Cat phonetics consists of much more than just meowing. It involves complex combinations of vocalization, body language, and scent cues. This makes it difficult for us as humans to understand the feline language since we tend to pay more attention to vocalized communication. Moreover, cats have smaller features, making it difficult to observe their body language. Their body movement is also so fast that by blinking you can miss the message. Do you think cats talk to each other? I have compiled this article to answer the question above. Keep reading to the end if you are interested in learning about cat-cat communication.
Do cats talk to other cats? Absolutely! Cats send messages to other cats within and outside their colonies. They do this through meowing, purring, tail positioning, facial expressions, tactile communication and scent cues.
Cats communicate with each other for reasons such as acknowledging each other, warning from danger, territorial reasons, sexual awareness, and bonding. Did you know adult cats don’t meow at each other but only at humans? This is unless it is communication between a molly and its kittens. We hardly understand their subtle signalling, which is why they opt to meow at us. We assume that whenever they make a sound they are in pain or hungry, but nothing could be further from the truth. The type of message sent by a cat to another cat is determined by its emotional state, the nature of its surroundings, the receiver, and the intention of the message. The method of conveying the message is determined by the degree of urgency, the distance between the sender and receiver, and the type of message. Read on for more information about cat phonetics.
Can Cats Talk To Each Other?
How Do Cats Communicate? We’ve already determined that cats do communicate with each other. To help you understand more about cat phonetics, let’s take a look at how they do it. The methods of communication between cats can be categorized into vocalization, visual signs, olfactory, and tactile. I have discussed them below in-depth:
Vocalization involves the use of sounds such as meowing, purring, the call, chattering, hissing, growling, and yowling. Cats can send different messages using the above methods by varying their tone, pitch, and frequency. Every cat has a unique voice; some are hoarse while others are high-pitched.
Phonetics scientists believe that meowing is a manipulative behaviour adopted by domestic cats to get what they want. This is why feral cats do not purr as much as domesticated cats. Meowing is mainly evident in a kitten and its mother, a kitten and other kittens, then from cats in general to human beings.
All the animals in the Felidae family purr as a sign of approval, greeting, attention, and acknowledgement. Kittens purr when being nursed to show contentment while the mother may also purr to reassure the kittens.
It is a loud rhythmic vocalisation made by cats with their mouths closed. Female cats produce this sound when soliciting males. Male cats also make this sound when fighting each other.
Visual Signals: Tail positioning
If your cat is approaching its friend cat, it will have its tail perpendicular to the ground or the tip bent forward. If it has its tail between its legs and crouches, it indicates submission to a dominant cat.
Cats have limited facial expressions due to their ‘flat’ face. They make faces but mostly use their eyes and ears. A cat staring at another cat without blinking is a sign of aggression or dominance. This is why cats rarely make eye contact because it is similar to challenging each other. Sudden dilation of the pupil or held-down ears shows it is afraid of the other cat. Narrow pupils and erect ears signal aggression and anger towards each other.
The use of chemical cues is the main mode of communication between cats. They have a highly developed sense of smell that’s widely used communication. They produce communication chemicals that are released through the skin, paws, cheek, urine, stool, and face. Chemical signalling is specific, can be spread over long distances, and stays for a long time. Cats use scent to identify friendly cats in the colony, mark their territory, and to indicate sexual receptiveness.
Tactile communication in cats involves touch whereby the cats rub their bodies against each other. While doing this, they leave their scent behind. This marks the other cat as safe to be around, an important thing in their life, familiar, or family. Tactile communication overlaps with olfactory communication since it involves the exchange of scent at times.
During the process of communication between cats, they might combine some of the methods above. Cats are very peaceful animals thus they only fight each other when revoked. They never fight for dominance as witnessed in most animals. However, they are very territorial and will become aggressive to protect their territories.
- Effective Tips: How to Help a Cat with Separation Anxiety
- Why is My Cat Bald? Cat Health And Feline Alopecia. Hair Loss In Cats And Skin Conditions.
- What to Do if Your Cat Eats a Skink. Cat Health And Skink Toxicity Explained.
- Why Does My Cat Sit in Front of the Heater? Cat Behavior And Feline Instincts. Warmth Seeking.
- What Do You Call a Cat That Loves to Swim? Feline Aquatic And Swimming Obsession In Cats
What Are Cat Pheromones?
