Like humans, cats can be burdened by the desire for physical love. Once, Vimsan rubbed up against my legs, looked at me imploringly and unhappily, then rolled back and forth across my feet, trilling and meowing a few times before looking longingly out the window. I said, “Sorry, my love, I am not letting you out. You have not been spayed yet and we do not want any kittens around here.” Vimsan sang the whole night through. She combined loud meowing with rather plaintive singing and soft trilling. What luck that we have an appointment at the vet next week, I thought.
By now, Vimsan has been spayed and does not make such sounds. For about a week, I recorded video of Vimsan in heat, including her other sounds (e.g. soft mewing, trilling, cooing), but forgot to record her loud, desirous meowing—her mating call or cry—at night.
What is a mating call, actually? Is it only female cats who call, or do males do it as well? Up until now, I have not collected any evidence to indicate that there is a special category of sound that cats use only when they are trying to attract a sexual partner. Most people know the typical traits of these sounds, which ring out every spring. However, if we pay closer attention, we will quickly realize that the calls of seduction and the sounds used to frighten others away can be very similar.
Maybe it is just a louder, more melodic and sustained meowing when love is at stake, whereas it is a plaintive howling when territory is being defended or an opponent is being chased away. Further studies will clarify the issue.
One can certainly say that it’s usually female cats in heat who use mating calls to try to attract a future sexual partner. Unneutered male cats don’t go into heat. Instead, they react to the scents and sounds of females who are in heat.