A meow is a vocalization of cats. They might have diverse tones and are sometimes chattered, murmured or whispered. Adult cats rarely meow to each other, so an adult cat meowing to human beings is probably a post-domestication extension of meowing by kittens; a call for attention.
The meow can be assertive, plaintive, friendly, bold, welcoming, attention-soliciting, demanding, or complaining. It can even be silent, where the cat opens its mouth but does not vocalize. Just as humans may verbalize exhaustively when they are happy, so can cats. According to The Purrington Post, a chatty cat is likely happy too.
A mew is a high-pitched meow often produced by domestic kittens. It is apparently used to solicit attention from the kitten's mother, and adult cats may use it as well. The mew is similar to what is described in Brown et al. 1978 as an isolation call. By around three to four weeks of age kittens do not mew when at least one littermate is present, and at four to five months of age kittens stop mewing altogether.
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