What is the Difference Between a Meow and a Yowl?

What is the Difference Between a Meow and a Yowl?

Cats communicate with their humans through a variety of vocalizations, with meowing and yowling being two of the most common. Understanding the difference between a meow and a yowl can help you better understand your cat's needs and feelings. This article will explore these vocalizations, what they typically mean, and how you can respond to them.

Understanding Cat Meowing

Meowing is the most familiar sound a cat makes and it varies in tone, loudness, and frequency from one cat to another. It's a cat's primary way to communicate with humans. Here's what you need to know about meowing:

1. Purpose of Meowing

Cats meow for various reasons. They may be greeting you, asking for food, seeking attention, or indicating that something is wrong.

2. Types of Meows

Meows can range from short, simple sounds to prolonged meows. A high-pitched meow might indicate happiness, while a lower-pitched, more demanding meow may be a sign of annoyance.

3. Frequency of Meowing

Some cats are more vocal than others. Frequent meowing could be a sign that your cat wants more attention or is feeling hungry.

Understanding Cat Yowling

Yowling, on the other hand, is a longer, more drawn-out, and often louder vocalization. It's less common than meowing and usually signifies something more serious. Here's what yowling often indicates:

1. Signs of Distress

Yowling can be a sign of discomfort, pain, or distress. It might indicate that your cat is not feeling well.

2. Mating Calls

In unneutered or unspayed cats, yowling is often associated with mating behaviors.

3. Territorial or Defensive

Cats may yowl when they feel threatened or are in a territorial dispute with another cat.

4. Signs of Aging

Older cats, especially those suffering from cognitive dysfunction syndrome, may yowl out of confusion or frustration.

Key Differences Between Meowing and Yowling

While both are forms of cat communication, there are distinct differences:

Purpose: Meowing is often about day-to-day communication, while yowling is generally more urgent or serious.

Sound: Meows are usually shorter and can be sweet or demanding, while yowls are longer, louder, and more mournful or agonized in tone.

Frequency: Cats may meow frequently for many reasons, but yowling is typically less common and more indicative of something specific and significant.

Responding to Your Cat's Vocalizations

1. Observation

Pay attention to when and where your cat meows or yowls. This can help you identify what they need or want.

2. Check for Discomfort

If your cat is yowling, check for signs of injury or illness, and consult a veterinarian if you're concerned.

3. Meet Basic Needs

Ensure your cat’s basic needs like food, water, and a clean litter box are consistently met. This can reduce frequent meowing.

4. Provide Attention and Stimulation

Regular playtime and interaction can help fulfill your cat's need for attention and reduce excessive meowing or yowling due to loneliness or boredom.

5. Consider Spaying or Neutering

If mating behaviors are causing yowling, spaying or neutering your cat can help.

6. Create a Comfortable Environment

For older cats, keeping a consistent environment and routine can help reduce confusion and anxiety-related yowling.


Meowing and yowling are important aspects of how your cat communicates with you. By understanding the differences between these vocalizations, you can better understand your cat's needs and emotions. Remember, consistent care, regular vet check-ups, and attentive observation are key to maintaining a happy and healthy relationship with your feline friend.