Friday, March 24, 2023

Why do feral cats not meow? Can a feral cat meow?

I will answer the second question first. Feral cats have the physical ability and anatomy to meow just like domestic and stray cats. The point is that they don't normally meow because the meow vocalisation is a learned one between domestic cat and human caregiver. It is normally a demand for food or attention.

The answer is not quite as clean as that because the meow sound is very variable. People should not think that every meow made by every cat is exactly the same. There is a great spectrum of meow sounds. 

The word 'meow' is an onomatopoeia meaning that it reflects the sound. But as the meow sound varies a lot it does not reflect the meow sound sometimes!

The meow sound has been learned by the domestic cat to make a demand on their human caregiver
The meow sound has been learned by the domestic cat to make a demand on their human caregiver. Image: MikeB

As to the first part of the title, as mentioned, this is a learned vocalisation by domestic cats over about 10,000 years of domestication. It is a sound developed between cat and human. 

As feral cats nearly always or almost exclusively 'talk' to other feral cats there is no need for them to meow.

The feral cat might hiss and growl at a human but they won't normally meow at them. 

But if you have the patience to socialise a feral cat which might take many months even as long as 18 months if they are an adult feral cat who's lived their entire life in the urban jungle, they will eventually learn to meow at their human caregiver.

It is a learned process and a demand normally. However, it's meaning will vary as the sound's tone and tenor varies.

It may merge into other sounds like a growl. The Siamese cat has a honk to make demands rather than the classic meow. As I said the meow sound varies 😎.

Here's a video of a very strange meow sound but it is certainly a demand. A call for attention.

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