Feline Wellness

How Cats Communicate With Each Other

June 12, 2024

Cats have complex social behaviors and communicate with each other in a variety of ways including touch, smell, body language, and vocalization. Cats greet each other by touching their noses and rubbing against each other. They exchange scents to learn more about each other and often end with sniffing under each others' tails. Some say hello to each other with an understated trill or a slow blink while others use body language to communicate. 

Here are some common ways cats communicate:

Nose-to-Nose: Approaching each other and touching noses is a sign of friendly acknowledgment, a quick hello.

Sniffing: Cats’ noses are full of scent receptors, which gives them a sense of smell more than 14 times stronger than humans. Cats often sniff each other's faces, bodies, and rear ends to gather information about the other cat and to learn who they are, where they’ve been, and what they’ve been up to. 

Cats have scent glands on their foreheads, ears, cheeks, chins, paw pads, and near their hindquarters and tails. These glands release pheromones that contain information about the cat’s health, gender, reproductive status, and mood.

Some cats - particularly males who are not neutered - will spray urine to mark their territory and to exchange scents with other cats as a means of a friendly greeting. Scratching also allows cats to distribute pheromones through the scent glands in their paws and serves as another way for them to mark their territory. 

Rubbing: Cats often rub their foreheads, cheeks, chins and sometimes their whole bodies against each other as a way to establish familiarity and mark their territory. Rubbing against each other is a sign of acceptance. 

Intertwining Tails: Cats sometimes greet each other by intertwining their tails. This can signify friendship and a strong bond. 

Vocalization: Vocalizations such as trills, chirps, or growls can convey an array of messages ranging from friendliness and curiosity to aggression and irritation.

While meowing is usually reserved for interacting with humans, cats often greet each other with smaller and more subtle sounds like trills and chirps. 

Kittens, of course, mew to get their mom’s attention, especially if they are newborn and haven’t yet opened their eyes. They want their mom to know where they are and to feed them.

When cats are unhappily encountering each other, they may growl, hiss, or even howl and yowl as a warning to stay away. 

Body language: Cats use subtle body language cues to communicate during greetings and let each other know how they feel. Their ears, tails, eyes, and whiskers are key to the way they communicate with each other. 

Confident or content cats hold their tails up high and point their ears forward. They may slow blink or expose their bellies when they’re particularly relaxed.

Fearful cats may flatten their ears into “airplane ears,” and hunch down and tuck their limbs into loaf position in order to appear smaller and protect their internal organs. They may hiss or growl as well as thwack their tail or fluff up their fur and arch their back into “Halloween cat” pose if they are particularly upset.

Watching your cats interactions will give you tons of information on how they communicate and what they think of each other. By watching their body language and their social behavior you will be able to ensure they are getting along and everyone is feeling safe and happy in the home.

Love, Nala