Why Do Some Cats Trill And Some Don't?

My one-year-old cat, Pam, makes several different types of noises. Apart from the usual meows and it’s variations, she also make a “trill noise”, with varying permutations. It sounds like “brrrrr”, basically. She also will often make a flat mmm noise like humming, but that’s not what I consider a trill.

My new kitty, Lucinda, who is, yes, just as cute in real life as she looks, has only ever made normal meows. She’s never trilled, although Pam communicates to her a lot with her trilling. I’ve met lots of cats that don’t trill, and only a few that have. Is this a genetic thing, occurring in only certain types of cats? I do note that Pam has always been extremely vocal, and in fact, when I got her as a 4-month-old in March, she was the subject of a thread seeking advice on shutting her up. She meowed constantly for weeks. She doesn’t do that anymore, very much. My new kitty is the opposite, there- she very rarely meows from day one.

What’s the deal with the trill?

The trill is a “Hi, nice to see you!” sound. Also often done from mother cats to their kittens. It is a friendly thing. Why the other cat does not do it I cannot say…maybe it is not happy to see the other cat.

I have seen plenty of cats make this noise and plenty of others that didn’t (mine never did). If you imitate the noise it almost always gets a cat’s attention though and I find it useful in approaching strange cats to encourage them to come in for a quick scritching.

My Pam doesn’t trill just to say hi. She uses it for many different occasions. She trills to say hi when you come in the room, sure, but she also trills when she jumps up on something, when she jumps down from something, when you ask her if she wants a treat, when you unexpectedly pet her, when you wake her up, etc. She trills over almost *everything. *

I think she may be a Chantilly/Tiffany breed, and they’re known to trill. So that’s what I was wondering- is it only certain breeds that do it, or are able to do it? It will be interesting to see if my new kitten picks it up and starts doing it, but so far nothing.

Stokie does that - if you touch him he goes “Brrrrrr?” If he jumps off or onto something. If there might be food. When he wakes up. When you walk in the door, or out of the door.

He isn’t any kind of breed. Just the stray cat kind.

My WAG ( and it’s only a little more than that, I’m afraid ) would be no. There’s a meandering but interesting discussion of cat vocalizations here and while it seems there is some sort of correlation between breed and talkativeness and even pitch, I doubt trills/chirrups ( which would seem to fall under the category of “basic vocabulary” ) would be dropped altogether by a breed. I think it would be a little more likely to be environmental. The indication from the article above is that some vocalizations are learned, so it may be that a kitten is seperated from its mother early might prefer kittenish vocalizations to adult ones. Might also come down to individual personality.

My own anecdotal contribution is that neither of my two DSH neutered male cats meow much at all - pretty much only around feeding or play time and even then more often kittenish-sounding mews rather than “classic” meows. One mostly makes soft bleating mews like a sheep and the other is halfway between a trill and meow. Otherwise they both mostly trill. I believe both were seperated from their respective moms a bit early, but again I won’t swear that that means much. Just speculation.

We call that “the baby bird sound.” Not all of our cats do it, but the one that does it a lot is a very emotional little critter. She does it when she’s really excited. Like when we say Happy Birthday to her. Every day. Just cuz she likes it.

My Siamese never trilled, and most of my DSH pound-acquired cats have, especially the calicos. I trill, blurrr, wheep? and grouww to all cats constantly, so the environment has provided them with ongoing exemplars. Currently, the calico trills and blurrrs and the wary little tabby doesn’t vocalize, bonk, or have elevator butt.

The breed is all American Heinz 57 mutt (yes, even for a cat). Best there is. Paws down.

Our female Ragdoll trills frequently, often when she’s bouncing up or down the stairs, or announcing her entrance into a room, or when she’s milling about my feet at the computer. She sounds like a pigeon…an adorable little pigeon, but a pigeon nonetheless :slight_smile:

The SO’s cat, Spartacus, trills. He is the first, and only cat i have heard this from.

I never knew that sound had a name! My Ulysses does it a lot. He’s very talkative, and I love it!

My cat Moose trills when he purrs but not when he (rarely) meows. It sounds like a gravel crusher that periodically runs into harder bits and has to rev to a higher pitch. Also, he purrs with his mouth open which I had never seen before.

One of my cats chirps. I can’t think of any other way to describe it; a sharp, short sound that sounds a bit like a squirrel chittering, but lower-pitched. He sometimes makes it in his sleep, but mostly when he’s looking out the window. His brother doesn’t do it, so I don’t know where it picked it up. He made it before and after he was fixed (he’s almost nine months old now), and none of the other cats I’ve had ever made anything that sounds like it.

I’ve had cats do this as they’re watching their prey, like a bird. The mouth moves but the sound is very quiet and chirp-like. It’s not the same as trilling.

My cat would make a chirping sound and quiver whenever she saw a bird. At first I thought it was a siezure, then I realized she only did that when she was looking at a bird through the window

Seconding Alice on this one. I’ve read that it’s a sort of ‘bird call’, or that the cat is making the ‘fatal neck bite’ motion with it’s jaws, in lieu of being able to attack the actual prey. But the sound is completely distinct from trilling.

Sorry I can’t give a direct answer to the OP, but I will say that some breeds are known to do it more than others, as a rule. I had a Maine Coon Cat, and he, like most of his ilk, was a champion “triller.” (Actually, I called it chirping, myself.) When called by name, he would invariably answer with an inquisitive sounding “Prrrrrt?” as if he were saying “Yes? What was it that you wanted?”

I didn’t think it was the same as trilling. The idea that he was making “bird calls” did occur to me, particularly since he mostly does it while looking out the window. This is the same cat who jumps up on my desk and tries to catch the mouse arrow moving around on my monitor, so I guess he’s a natural hunter.