Cat Chattering: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio

Cats communicate with each other and their humans in a variety of ways through vocalizations and body language. While you may be able to figure out what your cat is saying when they meow or hiss, you might be at a loss for an explanation when you see them chatter for the first time, especially if you’ve never seen cats do this before.

What does it mean when cats chatter? Check out the information below to learn all about it so you’ll be able to figure out what your kitty is thinking and feeling the next time you see them exhibit this odd behavior.

What Is Chattering in Cats?

Chattering usually happens when a kitty sees something that they want to get their paws on. Many times, they’ll be looking out the window when a prey animal, like a chipmunk or bird, comes into view. Or, if your kitty spends time in a catio or outdoor enclosure, they might start chattering when they see small wildlife. As soon as your cat sees their intended prey, they may be ready to go on the hunt, and might express this feeling by chattering.

This behavior doesn’t only happen when your kitty sees wildlife, though. It can also happen when you’re using a toy to play with them. The movement of the toy can get them excited and ready to pounce on their “prey,” and they might chatter as a result.

Once you know what cat chattering looks like, you’ll be able to recognize it right away. But if you’ve never seen it before, it can be described simply as your cat making quick movements with their jaw, showing their teeth while staring intently at their target. Sometimes, no sounds will come out, but other times, they’ll make chirping sounds or even little meows. Some people even describe chattering as “ekekek”.

To see what it looks like, here’s a compilation of cats chattering:

Why Do Cats Chatter?

Now that you know when chattering typically happens, it’s time to cover what it might mean. Of course, no one can read the minds of cats, but experts can assume what felines are thinking, and they believe that this behavior is associated with hunting in one way or another.

As mentioned above, cats chatter when they see animals outside that they’d hunt down if given the chance, and they also chatter when they’re playing with their favorite toys. They’ll position themselves so they can be still, and might even crouch down to get into the right position. Some will move their tail as they chatter, too.

When a kitty exhibits this behavior, they may be expressing the excitement they feel as they anticipate going on the hunt. Or, it might be a sign of frustration because they want to go after the prey but can’t.  

Some experts think that the chattering is the same motion that cats make when they grab their prey in order to kill them, while others think that the chattering sound is used to mimic prey so they can be lured in and easier to catch.

Should You Stop Your Cat from Chattering?

Chattering is totally normal and harmless. You don’t need to stop your cat from chattering, nor should you. Let your cat express themselves as they naturally would with this behavior.

  • Attract birds for your cat to watch: You might opt to put a bird feeder in your backyard to attract beautiful birds to your outdoor space and let your cat watch them as they fly in for a tasty meal. The Twinkle Star Wild Bird Feeder is just one example of the affordable products you can choose from. It’s easy to fill without making a mess, holds a good amount of seed so it won’t be emptied right away, and is easy to clean. Hang it from a bird feeder pole or tree branch. Once the birds in the area see it, they’ll be sure to come by for some food while your kitty excitedly chatters.
  • Get a window perch for cats: If your cat likes to look out the window, there are products like the K&H Kitty Sill that provide a soft spot to lounge on. This particular window perch features an orthopedic pad for comfort. It also comes with a removable heater, so it can be used to keep your pet cozy during the colder months of the year. It’s sturdy, easy to install, and stylish, and it can hold up to 40 pounds. And the cover is machine washable, which is always a plus.  
  • Play with your cat and let them win: If you think your cat is getting annoyed at the fact that they can’t get to the animals outside, use toys to help them let out their energy. Good choices include feather toys, catnip toys, toy mice, balls, and chew toys that they can grab with their claws and chew with their teeth so they can feel the thrill of the chase and the exhilaration of a successful hunt. When using a wand toy, let them catch it so they can feel the accomplishment of bringing down prey. Making it impossible for your cat to grab and hold a toy like prey (one of the drawbacks of using a laser pointer) could make them feel even more frustrated.  

Chattering: A Funny Behavior to Watch in Cats

Now that you know what cat chattering is, what it looks like, and what it means, you won’t feel unsure about what your kitty is experiencing when they do it. It’s yet another one of the adorable things our feline friends do, and another behavior that makes them so interesting and fun.

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Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

More by Lisa Selvaggio