Why do cats chatter and what does it mean?

If you have ever noticed your cat sitting by the window, making strange and rather disturbing noises, you have witnessed what is known as chatter. Why do cats chatter, what does it mean, and is it dangerous?

Cats are wonderful, but if they chatter it's time to run!
Cats are wonderful, but if they chatter it's time to run!  © Unsplash/Farzan Lelinwalla

Cats communicate in a vast variety of different ways, some more frightening than others. Chief among the more disturbing of their communication methods is chattering, an odd rumbling that's often combined with a great deal of aggression and angst. It starts as a bit of a chitter, a chirp, but can escalate quickly. What on Earth is this all about?

In this cat guide, TAG24 will take a look at why cats chatter. Why is your kitty making weird chittering and chattering noises? Why does it chatter when it sees a bird, or me? Should I be worried? Let's take a look.

Chattering and chittering cats: Why is my cat making weird noises?

There are a variety of noises likely to emanate from your cat, some pleasant and some profoundly unpleasant. These noises will either shock you, fill you with joy or bring you a strong feeling of anxiety and fear. When it comes to chattering it is, usually, the latter feeling.

Cats chatter, chitter, chortle, and chirp as a hunting mechanism. It's a very strange noise, and you'd think that it would give their position away, but it's an indication that they're about to attack something - whether that be you or another animal.

Don't be mistaken: Cat chirping is a very specific noise and will be rather obvious. Some cats will, however, make short and strange noises that are not considered chitters.

Here are a few examples of cat chirping for you to check out and familiarize yourself with:

Why do cats chatter?

There are a variety of different reasons and situations in which a cat will chatter. They do, however, all have one thing in common: Violence. Cat chattering is a hunting instinct that gets aroused during certain situations. It generally means that it is either going to lash out due to frustration or anger or is hunting something and is about to attack.

Here are the most common reasons why cats chatter:

  • Your cat may chatter at the window when it sees another animal, such as a bird or squirrel, that it cannot reach but wants to hunt.
  • A cat will chatter when it is actively hunting, usually indicating that it's about to leap on its prey.
  • Cats will chatter at their owners when they feel particularly irritated, when they have been hurt, or when something is making them increasingly uncomfortable.
  • Our cats are very territorial animals. While they won't "hunt" other cats, they will chatter at them as an angry warning to stay away.

Chattering is, in itself, harmless. Your cat is feeling a very intense emotion and is expressing those feelings through the noise it makes. It's the behaviors and actions surrounding the chatter that matter, not the sound itself.

Why do cats chatter at birds?

Cats will chatter at birds because they see them as prey and want to hunt them. You'll also notice that cat chattering will occur when mice or other small rodents appear, so basically whenever your cat gets on the chase. Chattering and chirping are often used to mimic the sounds of their prey as they hunt and have evolutionary roots from when they were wild animals.

It's not just about tactics, though, because cats will also chatter at birds out of excitement or anticipation. While this doesn't make a lot of sense (you're kind of giving yourself away, bro), it's unbelievably cute, so we won't fault these fluffy little hunters for this particular behavior. Leaving a rat on the doorstep, though? Yeah, maybe not.

Why does my cat chatter at me?

Have you been poking your cat? Are you being an unbelievably annoying human? Cats will chatter out of anger as a way to warn you that if you don't stop whatever it is you're doing, they'll go on the offensive. As a result, if you ever hear your cat chattering while you hold it or pet it, take a step away and leave it to its own devices for a little while.

There are many things that can trigger your cat to get upset with you and start chattering. It's important to notice why it's doing this and whether things have been particularly unusual as of late. If your kitty has never chattered and is now doing it whenever you pet it, maybe take it to the vet - your cat could have an injury and is chattering at you because it hurts when you give it a cuddle.

Cat chattering and chirping can indicate anger, or just the need to hunt.
Cat chattering and chirping can indicate anger, or just the need to hunt.  © Unsplash/Ariana Su├írez

Cat chattering, chirping, clicking, and drooling can be dangerous

Be careful of a chattering cat because it's not feeling particularly calm. A chatter is a sign of danger, a sign of anger, a sign that it's about to practice its hunting instinct. You want to take a step back and walk away if you're patting your cat and it starts chattering because it could attack you.

On the flip side, if your cat is chattering at another animal, then it is quite likely to attack that animal. As a result, you should either remove the other animal or remove your cat from the situation. Chattering cats are dangerous! Keep an eye and an ear out for them!

Cover photo: Unsplash/Farzan Lelinwalla

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