You don’t have to be a cat owner to realize that cats are a mysterious, elusive species with a unique skill set. It’s hard to be in a room with a cat and not watch the subtle movements of the tail, the careful whisker washing, or the delightful “slow blinks” (which indicate contentment).
Cat communication, both between cats and with other species, is elaborate and deeply nuanced. By understanding how cats communicate, we not only gain a deeper appreciation for our feline friends, but also strengthen the bond we share with them.
Visual communication is an important part of how cats communicate with each other, and with their human families. By paying attention to the position of your cat’s ears, tail, head, eyes, and body can tell you a lot about what your cat is trying to convey.
- Flattened ears, forward sweeping whiskers, and dilated pupils communicate anger and defensiveness
- Ears pointed forward, eyes half closed, and tail curled signal a relaxed and contented feline
We’ve all heard cats meow. In fact, most of us associate cats with this distinctly feline sound, which is why it may come as a surprise to find out that cats do not communicate with each other through meows. In the wild, meowing is reserved for kittens who use the vocalization to solicit attention from their mothers.
Our cats meow to us because, well, it works! Most cats quickly learn that a meow to the human in charge gets them the food, attention, or playtime they crave, and over time it develops into a dependable means of communication with their caregivers.
Purring is a sound we often associate with contentedness, but some cats also purr when they are annoyed or in pain. Other sounds aimed at warning other cats before or during a fight include hissing, growling, and screaming.
What’s that Smell?
Scent plays a starring role in cat-to-cat communication. Not only do cats use their sense of smell to learn about their environment, and the other cats who live in it, your feline friend marks his or her “territory” at every chance. Thanks to scent glands in the chin, forehead, tail, paws, and in urine and feces, a cat has plenty of opportunities to let the world know where your cat calls home.
Cat Communication Concerns
Your careful observation and knowledge of your cat’s normal behaviors are his or her first line of defense against illness and disease. If your cat’s behavior, vocalizations, scent, or appearance changes, or even if you just feel like something is “off”, please let the staff at Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center know.
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