Why does my cat chirp at bugs?

You may have noticed a unique sound coming from your kitty’s throat, along with a quick movement of her lower jaw. While this sound is all about prey, be it bugs or birds, some cat owners liken it to the sound a dolphin makes. Have you ever wondered, “Why does my cat chirp at bugs?”

Here are some other words pet owners have used to describe this sound:

  • Chattering
  • Clicking
  • Talking
  • Trilling
  • Jabbering
  • Jawing
  • Sending a Morse code
  • Totally freaking out!

Chirping, although generally associated with birds, is a feline behavior that is not thoroughly understood. It occurs most often when the cat is excited by prey or else frustrated from not being able to get to the prey.

The chirping sound of a cat is usually made when her eyes spot what she may consider good prey. Whether she is outside or sitting inside, gazing out the window (taking in all the action going on in the great outdoors), you may spy her tail getting all puffed up or twitching in a certain way. She begins making those chattering noises in anticipation of perhaps catching a squirrel, bird or other small creature that is roaming around the yard. If your cat is inside, perhaps there’s a bug of some sort crawling along the floor, wall or ceiling.

Strange Noise Indeed

My son tells me he once noticed his kitty chirping from another room. Curious as to what was bringing about this kind of language, he decided to investigate. Upon entering the room, he saw his cat — eyes fixated on the ceiling — watching a moth fluttering around.

At first, these chirping sounds seemed kind of weird to him, but my son has now become used to the noise and realizes it is a natural behavior. (By the way, sometimes the cat gets her prey, sometimes she doesn’t. But the chirping eventually stops.)

Check out this quick video of a kitty chirping over… rays of light:

You Can Try Chirping Back

Also my son shared with me the story of a pet owner whose cat chattered to bugs she stalked inside the house. To save herself the trouble of killing the bug, the owner would imitate the noise and her kitty would come running to save the day.

This little setup worked well for both parties. How wonderful it must have been to have not only an adorable cat, but one that was on 24/7 pest patrol!

So, Why Exactly Do Cats Chirp?

Here’s a likely reason: They’re practicing the “kill bite.” Feline behavioral specialists tell us that the muscle movements involved during chirping are very similar to movements seen with the special neck bite that cats in the wild use to kill birds and small rodents. In other words, chirping cats — frustrated because they can’t quite get to their prey — are using those same muscles they would use if they were killing the prey.

“Why does my cat chirp at bugs?” seems to be quite a question! To many of us, the mystery behind this particular vocalization of cats (strange, yet a little comical) will never be completely solved. Does your cat chirp? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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  • http://www.petsadviser.com/ David Deleon Baker

    My cat also lets out a very quick “chirp” when someone sneezes! It’s like she’s saying, “Bless you.” And then I tell her, “Thank you!”

  • sheena

    Tehee. Im on this page because my kitten is chirping at a bug crawling at the wall right now. She’s stalking it while making those cute sounds :3

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ David Deleon Baker

      Aw, that’s cute.

  • Cas

    My cat mimics birds but it to catch and eat I find birds ripped apart on a daily basis …. In my house some times while I’m at work …. I feed my cats well but the one more than the other likes to eat birds and she is so proud after comes telling me wiggling her bum and nudging me with her nose ….. It’s in there nature.

  • AllanChase99

    I think the answer might be a little simpler than you think! Just examine the simple anatomy of a cats ear (don’t concentrate on the inner ear, just the outer for now). What do you see down towards the base of the outer edge of the ear…hmmm I wonder what this is for? I think it is a special type of receiver that catches the radar ping “cat chatter” and relays that real-time information for more accurate capture of prey. What other critters use echo-location to get their food? Bats. Why the funny shaped little ear off the side base of the ear (on house cats)? Well, frequencies have “wavelength” and it might just happen that this clever little receiver is physiologically perfect to receive those frequencies to assist with metrics (distance/height) of the prey. I thought about this some time ago when I saw my cat chattering at prey and wondered if there was any in-audible frequencies that only the cat could pick up. I guess this shows that cats ARE on a different frequency than the rest of us! LOL

  • Magdalena Marsland

    Our Kitty chirps very often. He’ll chirp when he walks by us when we unexpectedly touch him . …yes bugs or when something moves just like others comment but he chirps so much that it’s his constant language ! He is very playful tho and we play with him a lot so maybe that’s why ??? There is always something moving around him and I keep him busy all day….poor thing was neutered just 2 days ago so he is miserable in the e collar !
    I take it off so he can eat then I let him groom himself O sit right beside the whole time and when he gets to the bottom I put the collar back on…. Sorry for going of the subject but I miss his chirping and feelers sorry for him that he cannot be his playful self !!!