What a strange sound! Cats can produce a range of unique sounds that isn’t like a meow. They make that strange melody when they see birds outside, but why cats chatter at humans is something we seek to know.
Chattering means the cat is ready to hunt prey within sight. When your cat chatters at you, it could mean it doesn’t like what you’re doing or you’re making playtime too hard.
Curious cat parents and owners-to-be, start taking notes for this one because we’re going to decode the language of cat chattering and what makes it different from other similar sounds they make.
Why Do Cats Chatter Their Teeth at Humans?
When cats chatter, they’re showing that they want to chase prey that is within their vision. It can be accompanied by a feeling of excitement or frustration.
This sound is dedicated to smaller animals that felines consider prey such as birds, rats, lizards, and even some of your smaller pets (fish and hamsters). When they’re chattering at humans, it is because playtime is involved.
Cats chatter their teeth at humans because they now want that toy in their mouth or you have done something that is irritating. Playtime triggers their hunting instinct since it involves imitating a prey-predator scenario in the wild, but with a false prey.
It may not have something to do with prey too, it could be that the cat has learned that by chattering, it could obtain the owner’s attention!
Read: Do Cats See Humans as Cats? An Exploration of Feline Cognition
Why Do Cats Chatter?
Cats chatter at people, smaller animals, and fellow cats. It’s part of the cat language that needs translating, and here are the reasons why:
Out of frustration and excitement.
Their hunting instinct gets triggered whenever something comes out dashing past within their vision. Upon assessing or after trying to chase it, the cat may vocalize that it’s a feat too hard to complete.
It could be a sign of oral problems.
It can be challenging to spot when you should be concerned about your cat doing cat things. The more obvious signs are when your cat chatters and salivates excessively. The breath may smell bad. Your cat also paws at its mouth often as if to reach into the source of discomfort.
Read: Why Do Cats Age So Fast? Explaining the Rapid Aging of Cats
Wild cats chatter to mimic their prey’s sound and attract them.
A group of researchers traveled to Brazil and interviewed locals who lived near jungles. They observed that margays, a small wild cat, mimicked the sound of a specie of primates (such as tamarins) to lure them, which usually piques the curiosity of younger primates. The researchers noted that cougars, jaguars, and leopards did a similar hunting tactic.
Interestingly, cats chatter at birds as if to sound one and tell them to come closer.
What is the Difference Between Chirping and Chattering in Cats?
Owners may mistake chattering for chirping and vice versa. Both sounds are similar but are expressed for different reasons. Chattering is a form of sound that expresses excitement to hunt prey, while chirping is a form of greeting for the owners and talking with cats.
Chirping is a series of short peeps with a cat’s open mouth and bared teeth. They chirp while playing and jumping from furniture to furniture. They do it to greet their owners, ask for food, communicate with other felines, and many more.
Chattering is like chirping but the tone is lower and their eyes are usually focused on a target. Felines chatter when they see prey from afar and they have no way of catching it. This sound can be an expression of frustration or excitement for a hunt.
Trilling is a shorter type of chirping, usually vocalized in one syllable that sounds like “mrrp” or a purr and isn’t followed by another “mrrp”. Your cat may trill at you when touching it. It means a positive greeting.
Do you have a chirpy Bengal cat?
Do Cats Chatter in the Wild?
You may or may not be surprised that big cats in the wild have many similarities with domestic cats. They purr, meow, and even chatter!
Dr. Carly I. O’Malley writes that the Wildlife Conservation Society observed that jaguars and pumas chatter to mimic their prey, such as monkeys, to lure them closer. It makes you wonder if this actually works.
Furthermore, he mentions that aside from felines, chattering is also observed among guinea pigs, badgers, and rats.
Read: Why Are Cats Not Always Landing on Their Feet?
Why Does My Cat Chatter at the Window?
“Aha, I see you!” says the cat in his mind. He sits by the window, the end of his tail swishing left to right. Did you mentally picture this scenario but it’s your cat?
Your cat chatters as a reaction of arousal/excitement at the sight of active prey running around outside. If your cat could open the window by itself, it would’ve bolted after the animal before you could blink twice.
Why Does My Cat Chatter at the Wall?
It could have detected movement on the wall from small creatures like lizards, spiders, or cockroaches and could not catch it successfully. Frustrated, your cat chatters to express it.
Anything that moves intrigues a cat. Otherwise, why else can you fool that small hunter into believing that the cloth clinging to a stick is the prey? Make sure you let the hunter catch it occasionally!
Why Do Cats Chatter at Laser Pointers?
The laser dot is quick and small, making cats assume it’s something easy enough to be hunted down. And although fast on their feet, felines are no match to laser pointers, so in a state of frustration, they chatter.
You may have seen your cat chattering at birds and rodents while it sits confined by the window. It can be interpreted as the cat saying, “I’ll get you somehow, I promise you that.” With the laser pointer, your cat could be saying just that.
Why Does My Cat Chatter When I Pet Her?
You could be mistaking that lovely sound for chirping or trilling. When you pet your cat and she opens her mouth as if to talk to you, she’s chirping to greet you.
They chatter at the sight of prey or in situations where they can’t catch their object of desire.
Observe how your cat stares at you. Is she very focused? Is her tail slowly moving up and down? If it’s a yes to both questions, your cat could be telling you that she’s frustrated she didn’t catch her prey, or the toy prey you teased her with!
Read: Why Are Cats Not Always Landing on Their Feet?
Cats always find a way into our hearts, and their meow is one effective tool to do it. They may chirp, trill, and chatter but it can be hard to understand what they want to tell us. For chattering in particular, felines voice their excitement at the presence of prey and frustration that they cannot catch it easily.