Cats have scent glands in their skin, head, cheeks, paw pads, anal glands, and urinary tract. These scent glands produce a chemical known as a pheromone. Cats leave this scent behind whenever they rub against you or when they rub against another cat (allorubbing), knead, urinate, or even defecate. The pheromone represents a specific message and information used by the felines for survival. That’s why cats have a strong sense of smell as it’s their main method of communication. The purpose of the pheromone can be aggregation, sexual, territorial, or signalling.
When a cat rubs its head against another cat, it deposits feline facial pheromone on it. This is a sign of bonding. It indicates that the other cat is familiar and therefore there is a sense of security or comfort. A fearful cat can let other cats know its emotional state by producing fear pheromones through its skin. The fear pheromones can also be produced through the emptying of anal sacs. This explains why cats do not like being handled by veterinarians since they can smell the fear of the previous cats.
When a cat is kneading, it produces pheromone through its paws. This can be used to mark the territory or mark the object for kneading. For instance, when a kitten kneads on an object, another kitten will come later and do the same due to the message left behind.
Cats have a special organ called the vomeronasal organ located at the top of their mouth to detect pheromone signals in their surroundings. Cats can compose complex messages using a mixture of pheromone chemicals. Once they have sent the message, any cat which defies it is dealt with.
Pheromone also calms down cats when in distress and attempts to heal them when in pain. Due to advancement in technology, there are synthetic pheromones for uniting cats that are hostile towards each other and calming stressed ones.
Just like in most mammals, kittens are born with their eyes and ears closed. Then how do they communicate with their mother? When the mother purrs, they can feel the vibrations. Once they start exploring their world and toddling around, they begin experimenting with vocalisations such as meowing. Through scents, they can recognise their mother and even their siblings. Their mother’s scent unites them.
Mother cats meow and chirp a lot as a way of communication between her and the kitten. She will chirp to get their attention and meow to signal her arrival at the nest or to announce meal time during weaning. The kittens will meow back to inform her they need something. Just like humans, the cat also teaches its kitten between wrong and right. Whenever the kittens do something they should not, the cat growls at them. The nursing nest is always filled with happy purrs and chatter from the kittens. An uncharacteristic and frequent meowing might be an indication that the cat is in pain.
Kittens master the sound of their mother and research shows that they even take after their mother’s vocalisation. The mother cat adapts to its kitten’s routine and even takes part in playing with them. She licks their abdomen to encourage them to eliminate waste or stool. You might be wondering if the kittens communicate with each other. Yes, they do. For instance, if a kitten gets hurt or the playing gets too intense for it to bear, it will meow loudly and repeatedly and the other kittens will back off.
As the kittens grow up, they realise they can also meow at humans. The mother begins weaning them by bringing them prey and teaching them hunting tactics. After weaning them, she growls at them angrily to send them away whenever they want to be nursed. Upon reaching adulthood, the cats mainly meow at the humans and not at other cats.
Male-Female Cat Communication
Cats have peculiar habits and ways of communication when it comes to mating. When a female cat is on heat and wants to mate, it makes deep, drawn-out moans referred to as yowls. It also produces a loud sound called ‘the call’. The cat will lurk near doors, probably waiting upon one of the loud male cats clustering near your home fighting to impregnate her. It will communicate her need to mate through the lordosis posture. During the lordosis posture, the female cat has her forelegs bent, chest down, tail moved to the side exposing her vulva, and her rear quarters raised.
Male cats become sexually mature at 7 months old. They are always ready to mate, unlike the females. The peak of their sexual activeness is usually during spring when the females are also on heat. Tomcats communicate their need for mating by spraying to mark their turf, twitching the tip of their tails, parading around the house oddly, picking fights with other animals, and treading with their rear quarters. Once a tomcat identifies a molly in heat, he will prance at her and begin the courtship. They will start sniffing each other while going around pretending to play hard to get.
After mating, the female cat will scream once the male withdraws. This is because male cats have a barbed male organ that stimulates ovulation since the females have induced ovulation. The molly will roll on the ground to clean herself while the tomcat wanders off, probably to groom himself. After this, the female cat becomes aggressive and tries to fight any male who wants to mount her.
Understanding the communication between cats will help you in raising your cats. However, it is only possible for us to translate their vocal sounds and visual signs but not the chemical cues.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.