Why Do Cats Chirp at Birds?

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Introduction

Every human who has loved a cat has tried to decipher their feline furiend’s many noises. Between the meows, chatters and purrs, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what your cat is trying to tell you. Some cats may purr before they bite, or talk to no one in the middle of the night, which may leave you puzzled. But perhaps nothing is as odd as when a cat chirps at birds through the window.

Have you seen your cat intensely watching a bird while making a chirping noise that sounds a lot like a bird’s own call? Let’s explore why cats may chirp, and just what they might be trying to say.

The Root of the Behavior

A cat usually chirps when it sees a prey animal, such as a bird or squirrel. Once spotted out the window, your cat may be intensely focused on the animal, and track them with their eyes. Their body gets rigid and ready to pounce, and their mouth hangs slightly open and vibrates to make that chirping noise. If we look at the cat’s body language, it’s quite clear they are engaging in hunting behavior, which becomes even more evident if they attempt to jump through the glass to get at their prey.

But then, why make noise? Certainly, a hunting cat wouldn’t want to alert their prey of their presence and possibly make them run away. While scientists aren’t exactly sure why cats may chirp, there are a few theories.

Most domestic cats are well aware that they can’t jump through the window to get that bird. They can see the prey, but can’t get at it, making the chirp a noise of frustration. Or they may simply be excited and happy when they see a bird. Your cat may be experiencing a surge of adrenalin at the sight of prey, which in the wild would flood their system to give them a burst of energy for the attack.

Chirping may also be an instinctual behavior rooted in the actual act of killing. When wild cats kill their prey, they need to do it fast to reduce the risk of injury to themselves. Once a cat leaps upon its prey, they try to bite the back of the neck, vibrating their jaws so their teeth can quickly sever the spinal cord and end the attack. Seeing a bird may trigger this instinctual killing response for your cat.

However, a new finding has shed some light on this unusual behavior. While studying how monkeys in the Brazilian rainforest communicate, researchers discovered that a wildcat who happened upon them made identical calls to those of the monkeys. They theorized that cats may make these mimicking noises to fool their prey and hide their presence, giving the monkeys or birds a false sense of security. When your cat starts chirping, they may be talking to the birds in their own language in order to sneak up on them.


Encouraging the Behavior

Whatever the reason, chirping is a normal behavior that is as natural for your cat as talking is for us, and shouldn’t be discouraged. Allowing your cat to chirp at birds or other prey lets them connect to their wild roots, and helps your spoiled house cat feel some of the rush of the hunt.

Encourage your cat’s natural instinct to stalk and chirp by giving them plenty of access to view the outdoors. Give your cat a spot on a table or dresser that’s next to a window, or get a cat perch that’s just for them to make live “Cat TV” comfortable and easy to see. Cat trees are another great way to give your furry bud lots of viewing angles and allow them to feel more hidden from their prey. And don’t furget to encourage the birds to hang out by installing a bird feeder by your cat’s favorite window, just be sure to keep the window closed as kitty claws can get through a screen in no time.

Looking at birds and other prey animals out the window is a form of entertainment for your cat, but if you feel that your cat has a lot of built-up excitement after watching the birds, or is getting frustrated by not being able to actually get the prey, you can help stimulate their bodies and brains in several ways to help them safely work out those energies.

These can be as simple as setting out paper bags or cardboard boxes to explore, but your cat may get more out of activities that simulate the hunt. Scavenger hunts around the house for treats or toys are always a pawsome way to get your cat hunting, stalking and pouncing. Food and treat dispensing toys can make them work for food, and puzzle games which makes cats problem-solve to get their “prey” may make the reward even more satisfying. And don’t underestimate a game of chase with their furvorite human.


Other Solutions and Considerations

If your cat really does seem anxious as they are gazing out the window, treat them to a safe outdoor adventure where they can get closer to the birds and actually have their chirping be heard. Build them a tunnel or crate filled with windows and holes where they can see, smell and hear everything they’ve been missing. Or really spoil them with a catio, a cat-safe enclosure secured by fencing that allows your cat to bask in the sun without the risk of running off or getting into a dangerous situation with another animal.

You can also teach your cat to wear a leash and take them for a stroll around the yard. This way, they can get up close and personal to the flowers, trees and even birds while still staying safe with you by their side. Just be sure they’ve got a collar with ID tags, and/or a microchip, just in case.

Conclusion

So, the next time you catch your cat chirping away at the birds, know that they are simply tapping into their primal instincts, and let them chirp and chatter to their heart’s content.