Why Do Cats Meow at Strangers?

Key Points

  • Cats meow to communicate their needs or wants to their owners or other humans.

  • Kittens meow to their mothers but use other vocalizations to communicate when they get older.

  • When properly socialized, cats meow at strangers because they trust humans based on past experiences.

Your feline friend exhibits lots of peculiar behaviors. Cat lovers often try to debunk these interesting antics to give better insight into the feline mind. You know that cats emit a wide array of noises to get your attention and the attention of others.

One thing that many cats seem to do is meow at strangers. But, if you've ever wondered why cats meow at strangers, the answer is in this article — along with some other interesting information about cats to let you better understand them.

Why Do Cats Meow?

Your cat's meow is one of the most powerful tools at their disposal. The main reason cats meow is to capture their human's undivided attention. Their meow tells their owner they want or need something. Many argue that cats don't meow at other cats and also that feral cats don't meow.

Sandy Eckstein writes for Fetch by WebMD about why cats meow. Eckstein says, "Kittens meow to their mothers when they're hungry, cold, or scared. But once cats get older, they use other vocalizations — such as yowling, hissing, and growling — to communicate with each other. Meowing is reserved for their communications with people."

Although this may be true of most cats, there are exceptions. There also may be arguments over what to consider a meow versus a yowl or other warning signs given by one cat to another in the wild.

It's generally accepted that the vast majority of cat meows are for human ears — and cats know how to tweak those meows in a way that garners the exact attention and response they crave. That further proves that cats train their humans to do as they please.

Proper Socialization

If you've ever had a friendly neighborhood cat, then chances are this cat has meowed at you before. You likely won't hear a feral cat meow at you because they don't want to attract attention that may put them in danger. They're instinctually cautious with unknown people or animals.

Cats with proper socialization know that not all humans are bad. They don't have issues approaching them because they trust even humans they don't know. The opposite is true for cats that travel outdoors and fear humans based on their experiences. A cat's memory is quite sharp, and negative experiences quickly shape their thought process.

You can also teach a cat to communicate in other ways, like ringing a doorbell. An example of this is shown in a TikTok video posted on June 17, 2023.

Opportunistic Felines

Cats will be cats, and this is especially true when it comes to hunger. A random cat isn't shy when they're hungry and in search of food. You hear many tales of cats that pretend they've never eaten a day in their life as they panhandle a stranger for table scraps.

Cats meow at strangers when hunger strikes because they associate humans with food. This is because, in their previous positive experiences, they realize that if they meow at a human when they're hungry, this often results in receiving food or treats from the person. Essentially, many cats meow at strangers because they think that playing their cards right results in food.

They may also meow simply for attention or a bit of physical love. They may meow and rub against a stranger's leg and want a pet or scratch behind the ear. Regarding strangers, this only happens with a very trusting cat. In a way, this is a good thing because you know that this cat has had positive life experiences.

When a Cat Calls…

Every animal is different, and you can't put a definite label on cats. Some meow a lot, seeking much attention, while others remain reserved and more independent. If you give your cat all the food and affection they need but still meow at strangers when they visit your house, consider that they just want a little extra attention and love.

They may also want to check out this new visitor. Many cats smell a person's hand before allowing the person to pet them.

It's difficult to tell what goes on in the mind of a feline, but with careful observation, you may decode some of your cat's language and behavior. The next time your cat meows at you, listen to them and see if you can figure it out.

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