As humans we are used to communication via words and facial
expression. However our feline friends don't have this
ability and so instead use many other ways to communicate
their message to us and other cats. Now it would be
impossible for us to be able to compile an A to Z of cat
language, as it is far too complicated and subtle. Besides,
they don't use our alphabet! However with a little patience
and observation we too can learn to understand and perhaps
communicate with them.
Cat communication range from vocal sounds, smell, body
posture and tactile contact. They use all of these methods
to communicate with each other. But they have also learnt
that with a little patience on their part they can also
teach humans to understand their meanings and get us to do
exactly what they want!
The sounds made by individual cats can vary, however it is
possible to give each communication sound and behaviors a
generalized meaning, giving us a basis to understand their
There are seven basic cat sounds which have their own unique
meaning, although the sounds may vary slightly from cat to
cat and be affected by the situation, they do basically mean
the same thing. It's easier for us to categorize them by
meaning rather than their sound. The seven basic
The fear sound is a throaty yowling and is designed to give
the signal "I am afraid of you but don't come any closer or
I will attack". They may also spit and hiss, which both look
very aggressive but when combined with their low body
posture, indicates fear. The hissing is believed to resemble
the sound a snake makes when it is about to attack and is a
sound that most animals have an inbred fear of, even if they
have never seen a snake in their lives.
Pain is a very distinctive scream sound, which once heard
turns the blood cold. It is essentially a sound used by
Kittens, designed to bring the mother cat running to their
aid. However domesticated cats keep their kitten vocabulary
to talk to us, because they see humans as their surrogate
mothers. They therefore continue to use the kitten language
and will scream when in pain in the hope that a human will
come and rescue them.
The general meow of a cat is designed to attract attention
from either the mother cat or from a human. Its message is
"I want". Owners of cats will begin to recognize their own
particular cats meows and be able to associate them with
particular things, like "I want food", "I want to go out"
Caterwauling is the name most people would associate with
cats at mating time. However the sound is actually used in
situations of aggression. The sound varies in volume and
tone as the aggression turns into a fight and is displayed
by both male and female cats. The reason it is associated
with mating time is that the scent of the female cat will
attract many male cats to the same area. This is something
that they are not comfortable with and so the caterwauling
is the sound of male cats warning each other off.
The pleasant little chirrup sound a cat will give us when
they come in or go out is often thought to be a greeting. It
certainly sounds very friendly and certainly gets our
attention. However this sound is made by the mother cat
calling her kittens to follow her. So in fact when the cat
comes in, it is saying "follow me", usually to the kitchen.
Purring is one of the most familiar sounds we associate with
our cats and is often considered to be made by a cat that is
contented. In deed this is one meaning of this sound.
However the sound is also displayed between cats themselves.
It is believed that the purring sound is a signal to say, "I
am in a friendly mood and come in peace", or "everything is
ok". It can often be heard between two cats greeting each
other and by mother cats when her young are suckling,
indicating to them that all is well. Strangely a cat in pain
may also purr, this is not to say they are happy but is a
way for them to comfort themselves.
The teeth chatter or clicking sound a cat makes is often
displayed when a cat spies a bird or other prey. It is a
rather unusual sound and serves no real purpose other than
to indicate that it has seen something it would like to
attack. The chattering jaw is the same action carried out
when a cat bites it's prey and so in a way the cat is
imaging doing this when it makes this rather amusing sound.
Cat's also use body language to communicate with each other
and in fact is the main way cats in the wild talk to each
other. By watching our cat's body language we can learn to
understand their mood and by aping these postures will be
able to convey to the cat that we mean them no harm. This
especially useful when homing a new cat.
Eye contact is seen by a cat as a threatening action and is
why some cats react badly to people with glasses. So by not
looking at them directly in the eye you are saying to them
that you are not a threat. Also if you are trying to
approach a nervous or frightened cat, try to lower your body
down to the ground, this will also indicate to them that you
are not a threat.
A cat's tail is also a good indication of their mood. A
happy cat that is coming to greet you will hold its tail
straight up, perhaps with a slight curl at the top. Whereas
as a tail that is flicking from side to side is the sign of
an angry cat that may just be considering attack, so leave
By studying our cat's subtle body movements and vocal sounds
we begin to tap into the cats world. Perhaps enabling us to
develop a greater understanding of why they behave in
certain ways which we as humans find strange and
unnecessary, which may ultimately lead to a much stronger
bond between man and cat.
More cat health and cat care tips can be found at our site
http://www.our-happy-cat.com A feline friendly community
full of helpful advice and fun things to do to make sure you
have a happy cat and a happy you!
Copyright 2007 Kate Tilmouth