasons cats might chatter with their teeth and make odd noises. This article discusses everything you need to know about your cat’s strange chattering behavior, and when you should be worried.
Cat teeth chattering – what is it and where did it come from?
At some point, you have probably heard Fluffy chattering while staring out of a window. Most cat owners describe this unusual vocalization as twittering, chirping, or chittering, and aside from the high-pitched chirp, you might also notice your pet chattering her teeth and moving her jaws. But why do cats do that?
Cats have some unique quirks – sometimes they behave in ways that humans will never understand. Their chattering behavior may make sense, however, once you understand the motive behind it.
There are a few possible theories as to why cats chatter with their teeth. Although the exact reason remains a mystery, a lot of animal behavior experts believe that it could be linked to any of these:
Have you noticed your furry friend making weird noises when she cannot reach her target prey? Her chattering teeth might be her way of venting her frustration at being unable to reach that pesky creature outside your window – perhaps a bird or rodent.
Any small moving animals or objects can be an exciting opportunity for cats to display their hunting prowess. They love to stalk, chase, and pounce on what they perceive as prey, because hunting is in their innate nature. But, as soon as kitty realizes she cannot pursue that little bird outside your window, she might chatter to express her frustration.
While they look fluffy and adorable on the outside, cats are also serious predators. So, when your cat is focused on a target, she will twitch her back, crouch, and stare at the helpless prey in preparation for an attack. However, indoor cats do not have the luxury of executing such an attack, so perhaps it is only normal to see them chattering in frustration.
Aside from her odd vocalization, you have probably also seen your cat’s body language change as she prepares to tackle her target – be it a mouse lurking inside your home or an interesting cat toy you have just bought her.
Cats chatter as a reaction to seeing potential prey or an interesting toy that appears like prey. Your cat might be very excited about spotting what she sees as a tasty snack, just as humans would feel when they see a delicious meal being served in front of them.
3. Practicing their “kill bite”
In the wild, cats instinctively bite their prey on the neck to quickly subdue them. This is known as the rapid bite or “kill bite”, which involves rapid motions of the jaw or intense teeth chattering, accompanied by an alert posture.
This instinctive behavior is ingrained in all cats, regardless of whether they are domesticated. Even indoor cats might mimic the “kill bite” when they see a bird passing by, as if anticipating catching and tearing the little creature into pieces. Your cat is simply acting out what she wants to do once she catches her target – that is, biting its neck and chewing the live prey to satisfy her predatory drive.
Knowing this, it should be no surprise the next time you see your pet’s teeth chattering when a bird flies past the window – she is just showing you her wild side!
4. Mimicking the sound of their prey
Although our domesticated furry friends are no longer closely related to wild cats, some animal experts believe that chattering is actually mimicry, to attract potential prey. What it means is that a wild cat might mimic the cry of a baby animal in order to attract adult animals nearby. They will then silently stalk through the bush and ambush their prey from behind, leaving the poor animal with no chance of escape.
Our domesticated kitties may not need to hunt to survive, but this instinct is still deeply ingrained in their DNA. So, there is a possibility that your cat’s chattering is something she has inherited from her wild ancestors. When she sees a potential target, she might chatter instinctively in preparation for the kill.
Is it normal for cats to chatter with their teeth?
Most cat owners agree that chattering is a common behavior in cats. You will likely hear your cat’s teeth chattering out of excitement or frustration as she looks through a window and imagines hunting and devouring a little bird.
However, not all teeth chattering in cats is normal. If your furry companion exhibits this behavior along with other signs like heavy salivation, lethargy, or eating problems, then something is obviously not right. In this case, the chattering might have something to do with dental disease or an underlying health problem that warrants a visit to your vet.
Is cat teeth chattering a health problem?
Many cat owners wonder whether their cat’s chattering signals a health problem. The good news is that chattering in cats is not usually cause for concern. As mentioned before, cats tend to display this odd behavior when they spot potential prey, or when their humans tease them with feather toys or laser pointers.
But, if you see Whiskers chattering her teeth while also looking ill or behaving differently, it might be best to do some further investigation. Your cat’s chattering teeth might have something to do with any of the following:
Oral pain and discomfort can make your cat’s teeth chatter in an attempt to find relief. Cats, especially those aged four or older, can develop all sorts of dental issues such as mouth ulcers, gingivitis, tooth infections, and others.
Aside from the obvious teeth chattering, your cat might exhibit symptoms like bad breath, lack of appetite, eating problems, and other behavioral changes in response to the pain. Often, cats do not show obvious signs of being in pain until you have them checked by the vet. That is why routine check-ups are important to diagnose the early stages of the disease and have your pet treated as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that, just like humans, cats need dental maintenance too. Regular brushing and veterinary check-ups will go a long way to preventing any dental diseases from developing. You also need to make sure your pet receives a well-balanced diet to strengthen her immune system and keep her healthy and happy.
Aside from dental issues, cats might grind or chatter with their teeth when they have an underlying health issue. One of the most common is rabies.
Cats with rabies will likely show aggression, increased salivation, and chattering teeth. Outdoor cats or free-roaming cats without updated vaccinations have a higher chance of getting the rabies virus; hence, vaccination is extremely important since rabies is a deadly disease that can be transmitted to humans and other animals.
Other health conditions that can cause teeth chattering in cats are:
- Brain disorders
- Feline inflammatory bowel disease
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
What to do if your cat chatters
Teeth chattering is a normal behavior in cats and should not cause you a lot of concern. Let Fluffy enjoy staring at the birds outside your window, as it will prevent boredom. Once the bird-watching activity is over, you can play with her using an interactive toy, such as a fishing pole-type of toy or a feather wand.
Move the toy as if it is prey, and soon you will find your kitty jumping, chasing, and pouncing on the little object. Finally, allow her to catch the toy as a reward to complete the hunting experience. This way, you are giving her closure and leaving her satisfied.
However, if you notice other symptoms starting to emerge, such as undesirable behavioral changes or physical manifestations of illness, it is best to investigate. If your cat is overstimulated after bird watching and becomes aggressive, you should perhaps keep her away from the window or anything that triggers her predatory drive.
Lastly, do not delay a visit to your vet in the event that your cat exhibits unusual symptoms. Not only will this ensure your cat’s well-being, but also your peace of mind.
Wrapping it up
In general, there is no harm in letting your furry friend chatter, especially if she sees a bird or rodent outside the window. Cats chatter their teeth for several reasons, and we might never completely understand them. As long as Fluffy is in good health, it should be perfectly okay to let her do her natural thing as you enjoy watching her adorable quirks.
Image: istockphoto.com / Servet TURAN