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Why Do Cats Chatter? What Does It Mean When They Do It?

Why Do Cats Chatter? What Does It Mean When They Do It?

Understanding your pet’s language can be quite a challenge. They don’t see the world the same way as us humans. And their way of communicating or expressing themselves is also very different from ours.

Chattering is a normal predatory instinct behavior of cats. It translates to excitement when watching a possible prey for them to hunt, like a bird or a squirrel through a window. There is nothing wrong with that behavior.

We must never forget that our pets are the result of years and years of evolution. They are not today what they were in the very, very long past. They had ancestors, and those ancestors behaved according to what nature was back then. They had to come up with different ways to act in order to survive. It may not make sense to us right now, but I’m sure that it served a purpose back then.

What Is Cat Chatter?


The word “chatter” indicates “meaningless sounds.” The sound of chattering is hard to explain in writing, but this may help: it is an intermittent sound, like vibrating but not like a cellphone. They do it with their teeth. Do not confuse it with the sound of “purring.” That one is more internal. Chattering is like what we do when we are cold and shivering. Cats make little noises also when that “shivering” is occurring. Their eyes are fixed on watching the prey. Their attention is focused on what they are watching.

Chattering is not a bad thing. It happens a lot in front of the window because they cannot get closer to the prey. Just imagine, if they could approach the target, they would. But, since the window is blocking their way, they just stay still looking at that tasty snack on the other side. That snack can be a fly, a squirrel, a bird, a mouse, a fish, or whatever the like.

Twittering or chittering is another terminology used to describe that behavior. They mean the same thing: A prey is on sight.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Chatters At You?

Suppose you are having a great time playing with your cat, with his favorite toys (that furry, stuffed, grey mouse), and you notice that he chatters at you while you are holding the toy. In that case, there is nothing to be worried about. But be sure to keep an eye on him because that hunting instinct is about to kick in. He loves you, and he is not going to hurt you, but if he charges at the toy, and you are in the way, well, do the math. Instincts cannot be turned off. Lay off the playtime at that moment until he calms down.

Why Does My Cat’s Mouth Chatter?


Upon searching for some answers on that topic, I came across a few. Some are quite scientific. So, although I am not sure if you care about the inner workings and “wiring” of cats, here is what I discovered:

Marilyn Krieger, “the cat coach,” said that it might be caused by neurotransmitters, like dopamine, or the hormone cortisol/adrenaline that is discharged into the system. Additionally, “frustration” may cause chattering because the cat cannot get to the prey. Most of the time, when they do that, they don’t have the range to get to the target. And it makes a lot of sense. When felines are hunting or stalking, they stay as silent as possible because they don’t want the prey to hear them coming their way.

In his book on feline behavior, Desmond Morris, a British anthropologist, says that it is a “vacuum activity” and occurs when the animal cannot perform the hunting activity.

Chattering usually is pretty harmless, and it’s necessary to make sure your pet isn’t salivating and doing it frequently. It could point to a health problem. Check with your vet if you see your cat is chattering its teeth a lot.

Another theory is that chattering comes from the cat’s instinct, which goes deeply into his bloodline. Cats will regularly imitate the sounds of their prey outside the window. The study finds that when your feline chatters at them outside, like a bird, it may be trying to deceive them to get closer without scaring them. Amazing, right?

A reflex motion is another possibility as a cause for chattering in a cat. Animal behaviorists have related a cat’s chattering to hunting. In the Amazon forest of Brazil, fieldwork perceived that the wild cats were able to imitate the call of monkeys, almost fooling them. Likewise, your cat will chatter as part of his hunting tactics.

Do All Cats Chatter?

Cats make all types of noises, depending on the situations they find themselves in. Some of those noises are to communicate with us, the owners (or slaves). All cats chatter. It is an intuitive noise, so it is programmed in the software of their minds long before they are even born. Remember, they are carnivores, and carnivores are killing machines. They may be cute, fluffy, and beautiful, but their nature is to eat meat. And meat comes from living creatures.

Other Cats Noises


Let us clarify the difference between cats’ noises, so we don’t confuse them:

  • Meowing is multi-purpose; your cat may be using a “meow” as a command, a greeting, an objection, or an announcement. Some people have observed their cats walking around meowing to themselves. That’s the equivalent of speaking to oneself in the human world or thinking out loud.
  • Chirps and trills are how a mommy cat tells her little kittens to follow them. If you get chirped or trilled, it can mean your pet wants you to follow them, usually to their food plate. Clever! If you own several cats, you’ll frequently hear them talk with each other this way.
  • Purring is usually is a sign of comfort. Kitties purr whenever they feel happy, even if they’re eating. However, a cat can purr if sick or anxious, using their purr to calm themselves.
  • Growling, spitting, or hissing means the cat is aggressive, frightened, annoyed, or angry. Back off.
  • A howl or yowl is like loud, drawn-out meows and communicates distress, pain, stuck somewhere, or looking for us. Find your cat if you hear this noise.

In unaltered cats, they usually make those sounds as part of their mating behavior. However, if your cat is old, the howl may be disorientated. Dementia or a cognitive disorder may be in place in those cases.


Chattering is not a bad behavior of cats. It is just instinctive. Most of the time, it happens when they see a possible prey but cannot reach them, or maybe they make those noises to make the prey feel less frightened and doesn’t run away.

Always look for possible out-of-the-ordinary behaviors of your cat. Excessive chattering may be a sign of something else that is related to the health of your pet. So, it is a great idea to go to the vet if you see something that might worry you. Not every hour of every day, our cat is supposed to chatter. Remember, it is just when they see prey. If they are alone and there is no prey in sight, chattering is not supposed to happen. So, watch very closely and ask the vet. Record a video and send it for evaluation.

Now, go play with your cat it is one of the most satisfying things on this planet.

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