Why do cats chatter?


Have you ever noticed your feline staring out the window, intently watching birds or squirrels, and suddenly making a strange, chattering noise? Or perhaps you’ve seen your cat chatter when they are eyeing a prey animal, like a small bird or rodent? This behavior, known as “cat chattering,” is both intriguing and mysterious. As a cat lover and Certified Cat Behavorist™, I’ve always been fascinated by this unique behavior. In this blog, we will delve deep into the world of cat chatter, uncovering its causes, the science behind it, and the reasons behind this curious phenomenon.

Q: Why do cats chatter?

A:  It may be a combination of hunting instinct, excitement, and a means of practicing hunting skills. Read this blog for deeper exploration into the causes and the science behind it.

Section 1: The Enigma of Cat Chattering

The world of cats is filled with countless behaviors, but few are as mystifying as chattering. This behavior involves a cat making rapid, staccato-like noises with their mouth while intently focusing on prey, typically birds or small mammals. These noises resemble a series of chirps or chattering sounds, often accompanied by a quick movement of their jaws. But why do cats do this, and what’s the reason behind it?

Image of Book Jacket The Cat Whisperer and a Siamese Cat | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist

Researchers and cat behaviorists have long tried to unravel the mystery of cat chattering. One prominent theory suggests that it is an instinctual response triggered by a cat’s hunting instincts. When a cat watches a bird or small animal that is out of their reach, it may become frustrated by its inability to catch it. Chattering may be a way for cats to release this pent-up energy and express their frustration.

Another theory proposes that cat chattering is a sign of a cat’s excitement. When a cat sees potential prey, their excitement can manifest as chattering. This could be because they are eager to hunt and instinctually respond to the sight of prey.

In some cases, cat chattering may be a way for cats to practice their hunting skills. By mimicking the movements and sounds of stalking and capturing prey, they may be honing their abilities for the real thing.

One of the most captivating aspects of cat chattering is that it often occurs when a cat is paralyzed by the sight of potential prey. They may freeze in place, fixated on their target, and then begin to chatter. This paralysis is thought to be a response to the cat’s intense focus on the prey, as they calculate the best approach for an attack.

In summary, cat chattering is a complex behavior with multiple possible explanations. It may be a combination of hunting instinct, excitement, and a means of practicing hunting skills.

Section 2: Chattering in the Wild

To gain a deeper insight into cat chattering, it’s essential to consider its evolutionary origins. Cats, both domestic and wild, share a common ancestry, and their behaviors are often rooted in their natural instincts.

In the wild, big cats such as lions, tigers, and cheetahs exhibit similar chattering-like behaviors when observing prey. This suggests that the act of chattering has ancient roots.

Wild cats use this behavior to communicate with their fellow pride members, indicating that they’ve spotted prey. This serves as a signal for coordinated hunting. In domestic cats, chattering may represent behavior retained from their wild ancestors.

Domestic cats often have an abundance of food provided for them, but their hunting instincts remain deeply ingrained. When they see a bird or a small animal outside, their primitive instincts take over. They become entranced by the potential prey, and their chattering may reflect their struggle between their natural instincts and the comfort of domestic life.

Cats are not solitary animals by nature. They have evolved as both solitary hunters and social creatures. When they chatter while watching prey, it can serve as a form of communication with their human companions. They might be trying to share their excitement with you or express their desire to hunt.

In summary, cat chattering can be seen as a fascinating glimpse into the evolutionary history of our feline friends. It is a behavior deeply rooted in their instincts, connecting domestic cats to their wild ancestors.

Section 3: Decoding the Cat Chatter

While we’ve explored some of the theories and evolutionary aspects of cat chattering, it’s essential to understand the motives behind this behavior in our everyday lives with our pets.

  1. Frustration and pent-up energy: When a cat chatters while watching birds through a window, it may be due to frustration. They desperately want to catch the birds but are confined indoors. Chattering can be an outlet for their pent-up energy.
  1. Practice makes perfect: Chattering may serve as a practice session for your cat’s hunting skills. By mimicking the actions they would take in the wild, they may be preparing themselves for the real thing, which may or may not happen depending on whether the cat is an indoor or outdoor cat. For more information on making this decision, please read <title of blog about indoor/outdoor cats>.
  1. Pure excitement: Cats are natural predators, and the thrill of seeing potential prey can trigger their excitement. Chattering may be an expression of this heightened state of alertness and anticipation.
  1. Social interaction: In multi-cat households, one cat may chatter when they spot prey, serving as a signal to other cats. This can foster a sense of social interaction and cooperation among feline housemates.
  1. Connection with the owner: Cats often engage in chattering while their owners are present. This could be their way of sharing the moment with you, seeking your attention, or even trying to involve you in their “hunt.”

Section 4: Responding to Cat Chattering

If your cat exhibits chattering behavior, it’s essential to consider their well-being. Here are a few tips on how to respond:

Cover Image of Nat Geo Wild and a Sand Dune Cat | Cat Behaviorist | Mieshelle Nagelschneider
  1. Provide interactive play: Engage your cat in interactive play with toys that mimic prey. This can help satisfy their hunting instincts and release pent-up energy.
  1. Create a stimulating environment: Offer opportunities for your cat to observe birds and wildlife safely from a window. Bird feeders or toys can provide entertainment.
  1. Spend quality time together: Cats value companionship, so spending quality time with them can reduce their need to communicate their excitement through chattering.
  1. Consult with a veterinarian or cat behaviorist: If your cat’s chattering is accompanied by excessive stress, anxiety, or other behavioral issues, seek guidance from a professional to address their specific needs. For more background on identifying anxiety in your cat, read my blog <Does my cat have anxiety>>.


In the interesting world of feline behavior, cat chattering stands out as one of the most captivating and enigmatic phenomena. We’ve delved deep into its origins, explored the science behind it, and unraveled the motives that drive our furry friends to chatter when they spot potential prey. Whether it’s a manifestation of their primal instincts, a means of communication, or an expression of excitement, cat chattering continues to be a topic of fascination for cat lovers worldwide.

As cat owners, it’s our responsibility to understand and appreciate our pets’ unique behaviors. By responding to cat chattering with empathy and care, we can strengthen the bond between us and our feline companions. So, the next time your cat starts chattering at the sight of a bird outside the window, take a moment to appreciate the fascinating world of your domestic hunter and enjoy the connection that this behavior brings to your relationship.

Cartoon Image of Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist