Signs That Your Cat Is Crying For Help

Cats are notoriously quite a bit more self-sufficient than canines. When a dog asks for your help, it has all manner of Lassie-level tricks to communicate with you, though dogs can be quite manipulative. In most cases old Buster is not actually starving, regardless of how much drool he omits while beaming puppy-eyes at your hamburger. 

But what about cats? If dogs are manipulative, surely our pets of the feline persuasion are actively wrapping us around their little finger, quietly purring in their little heads as they have already made us do what they want before we even know it. For instance, that "asking for help" thing we mentioned earlier? Let's see what devious ways cats have to cry for help! 

Cats don't have a single, easy way to ask for help

Surprise! As The Cut tells us, cats of any size are actually pretty awful at asking for help in an easily understandable manner. The reason for this is extremely on-brand, though: Cats aren't really into the whole "calling for help" thing, to a point where they don't really have an easy expression for it in their language kit. Interestingly enough, the closest thing they have for it is purring, of all things. Most people think that purring is solely a cat's "happy sound," but in reality, it has layers upon layers. When your cat is purring, it's essentially telling you: "Don't go anywhere, please." Sure, it can be a sign that kitty is as happy as it's ever been — but it could also mean that it's asking you to stay around because it's injured or feels sick. 

Multi-purpose meowing

According to ASPCA, meowing is another all-purpose tool cats use — and interestingly, adult cats only use it to communicate with humans. Unfortunately, they tend to use it for pretty much everything. While a cat could meow simply to say "Hi," it could also ask you to do any number of things — it's up to you to figure out just what it is, and how crucial it is. Hey, turns out they're pretty sneaky about asking for help after all.

What about those really weird cat sounds?

The fact that cats are stuck in a weird limbo of potentially ambiguous meowing and purring is particularly strange when you take into account the fact that cats, in fact, do have a whole host of sounds that appear like they might be calling for help or, at the very least, reinforcements. However, Insider tells us that while these frankly worrying vocalizations have fairly specific meanings, they're not even remotely help-related. If you're a cat owner (or just a fan of funny cat videos), you might be familiar with the "trill" — a weird sound that almost sounds like a bird chirping. This may sound like your cat is malfunctioning in a profound way, but in reality, the trill is merely a feline way of greeting fellow cats and people alike. Its most accurate translation would probably be a positive, welcoming "Hey, look at me." 

Another odd feline enunciation you might have encountered is the rapid, chattering sound that is accompanied with the strange visual of the cat quickly vibrating its lower jaw. Appropriately enough, this strange sound is know as the "chatter," and cats tend to reserve it exclusively for birds. Some say that the chatter is a sound of excitement. Others think it's all about frustration. Others still view it as the cat's spirited attempt to mimic birdsong to lure the unwitting avian within pouncing distance. However, regardless of the motivation behind the chatter, its meaning is perfectly clear: The cat is currently seeing a bird, and would very much like to attack said bird right now, thank you very much. 

The one cat sound that's invariably a distress signal

But wait, there's more! While there may be no simple way to tell whether your cat is crying for help or merely complaining about the fact that you switched from wet food to kibble, Insider tells us there's one cat sound that's invariably a distress call. We're talking, of course, about caterwauling — the howling, drawn-out wail that most cat owners know and dread. While it's pretty much always a signal that something's wrong with the cat, it's unfortunately just as vague as many other cat vocalizations. As Catster notes, caterwauling is often a breeding signal, used by female cats in heat and nearby un-neutered male cats alike. (Spay and neuter, people.) Then again, a spirited caterwaul might also be used during feline turf disputes ... or it might mean that your furry friend is hurting, disoriented, frightened, hungry, thirsty, sick, or otherwise experiencing some temporary crisis that requires "serious reassurance." You'll notice that a lot of these things are the exact same ones the cat may also express via purring or meowing.  

So, yeah. Caterwauling doesn't seem to be a "Help me" sound as much as it is a primal, all-purpose "Aaaaaaargh!" But hey, we're talking about cats — that's probably as close as we're going to get.