The cat vs. dog debate is common amongst animal lovers. People’s affinity for certain animals can give clues to their personality, and stories are exchanged between friends about the fascinating behavior of furry companions. So here’s a question: Is a cat owner guaranteed a quiet, calm companion while a dog owner has a spastic barking machine on its hands?
This question can come up in casual conversation, but it can also be important when considering the other people living in your house, the needs of your neighbors, or your own tolerance for excess noise. The first impulse might be that if you want to keep the noise down, a cat is the way to go.
So, are cats quieter than dogs? Yes, cats are generally quieter than dogs. Just like a dog, a cat’s noise level varies depending on circumstances. Though a cat might seem like the quieter option for a furry friend, there are many things to consider before making that assumption, including personality, breed, and environment.
People have been pontificating for years on the differences between cats and dogs. Dogs are man’s best friend, while cats are superior beings worshipped by ancient civilizations. Dogs rush to your side when you come home, while cats are more likely to stare you down or beg for food upon your return. Dogs can be trained to do tricks and provide useful services. Cats are going to do pretty much whatever they want.
Anyone who knows and loves domesticated creatures, however, knows that each individual animal has its own quirks. This includes the sounds they make. Cats can be quite unusual and unpredictable in their noise level.
Cats have a plethora of vocal abilities, with the potential to make over 100 sounds. These include:
Meows and Mews
The most well-known of cat sounds, the meow has numerous meanings, inflections, and intentions. Adult cats don’t often meow at each other, and it is believed that the meow was developed post-domestication out of the sounds made by kittens. Therefore, the sound is likely specifically developed for humans to understand.
Meows can indicate a wide variety of feelings, including happiness, distress, hunger, need for attention, or a friendly greeting. Some cats meow often, while others save their meows for specific moments. Just like a dog’s bark, a cat’s meow can be low or high, casual or intense, frequent or rare.
The baby form of the meow is the mew, a high-pitched sound from very young kittens to indicate the need for attention or feeding from their mother. Typically, as they grow up and learn to be comfortable with the humans that adopt them, mews turn into meows.
When stalking or investigating prey, a cat can make a chirping or chattering sound. Some researchers have said this is in response to the physical reactions of cats when stalking prey, including changes to the spine and tail. If your kitty likes to spend time near a window and look at birds and critters, there’s a good chance you’ll hear this sound.
Growling, yowling, and hissing
Here’s one nobody likes to hear. A cat in distress can emit a deep, guttural growl, similar to that of a dog. These growls are usually put forth as a warning. Once angry, the yowling, hissing, and even spitting are likely to occur. Keeping cats in low-stress situations can usually contain this behavior.
This sound is usually a good sign! It almost always means a cat is happy and content, though purrs have been known to escape when a cat is scared or stressed.
Scientists have not really been able to find the physiological reason behind this low pitched vibrating noise, but cat owners over generations have tied it to loving rubs against legs, responses to scratches behind the ear, and affectionate cuddles. Purrs can have quite a bit of variation in noise. Some are soft and delicate, while others can sound like a tractor engine!
The above sounds and vocalizations from a cat often come in response to their environment. In consideration of possible noise from a cat, think of the following:
● Do you spend a lot of time with your cat? Cats who are close to their humans can be known to “talk” to them more. Conversely, cats who are not around many people can be shyer.
● Does your cat live with another animal, and do they like the animal? This question can definitely contribute to the amount of noise generation. Two animals who like each other might play, causing noise with wrestling, running, and random vocalizations. If a cat is not a fan of the other animal(s) they live with, there are likely to be distressed sounds.
If two animals dislike each other, the fights can become full-blown brawls, which sound a bit like sound effects from a cartoon alley. The fact is some animals, like some people, just plain don’t get along. Some indoor cats also get mad when they see another cat roaming the neighborhood. This can cause quite a bit of commotion.
● Will your cat be able to see a lot of wildlife? If you live in a country area and/or have large windows in your house, your cat is likely to take full advantage of the view.
For many cats, seeing a variety of potential prey can cause tails to flip rapidly back and forth and a chirping noise to emit. The more stimulated your cat is by the creatures that visit your yard, the more likely they are to make predatory noises. Even bugs can bring out your pet’s inner wildcat!
The International Cat Association recognizes 71 breeds. And just like dogs, cat breeds are each unique in their noise-making and vocal timbre.
When looking for a dog, people often have a type of breed in mind. This isn’t usually true of cats, who often come from shelters or are adopted from friends. In fact, only 3% of cats come from breeders, compared to about 19% of dogs. When seeking out a cat, people are less likely to be looking for a certain breed and more likely to be focused on color and size.
But breeds matter for behavior in cats as much as they do in dogs, and the type of cat you get can make a lot of difference in the noise they’ll make. Siamese cats, in particular, are known as the most talkative cat breed, with a high pitched meow that can sound like a baby crying. If you like a scintillating conversation with your fur baby, a Siamese is the cat for you!
Rarer breeds who make a lot of noise include Burmese, Japanese Bobtail, and Tonkinese breeds. These breeds have unique personalities, and they express themselves with loud and frequent communications.
Gauging Before You Adopt
It’s definitely difficult to know for sure what you’re getting into when you take home a cat. But if you’re looking to adopt and you’re concerned about noise, you can take a few steps to get a better indication.
● Research breeds and personality. Before picking out a cat, learn about the breeds and colors you want as well as those you want to stay away from. Shelters are most likely to have American Domestic cats, but not exclusively. Read the information about the breed you’re interested in and consider its potential to make noise you can (or can’t) live with.
● If you want two cats, adopt a bonded pair. While they may make some noise while playing, a pair of cats who already love each other are far less likely to get into those howling, yowling, ear-splitting fights.
● Spend time with the cat before bringing them home. Shelters allow you to spend time with the cat you’re interested in. The shelter workers can often give you more information about the cat’s personality. This would also be a good time to ask if they vocalize a lot and if they get along with other animals.
● Introduce new animals to the home slowly. If you’re bringing a cat into a home with another animal, it’s important to consider the change you’re making to the home environment. Numerous resources exist online to help ease a new animal into the family. Your veterinarian can also give you tips. An easy and low-stress introduction can keep from causing those knockdown, drag-out fights between your animals later on.
When it comes to how loud a cat or dog is and which is quite, it just depends. Cats have personalities, needs, wants, and opinions, and they will not hesitate to share them with you! They also love to exercise their predatory instincts, even if they’re indoors. Finally, just like a dog, breed matters. All of this is important to consider and certainly gives a lot of ideas to think about as we try to make a happy home with our fur babies!