We get it, you’re a curious. You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. For this series, we send your burning kitty q’s to our panel of experts who can help you get inside your cat’s high-held head.
We consulted Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Mikel has worked professionally with cats for almost twenty years, starting in the Cat Behavior Program of the San Francisco SPCA, and more recently through her cat behavior consulting partnership, Feline Minds. She’s also co-author with Jackson Galaxy of the 2017 book “Total Cat Mojo,” and has published her research in several academic journals.
Currently sitting on my couch, with my cat, and we're both bird-watching. It's one of our afternoon pastimes now that, y'know, there's not a ton else to do. I've noticed that sometimes (not all the time!) my cat will look like she's trying to talk to the bird she's locked eyes with! She becomes incredibly focused and will start chattering making a little "ack-ack-ack" noise as her jaw flaps back and forth. Why does she do this? What's going on?
— Fellow bird-watcher
Your cat just chattered (sometimes also referred to as chittering, twittering, chirping and chirruping!). But why did she do this? Well, the honest answer is that we really don’t know why cats do this. They tend to do it exclusively when excited - USUALLY when bird-watching, although I have seen the occasional cat do this at another cat or even their owner (which is why it might be related to excitement).
But there are other theories - one is that if your cat is watching prey that they cannot access, that the chattering might be a response to frustration. They can see, but can’t touch, which might be a little bit annoying!
A much more interesting theory is that cats might be chattering to mimic bird sounds! This might allow them to sneak up on their prey (at least in theory) without being detected. This is based on observations of other predators -- notably, the Margay, an African wildcat that mimics the sounds of tamarin monkeys when hunting. Hey, if it works for wildcats, why not for our mini-panthers?
[#BeginTLDR#] Cats sometimes "chatter" when watching birds, or spotting a fly on the wall. [#SplitTLDR#] There's not much known about this behavior but scientists have a few theories. [#SplitTLDR#] If your cat is doing this, they're probably excited by what they're seeing and want to hunt. [#EndTLDR#]
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