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Yowling vs. Caterwaul: What's the Difference?

By Harlon Moss || Updated on May 22, 2024
Yowling refers to a loud, mournful cry, often made by animals, while caterwaul denotes a shrill, wailing noise, typically associated with cats in distress or during mating.

Key Differences

Yowling is a term commonly used to describe the loud, often plaintive cries made by animals, particularly cats. This sound can indicate discomfort, hunger, or a call for attention. It is characterized by its prolonged and mournful quality. Caterwaul, on the other hand, refers specifically to the loud, shrill, and often harsh cries of cats, especially during mating season. This noise is more intense and grating compared to yowling.
Yowling can be heard in various situations, not just limited to mating or distress. It might be a response to environmental changes, territory disputes, or seeking attention from humans. Caterwaul is more specific and intense, often indicating mating behavior or a fight between cats. It is a sound designed to carry over long distances and attract attention.
The term yowling can apply to other animals and even humans, describing any loud, mournful cry. In contrast, caterwaul is almost exclusively used for cats and their specific vocal behavior during certain circumstances.
Yowling sounds more like a drawn-out wail, often with a rhythmic quality, while caterwauling is more erratic and piercing, meant to signal distress or mating readiness. Both sounds can be unsettling, but caterwauling tends to be more grating due to its higher pitch and urgency.
Yowling may also be used metaphorically to describe any loud, mournful noise. Caterwaul is less commonly used metaphorically and retains its association with the intense, grating sound of distressed or mating cats.

Comparison Chart


Loud, mournful cry
Shrill, wailing noise

Common Usage

Animals, especially cats
Cats during mating or distress

Sound Quality

Prolonged, mournful
Shrill, harsh, grating


Various situations
Mating or fights between cats

Metaphorical Use

Yes, for any loud, mournful noise
Rarely, mainly associated with cats

Yowling and Caterwaul Definitions


To cry out loudly and mournfully.
He could hear the dog yowling from across the street.


To make a harsh, wailing sound.
The stray cats caterwaul every night during mating season.


A prolonged, wailing sound.
The yowling of the stray cat kept them awake at night.


Loud and unpleasant cry, typically associated with cats.
The caterwaul of the fighting cats echoed through the night.


A loud, mournful cry, typically by an animal.
The cat was yowling outside the door, wanting to be let in.


To utter a shrill, discordant sound.
The sound of the cats caterwauling was unbearable.


An animal's loud cry in distress or demand.
The yowling indicated that the cat was in pain.


A shrill, wailing noise, especially from a cat.
The cats began to caterwaul in the alley, disturbing the neighbors.


To emit a loud, wailing cry.
The child began yowling when she scraped her knee.


A noisy, cat-like wailing.
They could hear the caterwaul from several blocks away.


To utter a long loud mournful cry; wail.


To cry or screech like a cat in heat.


To say or utter with a yowl.


To make a shrill, discordant sound.


A long loud mournful cry; a wail.


To have a noisy argument.


Infl of yowl


A shrill, discordant sound.


A sound that yowls.


(intransitive) To cry as cats in heat; to make a harsh, offensive noise.


(intransitive) To have a noisy argument, like cats.


A yowling.


A noisy quarrel.


To cry as cats in rutting time; to make a harsh, offensive noise.


A caterwauling.


The yowling sound made by a cat in heat


Utter shrieks, as of cats


When do cats yowl?

Cats yowl for various reasons, including discomfort, hunger, or seeking attention.

Can yowling be used metaphorically?

Yes, yowling can describe any loud, mournful noise.

Is caterwauling only associated with cats?

Yes, caterwauling is almost exclusively used to describe the sounds made by cats.

What is yowling?

Yowling is a loud, mournful cry often made by animals, especially cats.

Can other animals yowl?

Yes, other animals and even humans can yowl, describing any loud, mournful cry.

Are yowling and caterwauling the same?

No, yowling is a general loud, mournful cry, while caterwauling is specifically a shrill, harsh cry usually related to cat mating or fights.

What is caterwauling?

Caterwauling is a shrill, wailing noise made by cats, especially during mating or distress.

What is the sound quality of yowling?

Yowling is prolonged and mournful.

What is the sound quality of caterwauling?

Caterwauling is shrill, harsh, and grating.

Is caterwauling specific to any season?

Caterwauling is often associated with the mating season for cats.

Is the term caterwaul commonly used?

Caterwaul is less commonly used and is specific to describing certain cat behaviors.

Why do cats caterwaul?

Cats caterwaul primarily during mating season or when in distress or conflict.

Can yowling be heard over long distances?

Yes, yowling can be loud enough to be heard over long distances.

Does caterwaul have a metaphorical use?

Caterwaul is rarely used metaphorically and is mainly associated with cats.

Do both yowling and caterwauling indicate distress?

Yes, both can indicate distress, but caterwauling is more specific to mating or fights.

What type of sound is associated with yowling?

Yowling is associated with a loud, mournful, and often rhythmic sound.

Is caterwauling more intense than yowling?

Yes, caterwauling is generally more intense and grating compared to yowling.

Why is caterwauling more grating than yowling?

Caterwauling is more grating due to its higher pitch and urgency.

In what situations do animals yowl?

Animals yowl in various situations, such as discomfort, territory disputes, or seeking attention.

Can humans yowl?

Yes, the term yowling can describe a loud, mournful human cry.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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