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Cat growls: what does that mean?

Cat growls: what does that mean?


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When a cat growls, it wants to express something, but what? Cats communicate in different ways. In addition to body language, you also use a variety of vocalizations. The growl is very versatile and can mean several things. Quiet, tiger! Why is it so annoying? Cats growl when they are annoyed - Shutterstock / gabigaasenbeek

Not only dogs, but cats growl too. The sound does not really seem to match the cute velvet paws - but the growl is a diverse and, above all, important form of communication that can sometimes save lives in the wild.

When cats growl, they narrow their eyes, sometimes show their teeth a little, and put their ears back. But why exactly do the four-legged friends behave like this? Here are five possible answers:

1. Growl as a warning and deterrent

Growling in cats can be seen as a preliminary step to attack, i.e. as part of threatening behavior. This is important in the wild, for example, when the cat mom wants to signal to her cubs that a predator is coming and the little ones should quickly go back to hiding.

At home, a cat may growl when the doorbell rings and someone is at the door - such as the postman - and senses an enemy in it. With growls, cats warn both their peers and their owners.

Growling can also serve as a deterrent, so to speak as a spacer - for example, when eating, when cats want to have the food for themselves, true to the motto: paws away!

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2. Growl out of fear and surprise

The growl out of fear and surprise, like the growl as a warning signal, is motivated by a possible danger. If your fur nose suddenly faces a dog or a strange person, it can become so frightened that growling is an instinctive fear reaction. She then goes on the defensive and shows this to the other person with growling noises.

A growl as a result of a stressful situation is also conceivable. If the cat has no way to escape from a situation, it sometimes reacts with this behavior.

In the following video, for example, you can see a cat who is at least worried and unsettled, possibly also scared:

3. Annoyed growl

Cats growl even when they're annoyed. Similar to a "growling person" who is annoyed by others, a cat can express its displeasure or bad mood by growling.

For example, if you wake up your kitty while she's in her beauty sleep, growling is a possible reaction to the awkward awakening. Your cat may also be expressing this when petting. Then it may be that she may simply not feel like your caresses at the moment.

Some cats growl even when they know or suspect something unpleasant is about to happen - for example, a visit to the vet. For example, the cat in the video growls because she apparently doesn't want to give up her toy:

4. Growl as a method of education

Many cats growl even when they raise their kittens or want to measure them. Young cats sometimes do a lot of nonsense, go into danger or stick their noses somewhere where they don't belong. Mama cat can get uncomfortable and tell her bullies by growling that she is not at all happy about their behavior.

5. Growl while sleeping

In cats, sleep takes up a large part of their day. As soon as the velvet paws make noises such as purring, chewing or smacking, they can growl in the meantime - also in connection with twitching or wriggling movements. All of this is only an indication that your cat is most likely dreaming in sleep.

What if none of this applies to your cat?

Caution! If your cat growls more often without you being able to see a reason for it, it can do no harm to have her checked by the vet. She may be in pain or sick and cannot show it otherwise.

If a physical cause can be excluded, your cat may have mental distress - a cat psychologist can then help.


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