Cats will meow for a variety of reasons. Yet the meow is often used only to communicate to humans. A cat will meow to greet their human, ask for attention, when they are hungry, when they are in pain and many other reasons. Most cats will meow to let their human know they want something or just to say hi. In the feral cat world, feral cats often do not meow. The main reason is their fear and lack of relationship with humans. Yet as the feral cat becomes more socialized with the human, they often start to meow. It is such a beautiful sound to hear.
Shadow was my first experience with a feral cat meowing. He had been living under my deck and under my neighbors screened porch for a few months and coming to my yard to eat for about 5 months. I had really started working with him and making small strides. One cold November morning I went out to feed him. I would always call for him and he would come up from under the deck and remain a safe distance away. This particular morning when I called to him, he made a meow sound. I was certain it was a neighbors cat as I had read that feral cats rarely meow. Yet this sound was coming from Shadow. I knew then that we were on our way to having a relationship.
Orange Kitty/Marvin was next. He would make sounds under the deck, but they were more like chirping sounds. It was usually to alert me that he was hiding under the deck and ready for food. Once he started coming up onto the deck and decided to trust humans, his meows came often. Yet they are not a typical meow, they sound like a meep! One of his nicknames today is Meeps or Meepers. It is just an endearing quality of his. You can read about Marvin the Meepers here.
I first started meowing to the outside cats when Stellar came along. Shadow was quite vocal by that time and often greeted me with meows. By this time Shadow had numerous meows that each meant something different. Stellar remained silent. After a few months of living here, I started calling for Shadow and Stellar when I did not see them in the yard or when they were too far in the back of the yard. They usually would come running. I then started to meow to them and they started to meow back to me. Stellar has the softest most gentle meow. I still will go out and call for him and along with calling his name, I make meow sounds. He usually comes running and meowing the entire way back! I am sure all the neighbors think I am crazy!
I have been trying to get Hampton to meow for months now, but he remains silent. Yesterday I was working in the kitchen and the sliding door was open. It had been raining all day so Hampton had remained on the deck. He saw me and came over by the door and was under the table for some protection from the rain. I heard a quiet meow and thought for sure it was Jake, Marvin or Shadow. No one was around, only Hampton. I went to the door and meowed back to him and he meowed again. Finally a sound!! I see this as such progress. He is truly beginning to trust humans!
It is amazing how small little steps seem like mountains when working with feral cats. When I hear the quiet meow for the first time, my heart just swells with happiness. I know I have conquered a huge step and continued progress is possible.
Here is a picture of Hampton this week. I made a new petting pointer that is much shorter. He now will lay just by my feet ( occasionally he takes a nibble!) and I can pet him with the pointer. He loves it to pet the top of his head and his belly.