Only When It Feels Good: Specific Cat Vocalizations Other Than Meowing

Animals (Basel). 2019 Oct 29;9(11):878. doi: 10.3390/ani9110878.


Our objective was to identify and characterize the types of vocalization other than meowing (VOM) in two contexts, a pleasant and an aversive situation, and to study the effect of the sex of the animal. A total of 74 cats (32 tom cats and 42 queens) living in the city of Curitiba, Brazil, participated in the study; in total, 68 (29 tom cats and 39 queens) were divided into two groups according to the stimulus they were exposed to: either a pleasant situation (PS), when they were offered a snack, or an aversive situation (AS), with the simulation of a car transport event. The other six animals (three tom cats and three queens) participated in both situations. Only the PS group presented VOM; of the 40 PS animals, 14 presented VOM, mostly acknowledgment or trill and squeak. No correlation was observed between vocalization and cat sex (p = 0.08; Pearson's Chi-Square). Results show that VOM is exclusively associated with positive situations, suggesting that these vocalizations may be relevant for understanding the valence of cat emotional state. Further studies are warranted to advance knowledge on other VOMs and on the generalization of our findings to other situations.

Keywords: Felis catus; cat behavior; phonetics; welfare.