Cat Trilling: Why They Do It

icon March 25, 2024

Cat trilling, a captivating sound made by our feline companions, serves as a unique form of communication that extends beyond the common meows, purrs, and hisses that many cat owners are accustomed to. This melodious, chirping sound, which can resemble a roll of the tongue, holds various meanings and purposes in the cat world. Understanding why cats trill can deepen the bond between cats and their human caretakers, offering insights into their needs, desires, and emotional states.

cat trilling

Why Do Cats Trill?

  • Greeting: One of the most common reasons cats trill is to greet their humans or feline friends. It's their way of saying "hello" or expressing happiness to see someone.
  • Attention-seeking: Cats may try to get your attention, whether they require food, want to play, or simply desire some affection. It's a polite request or invitation for interaction.
  • Motherly communication: Mother cats often trill at their kittens to get their attention or call them back. It's a nurturing sound that guides the kittens' behavior and helps keep them close.
  • Expressing contentment: Trilling can also be a sign that your cat is content and comfortable in their environment. It's a way for them to express their satisfaction and comfort.

What Does Cat Trilling Sound Like?

Cat trilling is a unique vocalization that sounds like a blend between a purr and a meow, characterized by a series of high-pitched, chirp-like noises. It's made with the mouth closed or slightly open, differing from a meow which is usually emitted with the mouth open. Trills can vary in pitch and duration but generally have a rolling, melodic quality to them, somewhat reminiscent of a bird's chirp or a gentle roll of "rrr" sounds.

What Breed of Cats Trill?

While trilling is a behavior observed across many cat breeds, certain breeds are more known for their vocalizations, including trilling, chirping, and other unique sounds. Here's a look at some of the breeds known for their trilling:

Is Trilling and Purring the Same Thing?

Trilling and purring are not the same thing; they are distinct vocalizations that serve different purposes and are produced differently by cats.

Purring: This is a continuous, soft, vibrating sound that cats make, often when they're content, comfortable, or sometimes even when in pain or distress. It's believed to be a self-soothing behavior and is produced both during inhalation and exhalation. Purring involves the rapid movement of the muscles within a cat's larynx (voice box), combined with movement of the diaphragm. The exact mechanism and all purposes of purring are still not fully understood, but it is closely associated with moments of contentment and calmness.

Trilling: Trilling is a vocalization that sounds like a cross between a meow and a purr, characterized by a series of high-pitched, chirpy noises. Unlike purring, trilling is a form of communication directed at humans or other cats, often used as a greeting, a call for attention, or an expression of happiness. It's produced with a closed or slightly open mouth and is more articulate than purring, intended to communicate specific intentions or emotions.

Cats Have Many Sounds

  • Meowing: This is perhaps the most recognized cat sound. Adult cats use meows primarily to communicate with humans, not with other cats.
  • Purring: Often signifies contentment and may also be used by a cat to soothe itself when it's nervous or in pain. Purring involves the rapid movement of the muscles within a cat's larynx, combined with the movement of the diaphragm. 
  • Trilling: A trill sounds like a cross between a purr and a meow, and it's often used as a friendly greeting or when a cat is excited. 
  • Chirping or Chattering: Cats make this sound when they're watching birds or other prey but are unable to reach them. It's thought to indicate excitement and possibly frustration at not being able to hunt.
  • Hissing and Growling: These sounds are signs of fear, aggression, or territoriality. A hiss is a warning sound, telling someone to back off, while a growl can be a sign of deep discontent or a threat.
  • Yowling: This is a long, drawn-out moan that is usually a mating call or a sign of distress. It's more intense than a meow and can indicate pain, discomfort, or anxiety.

cat trilling

Cat Trilling All The Time: Should You Worry?

If your cat is trilling all the time, it's usually not a cause for immediate concern, especially if this behavior is typical for your cat and they seem happy and healthy otherwise. Trilling is generally considered a positive sound, indicating that your cat is content, excited, or wants to communicate with you or other pets in the household. However, there are a few scenarios where increased vocalization, such as constant trilling, might warrant a closer look:

  • Change in Behavior: If your cat suddenly starts trilling much more than usual without any apparent reason, it could be trying to tell you something. A change in behavior always deserves attention, as cats are adept at hiding discomfort or illness.
  • Seeking Attention: Constant trilling might indicate that your cat is seeking more attention or stimulation. This could be a sign that they're bored and could benefit from more interactive playtime or toys to keep them engaged.
  • Health Issues: While trilling is typically a happy sound if it's accompanied by other symptoms or changes in behavior (such as decreased appetite, lethargy, or changes in bathroom habits), it's a good idea to consult a vet. Cats are good at masking illness, so behavior changes can be one of the first signs that something is off.
  • Stress or Anxiety: Increased vocalization can sometimes indicate stress or anxiety. If there have been recent changes in your home (like a move, new pet, or loss of a companion), your cat might be expressing its unease through more frequent trilling.


Why Does My Cat Trill When I Pet Her?

Here are a few reasons your cat might trill when you pet her:

  • Expressing Pleasure: Just like purring, trilling can be a way for cats to show they're enjoying something, in this case, the physical affection you're giving them. It's a sign that your petting is hitting the right spot!
  • Encouragement: If she trills when you pet her in a particular spot or in a certain way, she might be saying, "Yes, more of that, please!"

Why Does My Cat Trill and Run Away?

When your cat trills and then runs away, it can be a playful behavior or an invitation for you to follow or engage in a game. This action is not just a random quirk but part of the complex language cats use to communicate with us and other animals. 

Can I Train My Cat to Trill on Command?

While cats can learn to associate certain actions or cues with specific behaviors, such as trilling, it's important to remember that cats are independent creatures and may not always comply with training commands. Patience and positive reinforcement are key.

Why Do Cats Trill at Each Other?

Cats trill at each other as a form of communication, and this behavior serves various purposes in their interactions. Trilling is a friendly, non-threatening sound. When a cat encounters another cat, trilling can be a way to communicate peaceful intentions. It helps to reduce potential hostility and assures the other cat that they are not looking for a fight.

Why Do Cats Trill When They Jump?

When cats trill while jumping, it's part of their complex communication system and expresses their emotions or intentions. Here are some possible explanations for why cats trill when they jump:

  • Excitement
  • Attention-Seeking
  • Communication


Cat trilling is a delightful and expressive form of communication that offers a glimpse into the emotional and social world of cats. By understanding and responding to their trills, cat owners can enhance their relationship with their feline friends, ensuring a deeper mutual understanding and connection. So the next time your cat trills at you, remember it's their special way of engaging with you, filled with affection and trust.

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