The only meowing in cat language is done between mom cat and her young kittens. A kitten’s tiny “mew” is a cute, endearing sound, used to solicit attention and care from mom cat. Once the kittens are grown the mews and meows stop.
So why do cats meow to people? Because meowing is what works. Your cat is dependent on you, and quickly learns that you are clearly not picking up the scent messages she leaves on your things, and you are not completely fluent in cat body language.
Cat sounds for vocal communication involve caterwauls for mating, chattering upon spotting prey, hissing to ward off an intruder or shrieking when hurt or terrified. Meowing is not part of natural cat language—it was developed almost exclusively for humans.
Why do cats meow? The reasons change as they grow from kittens into cats. Kittens meow to their mothers when they’re hungry, cold, or scared. But once cats get older, they use other vocalizations — such as yowling, hissing, and growling — to communicate with each other. Meowing is reserved for their communications with people.
Cats meow to people for similar reasons. Your cat depends on you and has learned that you do not respond to scent messages or body language. They use meowing as a way to communicate and scientists believe they have refined this language to specifically converse with humans.
Growling, hissing, and spitting indicate that your cat is annoyed, frightened, angry, or defensive. The yowl or howl is a long, drawn-out meow with a few possible meanings: your cat is scared, in pain, looking for a mate, or has captured prey.
If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered, then you’re going to hear a lot more noise. Females yowl when in heat, and males yowl when they smell a female in heat. Both can be maddening to live with. Getting your pet spayed or neutered will prevent this.