Cat Sanctuary

The Silent Meow

Mona – the silent meow – MM

Mona and Jinx are two long-haired girls who came to the Cat Sanctuary from another shelter this past January and, until just recently, I couldn’t tell one from the other. Although Jinx has tabby colouring and Mona is a tortie, they’re both little, friendly and long-haired and hang out in the Front Courtyard, around or inside the little building known as Connor House.

Jinx – MM

And, they’re both darn cute, more so because they frequently do the “silent meow” thing – they look at you earnestly, their little mouths gape open and it looks like they’re meowing but with the sound turned off. For some reason, this makes them look particularly cute and appealing.

Booster yelling – MM

Most cats have audible meows and a few, like Booster, make their presence known by yelling, loudly and persistently, to get attention so I wondered why, and how, Jinx and Mona are silent meow-ers.

Jinx the sun-worshipper – BC

Upon consulting “Dr. Google”, I found the scientific explanation of how some cats meow silently. Apparently, the cat is actually making a sound but at a frequency which mere human beings can’t hear – we can hear up to a measly 20 kilohertz only, while cats can hear sounds of a much higher frequency than that.  So, if a silent-meowing feline wants to tell another feline to shove off, their intention is just as clear to the intruder as if it were screeched. Okay, so that explained how they do it but didn’t tell me why.

Mona – PH

Dr. Google goes on at length with the many reasons why cats meow, silently or otherwise – they want food, attention, to be let out and then immediately back in, are annoyed or in pain or just want to greet you. However, if your cat makes a habit of using a silent meow to communicate with you, it’s possibly because it’s just clever and manipulative enough to know how adorable that looks and is taking full advantage of that to get what it wants. Fluffy or Tom-Tom quickly figure out what’s going to be most effective to get their people to hop to it and do things their way. And if it works, they’ll keep doing it.

Mona dozing in the sun – BC

Dr. Google concludes by saying that if your precious cat really wants something from you and wants it now, it probably won’t hesitate to let you know, one way or another. Playing cute, for example with a silent meow if the cat do it, pretty much guarantees a positive result.

Piper hopes for a tidbit – MM

Having done the on-line research, it was time to do some practical work – a walk around the sanctuary was called for, with eyes open for silent meows. It’s interesting how meow-free the place usually is – cats are not vocal in the way dogs are, and cat-noise is the exception rather than the rule. There are a few cats with particularly distinctive voices – Gabby lives up to his name, and Desi can be heard through the back area when he decides to talk. But yes, there are a few silent-meow-ers: Freckles is noted for her voiceless yell for chicken and cute little Orlean uses it to get attention.

Freckles sees chicken coming; Orlean says “Pet me now!” – MW

Owners of particularly yappy cats might welcome one that meows silently but it seems to be an on again-off again thing. Jinx and Mona can, and do, meow loudly when they want to get someone’s attention for an important message like “Feed me, now!” or “Why aren’t you picking me up?” but for sheer cuteness appeal, they can really work that silent meow.

Blog by Marianne Moore
Pictures by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Marianne Moore, Michele Wright