The real reason your cat is ‘chirping’ at birds (and you)

If your cat loves to watch birds through the window, then you may have heard him chirping. His tail flicks, his eyes get wide, he focuses in on his prey, and then he starts this soft series of chirps. Chirping, also called chattering, is an unusual sound, and it’s quite unlike your cat’s typical meow. Some cats chirp more than others, and if you’ve never heard your cat chirp before, that’s not all that unusual. If your cat does chirp, though, it’s natural to wonder what’s behind it and whether you should be concerned. So why do cats chirp, and what do these noises mean?

Young kitten on a log chirping

How to recognize when your cat chirps

When cats chirp, it sounds like they’re almost mimicking a bird. They often make a short series of peeps or trills, and the sound seems to come from the back of their throats. Some cats chirp while barely opening their mouths, while others develop more of an openmouthed chatter style.

Whatever your cat’s style, his chirping probably comes in a series of sounds, and it’s clearly directed at something — a bird, a toy, or even you. Chirping is a quieter noise, almost an under-the-breath sound, but it’s so unusual that it’s likely to catch your attention when you hear it.

Why do cats chirp?

As with many cat behaviors, we’re still trying to understand exactly why cats chirp. However, cats seem to chirp out of excitement.

You can understand this when you watch your cat’s body language when he’s chirping. Chances are, his eyes are wide and focused on something, and he may have stretched his head out, trying to get a better view of what’s going on. You might notice that your cat flicks his tail, and he might crouch down and tense his body. There’s intense focus behind this behavior.

If your cat chirps when he sees you, he may be greeting you or trying to get your attention. You’ll probably notice those same body signs of eagerness and focus, but your cat might be slightly more relaxed, walking around or even rubbing against your legs. He may be chirping to say hi or hoping to get you to feed him or play with him.

Orange and white cat looking up and chirping

How to react when your cat is chirping

When your cat is chirping at you, the best thing you can do is to try to figure out what he wants. He might want you to pat him or pay attention to him, and he’ll probably reward this behavior by purring and walking around you in circles. Some cats may chirp because they’re hungry and are trying to prompt you to get out the cat food. Try reacting in a number of ways and see if what you do satisfies your cat.

If your cat is chirping at birds frequently, he may be excited by their presence and frustrated by the fact that he can’t get outdoors to hunt them. Some cats will go as far as to stalk their prey and attempt to pounce on them through the window.

Not being able to satisfy his natural hunting instinct can be frustrating for indoor-only cats, so consider finding ways to help your cat “hunt” inside. Toys that squeak and have different textures and movements can help pique your cat’s interest. Playing with toys on a string can give your cat a good workout, helping to keep him healthy and entertained. Even getting a second cat can encourage your cat to stay active, providing him with a playmate to run around the house with.

If your cat is chirping, it isn’t a bad thing. He’s communicating, whether that’s with you or with the birds outside the window. Cats use noises to convey all sorts of different things, and in most cases, a cat who is chirping is excited or trying to get your attention. If you’re trying to understand why your cat chirps, spend some time watching him and pay attention to his body language. The more carefully you observe your cat, the more you’ll learn about his behavior. You might find that your cat is chirping because he wants something specific, and by playing with him, interacting with him, or even feeding him, you’ll be giving him just what he wants.

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