How cats communicate with each other (and you!)

Have you ever wondered how cats communicate to their owners what they need? As you get to know your cat, you will learn which meow means they want to be fed, be let outside, or if they want some cuddles.

However, this cat-to-human communication differs from cat-to-cat communication. The way in which kitty cats “talk” to each other is a bit more complicated – read on to learn why.

One would expect their cat to communicate with other cats with a series of meows, as they do with their owners, however, cat language is made up of a lot more than this. Cats communicate with each other through vocalisations, body language, chemical cues, and scents. Felines communicate to each other with fast, subtle signals so it is easy for humans to miss.

Your cat has a lot to say, and here’s how you can learn to listen in on their conversation with their purrfect pals!

Kitty Cat Body Language

Your purring pet’s body language is an important communication tool when they are “talking” to their other four-legged friends. Cats use physical contact to display affection towards each other.

You may see Mittens touch noses or rub up against her feline friend when they greet each other, which shows that they are friendly and content with each other. However, physical touch is one of many different ways that cats communicate through body language, here are a few more to watch out for:

Lying belly up

A cat showing their belly to their cat companion can mean one of two things: that they trust their fellow feline, or they are getting ready for a fight (we warned you that cat communication was complicated!).

Unlike dogs, who roll over and lie belly up when showing submission to other dogs, cats will show their belly to another cat if they are happy and comfortable. A cat’s vital organs are located in its soft belly, and they are very protective of this area, so when a kitty cat rolls over it can communicate trust, comfort and a willingness to be vulnerable to another cat.

However, it could mean quite the opposite too! Feral cats are seen rolling over into a defensive, fighting position. They use this posture as it gives them full use of their claws and teeth when fighting off predators.

A chatty feline tail

Cats wear their feelings on their tails, not their sleeves. Your cat’s tail can tell you a lot about how they feel towards the other cat in the room. Here are some tail movements to look out for:

  • A tail standing straight up in the air shows that your cat is friendly and happy to interact.
  • A slow wagging tail means that Mittens is feeling angry, upset, or aggressive.
  • A puffed-up tail shows that your cat is trying to make itself look as big as possible as they feel threatened by the other cat in the room.
  • A tucked-in tail shows that your cat is feeling nervous or showing submissions.

Feline Vocal Communication

If you’re the proud owner of a cat, you will be well-accustomed to the loud meow in the middle of the night calling to let them outside, or the constant meowing when they are ready for their food. Your purring pet will have mastered the perfect meow to let you know exactly what they want. You may have even woken up to the terrible guttural meowing, screeching, and hissing of two cats fighting.

When domestic cats communicate to each other, their sounds can include a range of purring, meowing, hissing, or growling – depending on their feeling towards their feline friend. Here’s what some of the vocalisations mean:

  • Loud meowing or hissing: this displays feelings of anxiety or fear.
  • Calm, less intense meowing and purring: this shows that your kitty cat is confident and content in the company of its purrfect pal.
  • Low growling: this represents a warning that your cat feels threatened and fearful in the presence of the other cat, and it is important to separate them at this point.

Unlike domestic cats, who have learnt to use meowing as their way of “talking” to their owners, feral cats are usually silent, with the occasional hiss or purr.

How Cats Communicate Through Smell

Cats are known to communicate through the scent in urine, chemicals, and pheromones produced in the glands throughout your pawesome pal’s body. This is one of the main tools in cat communication.

You may recall the pungent smell of cat urine; it is certainly a smell you aren’t likely to forget! Cats spray their urine as a way of communicating their dominance and marking their territory. In addition to this smelly way of “talking,” cats use pheromones to communicate several things, such as:

  • Defining territory: for example, cats will scratch objects to mark their territory and leave behind pheromones from the scent glands in the paw pad.
  • Creating familiarity and bonds: when you see two cats rubbing their heads together, they are likely releasing pheromones from the scent glands around their mouth and cheeks which communicates comfort and trust towards each other.
  • Announcing reproductive status.
  • And of course, showing aggression (there’s always two sides to cat communication!).

Now you’ve learnt the basics about cat communication and can finally be a fly on the wall to your cat’s “conversations” with their feline friends!

Yours in not-so-average pet insurance,

The Team