How Do Cats Communicate With Each Other?

One cat grooming another cat on Chair
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Cats don't have a reputation for being the most social members of the animal kingdom, but they still need to be able to communicate when the occasion calls for it. Cats probably aren't engaging in a lot of kitty chit chat, but here's how they communicate with each other when something needs to be said.

How do cats communicate?

Cats are complicated beings, and these behavioral nuances carry over into their communication style. Cats use three main methods of communication: vocalization, body language and scent. Here's what you need to know about each.

Vocalization

Even humans are well aware of this kind of kitty communication. Cats purr, murmur, hiss and growl to let us, and each other, know what's on their minds. When it comes to decoding the meaning of their sounds, however, translation is a little more complicated. Everything from the pitch to the volume of their noises give clues about how they're feeling.

If you're trying to stay in the loop about what your cat's vocalizations indicate, know that loud meowing probably means your kitty is feeling anxious or scared. Less intense meows and purrs indicates mellowness and contentment. A purr itself doesn't necessarily mean your cat is happy; you have to pay attention to the subtle differences in the sounds your cat makes.

Bengal kittens on leather sofa indoors
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Body language

When it comes to body language, the first place you, or other cats, need to observe is the tail.

Tail is upright: commonly indicates a relaxed and friendly mood.

Tail is swishing back and forth: this could be expressing either curiosity or anger, depending on the speed and intensity of the movement.

Tail is fluffy and the hair is standing on end: commonly communicates that a cat is feeling threatened.

Other body language to look for is how the cat positions himself.

Laying down and showing the belly: often an invitation for attention.

Standing with an arched back: a warning posture signaling other to keep their distance.

Scent marking

Finally, cats communicate with scent. If your cat has ever rubbed against you, know that that's her way of leaving her scent on you and sending a signal to other cats that you are her territory. Similarly, cats who are comfortable with each other might rub their faces together and share their scent. Sweet, huh?

Do cats communicate with each other?

Yes, absolutely. The way cats communicate with each other is similar in many ways to how they try to communicate with humans. We don't always read the signals correctly, but other cats are well-versed in the ways of purrs and feline body language.

Can dogs and cats communicate with each other?

There's no definitive proof that dogs and cats can fully understand each other. Animals are adept at reading certain signals from one another. Though, cats and dogs will likely understand at least the basics of communication when they yelp, growl or make eye contact with each other. They may not be able to have deep conversations, but they will know if the other is saying "let's be friends" or "stay away from me."

Ginger tabby cat and golden retriever sitting at dining table
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Ways of communicating with cats

If you're looking to communicate with your furry friend, there are some things you can do. First, always start the "conversation" on the right note, by approaching the cat — especially one who doesn't know you well — slowly and down at their level. Extend your hand and let the cat come to you. Next, if you're talking to a cat, use a calm, soothing voice, especially when you're saying their name. If you want to say "I love you" to your cat, look her in the eyes and slowly blink. This gesture communicates love in cat-speak.