Meow… Understanding how cats talk to each other


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Understanding How Cats Talk

Ever wondered how cats communicate with one another? It’s a little more complicated than you think.

There are 3 main ways that cats communicate with each other and, surprise! It’s not by meowing or hissing.

We’re going to be doing a little deep dive on how cats talk to each other, hold onto your whiskers and let’s get started.

How do cats communicate with each other? 

Cats communicate in very subtle ways compared to dogs and if you blink, you could miss it. 

As humans, we’re so focused on speech and the more loud or obvious forms of communication whereas cats are much more subtle.

 There are 3 main ways that cats communicate with each other (and with you), these include;

  1. Vocalisation
  2. Body language
  3. Scent 

Read: Why it’s not offensive to be called a cat lady


Is your cat a little chatterbox, constantly meowing and chatting throughout the house? 

Well, your kitty uses these vocalisations to tell you and other cats what they need. Different pitches, intensity and volume of their meowing reflect their different requirements. 

Very loud meowing to the point where it’s almost a howl can indicate fear and anxiety while less intense meows can indicate that they’re content. 

The main sounds you’ve probably heard from your cat include;

  • Purring and  little murmurs
  • Meowing of different intensities
  • Howling and growling

Did you know that cats meow more when they’re interacting with humans than with cats? They may meow a little when greeting another cat but they’re more likely to chat to you. 

Domestic cats are also more vocal than feral cats. Feral cats are nearly silent most of the time and use their silent nature as a key survival technique.

When two cats meet…

When two cats meet each other for the first time, they often go through a set of rituals 

The older cat will hiss at the newcomer and sometimes the younger kitty will hiss back. This is essentially a warning on the older cat’s part. It won’t necessarily lead to a fight or escalate in any way depending on the personality of both cats involved. 

The hissing may be accompanied by a growl if the younger cat doesn’t back off right away. But unless there's some serious tail-lashing, hair raising and shrieking, there’s usually little to worry about and they’ll get used to each other.

Discover: How to stop your cat’s jealousy in its tracks!

Body language

Cats use their body language to convey their love or dislike of humans and other cats. It’s an important form of inter-feline communication.

You’ll notice that your cats use their body language by:

  • Touching noses or rubbing against each other to greet one another
  • Licking the top of another cat’s head. This same gesture can be used to comfort an unhappy cat. This gesture is similar to when a mama cat spends her days grooming her babies. This makes kittens feel safe and happy and is something that carries through to their kitty adulthood.
  • Napping together
  • Grooming each other
  • Playing together 

Explore: 4 kitty cat behaviour myths debunked

Scent (This is a cat’s number 1 way to communicate)

Cats love to communicate using scent.

They’ll rub their faces on other cats’ faces or even yours. Their faces deposit oils and pheromones from their scent glands on their foreheads, cheeks and chins. By rubbing their heads against each other and along the sides of their bodies, they’re showing their love and affection.

You’ll often find a cat rubbing its head against another cat’s cheek which is their number one way of saying that they’re comfortable with each other and showcasing their friendship.

When cats don’t know each other…

Scent is also super important when cats don’t know each other. Yup, we’re talking about spraying and sniffing each other’s behinds.

Dogs usually sniff one another’s butts more thoroughly than cats do but cats still use this as a form of greeting.

After they smell each other’s face and neck, they’ll start smelling each other’s behinds but only once they feel comfortable doing so. It’s basically a polite handshake between two cats who want to get to know each other.

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And spraying? That’s a purely territorial thing.

Cats pay close attention to what’s in the litter box or the garden. It’s a mix of territorial markings, sexual signals and a translation of a cat’s vocabulary of scent which humans may never completely understand.

Just like humans have different nuances in communication so do cats and it’s not as simple as a meow and purr here and there.

See if you can notice the subtle ways your kitties talk to each other.


Yours in tail-o-made pet insurance,


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