Why Do Cats Chatter Their Teeth?

Last Updated on August 25, 2021 by Jenny

Cats chattering teeth is normally perfectly normal, but it can in some rare occasions mean that your cat is suffering from a health issue. Normally it’s a cat hunting noise and just part of regular cat behavior. Still, it’s important to be aware of the different reasons so you can make sure your cat is OK.

😻What Does It Mean When Cats Chatter?

Most of the time, cats chatter their teeth when they’ve seen a small bird, a squirrel or some other small creature that triggers their hunting instincts. It’s why you’ll usually find your cat chattering at the window, staring outside.

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Most cat owners observe their cat chattering their teeth when they’re engrossed in the outdoors. They’ll likely be watching an animal in your garden. There are a few different interpretations of this behavior. Some believe that it’s a sign is getting excited, and that they’re gearing themselves up for the hunt.

Others believe that chattering is a sign of frustration. Your cat is excited and engaged and wants to hunt but knows it’s stuck indoors, and can’t get to the bird or rabbit outside. The chattering is a way of expressing that frustration, almost trying to burn off some of the energy.

One other theory is that the cat is actually acting out the act of the killing bite. This could be in preparation of the kill, loosening up the jaws and getting ready to make the fatal bite, or it could be just a way of carrying out the biting behavior subconsciously without the prey.

However, if you notice your cat chattering when it isn’t engaged at a window or looking at an animal, you may want to check as it could be a sign of problems with your cat’s teeth.

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Why Do Cats Chatter Their Teeth?

Most of the reasons that cats chatter their teeth are related and involve the cat having spotted potential prey. But not every reason is linked to this.

Cats chatter their teeth because:

  • They have spotted a small animal and are excited by the potential hunt
  • They’ve realized they can’t get to the prey, and are frustrated
  • They are practicing or preparing for the kill by exercising their jaws
  • They’re just excited in general
  • They are in dental pain (although this isn’t a common symptom)

Is Chattering Bad for Cats?

The act of chattering itself isn’t bad for cats. They won’t harm themselves through teeth chattering.

However, if your cat is chattering often, it might be time to investigate to see if your cat is suffering from a dental disease, especially if they are salivating when they chatter.

Most veterinarians don’t list teeth chattering as a common symptom of dental issues, but they do mention tooth grinding. If you notice your cat is doing anything that’s unusual for them with their teeth then seek advice from your veterinarian.

cat at the vet

Periodontal disease and resorptive lesions are both common in cats. Periodontal issues relate to the tissue around your cat’s teeth, while tooth resorption is where the tooth itself is decaying, often starting at the root so it’s hard to notice immediately.

Signs to watch out for, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, include foul smelling breath, eating at only one side of the mouth or dropping food, pawing at the mouth, facial swelling or bleeding from the mouth, and discolored teeth.

If you’ve spotted any of these symptoms, then you might want to schedule a visit to your vet to see if there’s any problems. Many cats will continue to eat normally even with teeth problems, and it’s hard to tell if they’re in pain with a tooth issue. They can be little troopers. So, keep a close eye for any changes in your cat’s behavior. Your veterinarian should check your cat’s dental health during any routine check-ups.

Why Does My Cat Chatter at Birds?

Cats talking to birds might seem strange but there’s a theory that cat chatter is actually a way to mimic the sounds that small animals make. There was a study carried out in South America that showed a feral cat copying the sounds of tamarind monkeys, which are commonly prey for these cats in the Amazon.

Seal Mitted Ragdoll Cat with a Blaze Charlie meowing profile looking up
Seal Mitted Ragdoll Cat with a Blaze, Charlie

The idea is that the cats are chattering away to their prey in order to confuse them, making them an easier target. While no studies have been carried out on domestic cat behavior to replicate this test, it’s another possibility for why your cat’s vocalization as it watches the local wildlife in your garden.

In Conclusion

If your cat is sat at the window and their teeth are chattering away, it’s likely that it’s perfectly normal behavior. However, if they’re looking like they might be getting frustrated then it might be time to engage them in some play, helping them to burn off some of that energy and distracting them from those hunting instincts, or making them most of them depending on the toy you choose.

It’s more important to keep tabs on your cat’s behavior if they’re chattering more frequently, and doing it when they aren’t watching something that could be prey.

Check for any other potential symptoms that could be a sign of diseased teeth, and book in to see your veterinarian if you’ve any concerns. If your cat has painful resorptive lesions hidden in the roots of their teeth, getting them sorted quickly can resolve a lot of problems for your cat and get them feeling happy and healthy again before you know it.

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One thought on “Why Do Cats Chatter Their Teeth?

  1. Patti A Johnson says:

    Super fascinating, pawesome & fabulous info, Jenny honey! TYSVM! Great topic! Learned a lot. I’ve never seen or heard Miss PSB chattering. I don’t think she does it at all. But…she does chirp occasionally and she meow talks a lot as she has gotten older. 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

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