Kittens have a huge repertoire of different sounds, far wider than most other animals. As many as 100 different types of vocalisations have been identified and each, uttered with a different tone and intensity has a different meaning to cats. Your kitten has a lot to tell you.
The classic ‘miaow’
Everyone knows ‘miaow’. Generated in the larynx, the kitten’s ‘miaow’ is a cry for help. As she grows up, however, she'll use it to convey a whole range of moods and emotions, from friendliness and fear to complaint and anger. It can be a friendly hello or an expression of fear, a mild complaint or a forceful protest.
Did you say something?
Not every kitten uses the ‘chirrup’ noise but, if yours does, it can really sound as if she’s talking to you. It’s often used as a friendly greeting to an owner.
Everyone knows that a purring kitten is a happy kitten. The smallest kittens (even new-born ones when they're suckling or swallowing) purr to tell their mother that they're comfortable. Kittens purr when they feel secure around someone, when they’re in familiar surroundings or when they're half asleep. It’s a sound of contentment and a clever kitten will use it to get more than her share of stroking. You'll, of course, be happy to oblige! New research even suggests that cats can calm themselves down by purring and even use the vibrations to heal wounds. Just how remains a mystery.
Once a kitten, always a kitten
In the wild, kittens will cease to communicate by sound almost completely when they become adult. They only do it, in fact, when they're preparing to fight or to mate. A good deal of cat language seems to be reserved for us. This may seem surprising but the reason is quite simple. A kitten who lives with humans never really grows up because she remains in a mother-kitten relationship for which a special language is required. The ‘mother’ in the relationship, of course, is you.