What is Trilling?
You may hear many different and strange sounds coming from your cat. Besides the normal meowing, which in itself can have a variety of twists to it, there’s another vocalization that is called trilling. Other words used to describe these unusual sounds are chirrup, chirping and squeaking. Cats will make a trilling noise when they seem happy to see you or to acknowledge another feline friend. It appears to be a type of greeting in the cat language.
A mother cat also makes this interesting noise around her kittens. Most likely she’s trying to encourage them to stay near her and not wander off.
When your cat is trilling at you, it’s a good thing. It’s like a greeting or an acknowledgment. Sometimes the trilling ends in a higher note, like they are asking you a question or giving you an invitation. The sound is so awesome and cute and it is the closest thing to speech I’ve ever heard! It would be similar to, “Hey! I see you. Do you see me? I’m here. Wanna play? Or pet me? Or will you feed me?” A cat may do this when you walk into a room and she’s saying “hello” to let you know she’s there and is happy to see you. If you’re about to sit down where she’s at, her trill might be saying, “watch out, I’m on the couch, too! Don’t sit on me!”
Amongst themselves, cats will usually communicate using body language more so than vocalizing. The meowing and trilling is directly aimed at humans, although body language is still used to communicate, too, as when they’re rubbing against our legs.
It seems very possible that cats could pick up on our speech mannerisms, tone and volume of our voice. Sometimes when talking to your cat in a higher pitch and with lots of enthusiasm, you can get them to trill. Many cats carry on quite a while trilling and blending in long, drawn-out meows when you interact with them and directly ask them questions. You say something, like, “Jessie-what do you think about that?” She says, “Trill-meow-trill?” You say, “Well I don’t know. Are you a good girl?” She says, “Meoooow-triiiillll-trill!?” And this can go back and forth for many minutes! Congrats! You are fully involved in a human and cat conversation!
Perhaps trilling at us really is as close to actual speech as they can get! So awesome!!
Here’s an audio of Jessie Cat “talking” – a combo of meowing & trilling. And me coaxing her a bit…(possible not all browsers will play this, may need to load first & be sure to crank up the volume!):
Jessie Cat says: I’m always trilling at my human, Gina. Even if she pets me, I’ll trill, besides my normal purring. When it’s time to play at night, around 6:00, I’m very prompt to let her know so she doesn’t forget!
Gina says: It is so adorable hearing her trill! I love it! We “talk” back and forth, taking turns, just like a normal conversation between two humans. It almost freaks me out how “human” her trilling sounds…like actual words! But then again, Jessie Cat does communicate in English as we see by her posts on this site, right?!