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Why Cats Meow Back at You When Talking to Them: 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Oliver Jones

By Oliver Jones

cat meowing

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Social by nature, domesticated cats have many ways to communicate with people, other cats, and animals. Like humans, cats use body language and sounds to communicate their needs and how they’re feeling.

If you’ve ever wondered why your cat meows back at you when you talk to them, we’ve got the answer you need! There are many reasons why cats meow back when they’re talked to, including the following:

hepper cat paw divider

The 6 Reasons Cats Meow Back When You Talk to Them

1. To Acknowledge That You’re Speaking to Them

When you talk to your cat, they probably don’t understand much about what you’re saying, except for a few words they may have learned. They are more focused on the tone of your voice and the attention you are giving them. When you’re chatting away to your cat and they meow back, they may be simply letting you know that they know you’re speaking to them. Their meowing is a way to communicate with you, even though it may not mean anything specific.

2. To Communicate That They’re Hurt

When a cat meows back at you when you’re talking to them, it may be a sign that your cat is feeling some sort of discomfort or pain. This is typically indicated by excessive meowing that sounds more panicky than regular meowing and is followed by other signs of pain and illness.

Maybe your cat has stepped on something that’s stuck in their foot, they have a sore leg, or perhaps they are experiencing urinary or other health issues. Your meowing cat may be trying to tell you that something’s wrong. Therefore, you should check your cat over and get them seen by the vet promptly. A painful or sick cat will also meow when you’re not chatting to them and may be hiding more, limping, becoming withdrawn and lethargic, eating less, or exhibiting other signs of illness.

orange cat meowing
Photo Credit: Piqsels

3. Just to Say Hello

If you arrive home after a long day at work and speak to your cat, they may meow back at you to say hello. Remember that pet cats are social creatures that enjoy human interaction and love. Your cat may be meowing back at you when you say hello to show their happiness that you’re finally home.

4. To Tell You to Fill the Food Bowl

If you speak to your cat when they’re hungry, they may answer with a series of loud meows while following you around intently and rubbing on your legs to tell you their food dish is empty. In this type of situation, your cat may even try to lead you to the food dish to get you to fill it with food.

If you’ve had your cat for a while, you probably recognize the meowing sound they make when they’re hungry. Cats often meow rather dramatically when they want to be fed and many don’t stop meowing until they get food!

American shorthair cat eating
Photo By: Apicha Bas, Shutterstock

5. To Tell You They’re Scared

If you approach an unfamiliar outdoor cat and start talking to them, they may answer with some meows to tell you to back off. Cats often meow when they’re scared to keep themselves safe from perceived danger.

Your pet cat can meow this way too if they’re put into an unfamiliar or stressful situation. For example, your cat can meow to tell you they’re afraid to be in the car or to visit the veterinarian. This type of meowing is often loud and threatening.

6. To Convey They Want to Go Outside

It’s common for a pet cat to answer with a couple of meows when talked to by their owner if that cat wants to be let outside. As independent animals, cats would prefer opening doors themselves but since they can’t, they must tell us humans when they want in or out.

If you’re bothered by your cat’s meowing to be let in or out, consider installing a cat door so your cat can come and go as they like. If you do install a cat door, be aware that other cats can use it too. Don’t be surprised if you find an unfamiliar cat in your kitchen emptying your cat’s food bowl.

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Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why cats meow back when they’re talked to. If your cat does this and you’re not sure why, think about the situation. Have you just arrived home from work? Is your cat’s food bowl empty? Maybe your cat is standing by the door to indicate they want to go outside. It’s not difficult to determine why a cat is meowing back when you talk to them if you simply pay attention to the circumstances!

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Featured Image Credit: Marvin Otto, Pixabay

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