Kittens make a variety of very adorable vocalizations. Almost from birth, kittens let their mother and their littermates know exactly what’s on their mind with a series of heartwarming noises: chirping, crying, whining, meowing, etc.
Even though we expect our kittens to meow and purr, we may be surprised to hear another noise come out of their furry little mouths: a chirp.
While much of feline communication depends on context, a chirp is pretty straightforward. So, why do kittens chirp?
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
While adult cats have no problem letting us know their thoughts, it’s a little more difficult to interpret kitten language. This is because kittens are still learning how to be cats and will often behave much differently than their adult counterparts, including in their interactions with human beings.
Kittens are generally more outgoing than adult cats, though some kittens are shy. Between their biting, playing, and general mischievousness, it can be difficult to determine how your kitten is really feeling.
Paying attention to the context of your kitten’s behavior and vocalizations is important (cats will wag their tails both out of pleasure and annoyance, for example). Kittens may meow for attention, for food, because they are distressed, or because they have gotten into something they shouldn’t have.
Getting to know your kitten and their vocalizations will take time, but never fear! Pretty soon you’ll be able to tell exactly what they want just from hearing them meow in the next room.
This kitten is chirping out of excitement. Sometimes chirping is almost silent!
One kitten vocalization that isn’t cloaked in mystery is the chirp. While not all kittens chirp (some kittens are less vocal than others) the vast majority of kittens will let out a little chirp once and a while.
But what does it mean? Well, kittens chirp because they are happy.
Kittens will occasionally chirp with one another (mother cats will sometimes chirp at their kittens to get them to follow them), but the fascinating thing about kitten chirps is that they are almost always exclusively used with to communicate with human beings.
You may notice your kitten chirping at you for attention, when they wake up in the morning and see you, or when you return home from work. You may also notice that your kitten chirps when they see you getting ready to feed them, or in anticipation of a meal that isn’t arriving on time.
Kittens may also chirp at “prey.” Whether it’s the birds in the trees outside or a coveted toy that’s out of reach, kittens will sometimes chirp when they are excited about “hunting” something. This is why you might sometimes find your cat chirping out the window.
Toys that encourage your kitten to practice hunting often elicit the chirping noise. Toys that dangle, are made up of feathers, or make jingling noises (such as the Tinksky Feather Toy) often excite young kittens, and they may let loose with a chirp during playtime.
A chirp vocalization is very distinct. It sounds a little bit like a bird (hence the name) and is high-pitched, short, and often accompanied with a curious expression. Kitten chirps can also be almost silent or make a sort of clicking noise. Kittens who chirp are likely to be alert, active, happy, and expansive.
Unlike the less descriptive “meow,” a kitten will not chirp when they are afraid, tired, nervous, or angry. If your kitten chirps at you, you can be pretty sure they are in a good mood or are asking you for something (most likely food)!
This kitten is chirping at something, probably a bug!
As with all feline vocalizations, kittens make the distinct “chirping” noise using their vocal cords. Your kitten’s brain will send a message to their vocal chords when it’s time to chirp, and the vocal cords will vibrate, thanks to vibrations in the larynx.
Kittens learn how to chirp from their mothers, as it is a common noise heard in a kitty nursery. Mother cats will chirp at their kittens to get their attention or to signal that they should follow close behind. Interestingly enough, adult cats don’t chirp at one another! The chirping behavior is reserved for human beings and kittenhood.
Kittens chirp because they are happy, trying to get your attention, trying to get you to follow them, or because they are particularly excited about something. If you want to train your cat to chirp on command (good luck), you can experiment with a variety of toys and find out which one your kitten likes best.
Toys that active a kitten’s hunting instinct are often very popular. A good example of this is the Tinksky Feather Toy, which incorporates dangling objects with bells and feathers. With a little luck, your kitten may soon be chirping to get you to play with them!
After moving to New York City from Rome, Italy, I began working in the nonprofit world. Despite my day job, my passion has always been animals, especially dogs and cats, and writing. What better way to combine the two? I’ve been a pet owner for 15 years, and my menagerie includes dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional hermit crab. My beloved cat, Mozart, who I found as a newborn kitten, sparked my love for felines and is now nearly 15 years old. I am an enthusiastic volunteer at the local ASPCA, where I enjoy spending time with the cats and cleaning up after the dogs. I’ve been writing about pet ownership and care for the past five years.