Cat Trilling: Why Do Some Cats Trill and Others Don’t?

Cats aren’t a one-noise-fits-all type of critter. As any cat parent knows, they’re quite the opposite. Along with the regular meow, cats may purr, cry, hiss, yowl, growl, and trill. Especially vocal kitties may even have a combination of any of these. Why do cats need so many different ways of expressing themselves? Just like us, the noises that they make convey emotions, and promote socialization. To further understand this, let’s look deeper into why cats trill.

What is a Cat Trill?

If we were to put the cat trill in terms of human sounds, it would be like rolling your r’s, think the Spanish words “arriba” or “tierra”. It requires pushing air through the vocal cords while the mouth is shut, causing the tongue to vibrate. Some characterize it as a cross between a meow and a purr. If you’re still having a hard time picturing a cat trill, check out this video.

Where Does Cat Trilling Come From?

Like most young animals, cats learn to make the majority of their noises from their mothers. Mother cats use trills or chirps to get their kittens’ attention so that they will follow her, come get lunch, snuggle in, etc. Kittens then start to mimic these sounds and put them to use with other animals and their humans as well as they grow.

What Does Cat Trilling Mean?

Most of the time cats use trilling as a positive noise and as a form of greeting. “Hello”, “How are ya?” or even “Hey, over here!” Trilling will usually be in combination with some form of body language, such as rubbing against you or moving away while looking back at you. They may also use it as a way to show pleasure in your company or your affection. You may notice that your kitty trills more when you just get home or when it’s time for dinner and their bowl hasn’t yet been filled.

Trilling can also be a comforting noise to cats, reminding them of their kittenhood. Similar to the kneading behavior, trilling is a familiar noise that helps give cats that safe and comfy feeling of being taken care of by their mother and sleeping in a pile of their brothers and sisters.

Why Do Some Cats Trill and Others Don’t?

The chattier a cat is in general, the more likely they are to trill. Trilling is usually left for those social butterflies that are constantly seeking attention or affection from you or other critters. Shy, quiet cats may choose to use meowing, rather than trilling, as a more succinct way of getting what they need.

Trilling may also depend on your cat’s mood. If they’re happy, excited, or content, they may use trilling as their form of communication, whereas if they’re upset or scared, they may choose to yowl or meow.
If your cat doesn’t trill, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them. Just like there are some people that choose to skip down the street while others walk, the use of trilling is all based on personality.

Should You Try to Stop Your Cat From Trilling?

Since trilling is usually considered a happy, positive noise, there is no reason to stop it. The only time it would become a concern is if your cat is trilling constantly and not in response to anything in particular. As cats age, they can experience similar issues to dementia and may trill due to disorientation or frustration. If your older kitty seems to be experiencing symptoms of dementia, including incessant trilling, visit with your veterinarian for ways that you can possible slow the progression and make them feel more comfortable.

Should You Trill Back to Your Cat?

You may find it easy to converse with your trilling kitty and don’t be afraid to respond. Since trilling means that a kitty is in a happy, social mood they may welcome a trilling response or just some upbeat conversation and petting. While cats may not understand individual words, they do get tone and body language and if kept positive is a great way to bond with them.

Trilling is one of many noises in a cat’s conversational arsenal that allows them to express their emotions with you and with other animals. As compared to meowing, trilling should be seen as a purely positive noise that your cat uses as a greeting or way of getting attention. Choosing to respond to your trilling kitty can be a great way to cement that animal-human bond for a lifelong friendship.

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