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Cat Communication Tidbits

Updated on April 21, 2011

Cats are Cats are Cats

When you stop to watch how cats interact, and I mean stop and really take some time to witness their movements and vocalizations, you are let in to the world of felines that extends back to their wild counterparts. Domestication has obviously altered some of their feline motives, but overall, they retain the intuitiveness and methods of communication from days of old.

Cats certainly have an independance of mind and body. A dog is such a pleasure to have around because of their constant devotion to any owner that merits it; where, a cat can have that devotion, but will display it on it's own terms and when it feels it has the time.

The personality differences are as varied as the many breeds that have developed over time; and this, in addition to their feline ways, make them a special member of the family that should be treasured and apprectiated.

Odion and Junior - Cat companions
Odion and Junior - Cat companions

Cat Communication

It is interesting that people use the word "meow" often when talking about cats, and in fact, cats don't even meow to each other - this is reserved for their human buddies.  Now, a kitten will meow to it's mother when requesting food or attention, but adult cats do not meow to each other.  It may be that they use this vocalization with humans as an extension of such requests for food and attention to their caretaker, and slight variations in the tone or punctuation can change the meaning of the request. 

Adult cats mainly communicate with each other through body language, but will occasionally use vocalizations such as purrs, growls and the screams that will send chills up anyone's spine.  When you hear a "caterwaul", you definitely know there is a cat in heat nearby.

A cat will emit a purr mainly when it is content but, it may also purr when tense or having a traumatic moment.  Purring is acturally quite a mystery, as they have no physical means of producing such a noise.

Other sounds that our feline friends make are chattering or chirping when approaching prey,  thought to be expressions of aggression or excitement; a soft humming sound when sleeping; a chirrup when greeting; and a grunt or snort when wanting attention or frustrated.

It has been noted that cats in the wild don't make near the number of vocalizations as our domestic kitties, possibly because we humans reinforce the behavior.

What Cat Tails Tell and Noses Know

Tail held high - A sign of happiness, or greeting

Tail tip twitching - hunting, angry

Tail twitching - playing, or not happy at all

Tail half raised - not too pleased

Tail held low - not happy

Tail puffed up - scared, surprised or feeling threatened.  A cat will raise it's back, stand it's hair on end, and turn sideways to make itself look bigger and more intimidating.

Touching noses with other cats - a friendly greeting

Lowered head - submission

Rubbing face on owner - most likely marking territory, as they have scent glands in their cheeks.  Can also be a sign of affection.

Head bump - affection

Licking - each other and owner to groom and bond

Kneading or padding - Originally used to stimulate milk production from mother while nursing, it is done as an adult when feeling contentment and affection.  It can also be seen when in pain to comfort itself.  Cats have scent glands on the under side of their paws and this could also be the reason for kneading so they can mark their territory, or owner.


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    • lindajot profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Willamette Valley - Oregon

      They definately have different ways of showing love and devotion. We sure enjoy them both, but the cats are amazing to watch with the way they communicate to each other.

    • FloBe profile image

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I truly enjoy the personality of cats. In my experience cats are also very devoted and communicate in a much more personal way than dogs (even though I have had a dog as well.) Dogs are obvious in their affection and loyalty. Cats are more mysterious and play hard-to-get. But once they bond with you are just as loyal as a cat. I've had several different breeds and they have all been very loyal to me.


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