The meow is one of the most widely known vocalizations of domestic kittens. It is a call apparently used to solicit attention from the mother.
Adult cats commonly vocalise with a “meow” (or “miaow”) sound, which is onomatopoeic. 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. Humans tend to find this silent meow particularly plaintive and appealing. Adult cats do not usually meow to each other and so meowing to human beings is likely to be an extension of the use by kittens.