How to Talk to Cats (and Are They Really Listening?)

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Cats can be quite vocal and good at communicating their wants and needs, but do cats like when you talk to them? If you talk and talk but feel like your cat doesn't listen, maybe you're just not speaking the right language. Learn how to talk to cats and tell your kitty how much you care.

How to Speak Cat

Young woman looking at maine coon cat on bedCats don't usually vocalize with one another, saving those meows, trills and chirps for their human companions, says Catster. Their primary language is body language. They speak with their tails, the position of their ears, their posture and even their facial expressions. With that in mind, here are some ways you can get your kitty to understand you.

Match Tone to Command

While cats are fluent in body language, they also understand the tone and pitch of your voice more than your actual words. Using a light, happy voice while telling them to get off the counter or stop scratching will only confuse them into thinking you're pleased with their actions. Match a firm, commanding voice in a lower pitch with commands like "No!" "Stop!" or "Down!" and your kitty will know exactly what you mean. In the same vein, use a higher, happier pitch when praising your kitty, calling them or offering them something exciting like a treat or toy.

Match Gestures to Words

Combining your tone with gestures and motions will really help get your point across. For example, point at the floor or make a downward motion with your hand while commanding your kitty to get off the counter, and wave them toward you or summon them with your index finger while calling them to you.

Be Careful With Eye Contact

Cats don't appreciate a staring contest, says iHeartCats. While they may stare at you to get your attention, returning their stare for too long may be considered a threat. You can tell when your kitty is getting agitated by looking into their eyes; if their pupils become dilated, it can signal excitement or aggression.

Blink for I Love You

While an unblinking stare might be perceived as a threat, closed eyes are a sign of trust between you and your kitty, which to them is the ultimate declaration of love. You can let your kitty know how much they mean to you by making eye contact and slowly closing your eyes for a moment before opening them again.

Imitate Head and Nose Bumps

Another way your kitty shows affection is by bumping you with their head or nose. Gently returning those head bumps is likely to get a purr of pleasure in response. You can initiate a nose bump by extending a knuckle at your cat's level and inviting them to give it a sniff.

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Listening

Talking red cat closeup portrait. The cat is serious and his expression is seriousDo cats like when you talk to them? It likely depends on the message you're sending. But it's not hard to know if they're listening. Here's how to tell if you've made a connection.

  • If your cat returns your head butt and/or rubs their face on you, you'll know they're happy to see you.

  • If your cat turns around and shows you their butt, they're not disrespecting you; it's actually a friendly greeting, says BeChewy.

  • If your kitty responds to your affectionate overtures with a purr, you'll know they understand and return your love.

  • If your kitty returns your slow blink, you'll know they trust you with their life.

  • If your cat bites, scratches, growls or twitches their tail in agitation, you'll know they don't like whatever you're doing, or they're becoming overstimulated and need space.

  • If your cat responds to baby talk with their own vocalizations, it's an invitation to keep the conversation going.

  • If your kitty rolls over and exposes their tummy, it's not an invitation for a belly rub, but it could be a sign that they're comfortable enough to be vulnerable with you.

Now that you know how to talk to cats, it's time to try out what you've learned on your own feline friend, who will no doubt be surprised and delighted when you start speaking their love language.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a freelance writer and blogger who has been writing in the pet health and lifestyle space since 2014. Her clients have included Hill's Pet, American Kennel Club, Chewy, and more.