Journal List > J Vet Sci > v.21(1) > 1141192

Tavernier, Ahmed, Houpt, and Yeon: Feline vocal communication


Cat vocalizes to communicate with another and express their internal states. The vocal repertoire of the cat is wide and up to 21 different vocalizations have been described in the literatures. But it is more than probable that the repertoire contains more types of vocalizations. An ethogram was created in this paper describing the actual known vocalisations of the domestic cat based on an auditory classification. However, the audiogram allows also a visual classification which can increase the accuracy of vocalization differentiation. The classification can be risky as it is sometimes unclear if different types of vocalizations are produced in different environments or if a unique type of vocalization is used with variation in the acoustic parameters. As an example, isolation calls produced by kittens differ depending on the context. The environment has an important impact on the vocal behaviour and thus feral cats and pet cats vocalize differently. Pet cats are thus able to create an efficient communication with humans thanks to the flexibility of vocalisation behaviours. This review allowed us to create a simple model of the cat vocal repertory.


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Fig. 1.
Overview of the domestic cat vocalization. Domestic cats can produce different types of vocalization in different communication contexts. However, these vocalizations can be altered by the cat's genetics, thus cats have individual vocalizations which especially matter in the mother-kitten interaction. The vocalizations can also be modulated by the environment of the cat, thus the same vocalization can be use in different contexts like the purr of the mew.
Table 1.
Ethogram of the adult cat vocalization
Table 2.
Acoustic parameters of mew calls
Mean duration (ms) Min Fo (kHz) Max Fo (kHz) Mean Fo (kHz) No. of cats Reference
0.11–3.1 400–1,200 12 [31]
F: 1,016; M: 989 F: 0.27; M: 0.24 F: 0.44; M: 0.35 F: 0.37; M: 0.30 17 (F: 8; M: 9) [30]*
0.5–1.0 700–800 [2]
0.54 221 1,185 698 3 [29]

F, female; M, male.

* The mew data were produced by Felis s. silvestris.

Table 3.
Parameters of the ingressive and egressive phases of the purr vocalization
Parameters Ingressive phase Egressive phase
Mean relative sound pressure level (dB) 70.66–72.4 71.72–76.43
Mean duration of the phases (ms) 251–819 573 ± 72 484–756 576 ± 90
Max duration (ms) (sd) 740 700
Min duration (ms) (sd) 450 360
Mean No. of cycles per phase 13.41–21.28 13.19 ± 1.64 12.46–20.15 12.43 ± 1.21
Max No. of cycles per phase 15 15
Min No. of cycles per phase 10 10
MeanF0 (Hz) 23.00–26.09 23.24 ± 3.58 20.94–27.21 21.98 ± 3.36
MaxF0 (Hz) 28.8 30.5
MinF0 (Hz) 18.2 17.1
No. of cats 4 1 4 1
Reference [27] [16] [27] [16]

Data are shown as mean ± standard deviation or median (interquartile range).

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