Cat Trilling: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

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Captivating image capturing a cat's exhilarating thrill in the moment.

Cats are not shy about sharing their feelings. They don’t always show the same loyalty and affection that dogs do, but many households aren’t complete without cats. Maybe the reason we are so bonded to them is because of their desire to communicate with us.

What Is a Trill?

As the name implies, a trill is a musical, high-pitched sound. To produce a trill, a cat keeps his mouth closed and pushes air through the vocal cords.

The result is a short and pleasant vocalization. The trill can sound almost like a bird and is sometimes called a chirp. Some people describe a trill as a sound between a meow and a purr.

Kittens learn to trill at a young age. The queen (mother kitten) uses a trill to communicate to her kittens, initially when she is nursing them as a way to show affection and to provide comfort. As they are weaned, she uses a trill or a chirp to gain their attention so they will follow her. Kittens learn to mimic the queen at a young age and trill at each other.

Why Do Cats Trill?

Cats share their feelings in many ways, using their ears, eyes, tail, body posture, and through sounds. Domestic cats are capable of producing twenty-one different vocalizations. The trill is a favorite of many cat lovers.

What Does It Mean When Your Cat Trills?

Image of a cat hissing and displaying signs of agitation.

Unlike a meow, which can have a positive or negative meaning depending on the cat’s mood, cats usually only trill to convey a positive emotion, such as affection or happiness. Your cat may trill to tell you to continue to pet her.

Also Read: 6 Subtle Signs Your Cat Loves You

Trilling is a polite way to gain your attention. It can be your kitty’s way to say hello or to remind you that it’s time to fill the food bowl.

One of my favorite patients Ralphie is usually a very quiet and stoic kitty. But when his mom pulls out her phone and starts playing YouTube videos of birds at a bird feeder, Ralphie’s voice comes to life!

His pupils widen, his ears spring forward, and he starts chirping and trilling. His adorable little noises always brighten our day. In Ralphie’s case, he is vocalizing his excitement over seeing his potential prey. Many cats do make a chirping sound followed by a trill when they watch out the window. Like Ralphie, they are eagerly anticipating a hunt.

Every cat is unique and has their own way of expressing their emotions and communicating with us. Not every kitty will trill. But if you are lucky and your cat does trill at you, it usually means they are happy and they love you (or at least like you a lot) so you are doing something right.

Why Do Cats Trill When You Touch Them?

Cats trill when touched as a sign of contentment and affection. The trilling sound is a way for cats to express pleasure and acknowledge the positive interaction. It’s often seen as a form of communication between a cat and its owner, indicating a sense of comfort and happiness.

Why Do Cats Trill at Each Other?

Cats might trill at each other as a friendly and communicative behavior. It serves as a social signal within the feline community, expressing camaraderie, affection, or a desire for interaction. Trilling can strengthen social bonds and facilitate positive interactions between cats in a group or between feline companions.

What Does a Cat Trill Sound Like?

A cat trill typically sounds like a high-pitched, chirping sound that combines a meow with a purr. It is a friendly and expressive vocalization often used by cats to communicate excitement, happiness, or to get their owner’s attention

Frequently Asked Questions

Which cat breeds that trill?

Trilling is not unique for any particular cat breeds.

Why does my cat trill when i touch her?

Cats usually only trill to convey a positive emotion, such as affection or happiness. Your cat may trill to tell you to continue to pet her.

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About Jennifer Shepherd, DVM

Jennifer Shepherd received her doctorate of veterinary medicine from Colorado State University in 2000. She completed a small animal medicine and surgery internship at the Ontario Veterinary College before entering private practice Dr. Shepherd owns Cloquet Animal Hospital in Northern Minnesota where she practices full time. In her free time she enjoys writing, photography, running and spending time with her husband, three children, two dogs, and one spoiled cat. She is pictured here with her best running dog Apollo, a Portuguese Water Dog who can’t swim but loves playing in snow.

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