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Why Do Cats Chatter?

why do cats chatter

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You’re probably very familiar with the sight of your cat sitting at the window and watching the birds outdoors. Your cat’s tail may begin lashing from side to side and he may even crouch down at the window, almost as if he’s going to spring through the glass and pounce on the unsuspecting bluejay. It’s then that you hear that sound – the little chattering noise that comes from your cat. It looks and sounds as though your cat is talking to himself, but what is he really doing? Is he talking to the bird? Why do cats chatter when they spot prey?

Different Theories Behind Cat Chattering

There are a few theories behind the chattering and chirping sound that comes from your kitty. Some experts believe it may be connected to the frustration he feels from not being able to get to the prey. It’s also believed the chattering is merely a reflex motion in anticipation of performing the killing bite to the prey’s neck. Another theory is that it’s purely how the cat controls his over-the-top excitement at spotting the bird. So I guess you can take your pick when it comes to the reason your kitty engages in the behavior. There are some mysteries cats insist on keeping to themselves and chattering is one of them.


Does Your Cat Chatter?

If your cat sits at the window and chatters while watching the birds, you can take advantage of his excitement by engaging him in an interactive play session. That way, he’ll actually get to “capture” his prey. Additionally, if the reason behind the chattering is based on frustration, if you conduct a play session it will change the situation from frustrating to fulfilling.

Need More Information?

For more specific information on cat training, cat communication or cat behavior problems, refer to any of the books by best-selling author Pam Johnson-Bennett, including the latest release, CatWise. Pam’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online book retail site and also here on our website.

Pam's books are referred to as the cat bibles by behavior experts, veterinarians and cat parents worldwide

We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to comments. If you have questions about your cat’s behavior you can find many answers in the books by Pam Johnson-Bennett as well as in the articles on our website. If your cat is displaying a change in behavior, contact your veterinarian because there may be an underlying medical cause. This article is not intended to be a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care.



One Response to Why Do Cats Chatter?

  1. I would like to offer an alternative hypothesis based on observations of my four cats, particularly two new cats we rescued … a brother and a sister. They are one year old right now and have been together since birth. My hypothesis is that cats, particularly young sibling cats, learn to hunt together and use the chatter to draw a sibling’s attention to potential prey, without alerting that prey.
    When the new cats were acclimated to their surroundings, one would sit at a window and make small chattering sounds. Her sibling at first would come over to inspect his sister. After a half-dozen repetitions, however, her sibling stopped coming to investigate.
    Later, I stood looking out the window and tried to imitate the small chatter sound the sister had made. Both cats immediately came to inspect the area. After seeing nothing of interest, they departed. Days later, I did the same, and only the sister came, saw nothing, and departed. Now neither will respond when I randomly chatter.
    Except one other time. A moth was flying close to the ground in the kitchen. Both cats were stalking it. It flew above the ground and began flying over the counter. I could tell from the cat’s behavior that they had lost sight of the moth. After a minute of watching the moth, making sure both cats could notice my behavior of intense focus, I chattered softly twice. The sister immediately bounded onto the counter, located the moth, and ate it.
    So my hypothesis is, again, that chatter is a young cat’s behavior to draw other littermates to potential prey. Just as they normally stop meowing when they near adulthood the chatter may represent the same type of behavior, but for a different purpose: group (pride) hunting instincts that they outgrow. Hence the chatter is not common with many domestic cats when they begin to develop individual hunting behavior.