Why Do Cats Scream?

Cats make some lovely noises. They purr, they prrrrt, they meow, they chatter – they have their very own language and as cat owners, we tend to love it. Cats know that too as apparently, science says they meow mostly for us as they know we will respond.

But what about the cat noises that aren’t as delightful on the ears, like screaming. That’s right, these cute fluffy little angels can make a sound that seems like it comes straight from the depths of hell. But why do cats scream? Should we worry when they do? Let’s take a closer look at this unignorable kitty sound and why it happens:

What Do Cat Screams Sound Like?

Cat screams are less like the human shriek we hear on a horror movie and more like a very high pitched shriek. If your cat hasn’t done it before you may have heard it in your neighbourhood when kitties are quarrelling or… quite the opposite.

It can often be combined with deep yowls and growling which may build up to the cat screams, depending on the circumstances. You can see a really good example of cat screams in this video.

Why Do Cats Scream?

There are lots of reasons cat let out this soul-penetrating noise including:

Aggression

An aggressive cat usually has a deeper reason to be aggressive. However, the scream will present itself as aggression primarily, before you can investigate further. So, the scream might occur if the cat has another cat on its territory, or if a child continues to stress it out and it eventually reacts aggressively. You can find out more about how to calm an aggressive cat here.

Fear

A fearful cat will have a flight or fight response. So it might initially just make itself small or large, but only yowl or hiss to give a warning. It may also, when it feels there is nowhere to escape to, fight. This is when the screaming will kick in, the claws will come out and the cat is incredibly dangerous.

Conflicting Cats

conflicting cats

Screaming can occur in cats who live together who are not getting on. This can happen at any point in the relationship between cats, not just when they first meet. A change in home, a new human family member, illness within the cats, or even a cat smelling different, can all be reasons conflict occurs. You can find out more about what to do about conflicting cats here.

Illness

If a cat is incredibly unwell and in pain, they may scream in pain. More likely though, they may scream when you approach them to protect themselves. You might go to tickle an area they usually like being tickled, and instead be met with a scream indicating injury or illness.

Age

Did you know that cats can also get dementia, just like people can? A cat that is confused about where they are may scream unexpectedly. If your cat is ageing and seems to be acting a little different, including cat screams out of nowhere, it could be that they have dementia.

Being Startled

We have all seen the videos of cats curling their backs right up when they are startled. They can be startled by a sudden noise if they are focused, or even, in some cases, cucumbers apparently. When they are startled they may well let out a scream in response.

General Displeasure

Cats tend to be displeased at a lot of what us feeble and less-than humans do. Accidentally standing on their tail, accidentally locking them out when it rains – these may well cause cat screams just so you know how much you have displeased your pet.

Mating

Cat screams don’t exactly sound like a love language, but they are in fact, the must-have soundtrack for successful kitty mating. Why do cats scream during mating?

Before mating commences a female will go into heat and make very easy to recognise calls for around a week. When she is going to ovulate she is likely to be the most vocal to let male cats in the area know she’s ready for mating. She wants to mate several times, with any suitable tomcats, to increase her chance of getting pregnant, as once is unlikely to be enough. That is why one litter of kittens can have several fathers.

When mating does occur, one of the most eye watering reasons screaming happens is because of the male cats penis, which has *gulp* barbs on it. These prevent the female cat from moving away once the mating has commenced. The screaming can come from the female cat literally crying out in pain from those barbs.

When a female screams, the male may then scream in response to those noises.

After mating, the female may be extremely aggressive to the male because of the hormones that occur in her body afterwards. These hormones are an essential part of the mating process, but they make a female cat really unapproachable for a while.

The Only Time To Worry Why Do Cats Scream, Is When It Is Out Of Character

As you can see, there are lots of normal reasons for a cat to scream. The only time you need to act is if your cat is fearful or in pain and their behaviour is out of character. In that instance, they need to see a vet quickly.

Otherwise, you can now enjoy the melodic, harmonious sounds of cats screaming with a little more know-how about why it happens.

About Anneka Dalrymple

I am a writer of 6 years, and I’m a total animal nerd. I love wildlife, but none so much as my own tiny lion, April. She’s a 10 year old floofer who adopted us, and we’re so much happier for that. I have also grown up with animals and at one point we had 6 cats, 2 dogs and 2 rabbits. Pets are a total gift.

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