American Allan Poe, a famous American writer, once said that he wished his writing was as mysterious as a cat. Cats indeed are complex creatures because you never know what they are thinking: you try to get close, they hiss at you, then when you least expect it, they come and sit on your lap. They live on their own terms, and it’s no wonder someone said we don’t own them; they choose us. If you probe further into the mystery, you will notice that while dogs constantly bark at each other, your cats never seem to “talk” to each other. Well, you no longer have to rack your brain trying to solve the puzzle of why cats don’t “talk” to each other because we have done the homework for you, and here’s what we found out.
Cats Have Other Ways of Communicating with Each Other
According to the Library of Congress, cats were wild animals who only felt the need to start meowing when they became domesticated. Therefore one anthrozoologist, John Bradshaw, concluded that feral cats do not meow as much as domesticated cats because meowing is to “train ‘humans to bend to their will. However, female cats are usually vocal with their kittens since they are yet to learn the subtle language of feline communication. Consequently, felines have other ways of communication with each other, which include:
A cat’s body language can have lots of meaning. According to Pawp, the tails especially convey lots of messages. For instance, when it is raised in the air straight up when approaching another cat, it means your cat is comfortable being around the other kitty. Your furry friend could even go a step further and roll over to expose the belly to indicate the extent of comfort he feels around the other cat; comfortable enough to be vulnerable. On the other hand, when feeling uncomfortable, the tail will be tucked under in a crouched position as your cat carefully observes if the cat is an enemy or a friend. If the other cat approaches your cat and your cat feels threatened, the tail will start moving from side to side, and he might even puff it up to appear bigger than the perceived opponent. If the eyes are wide open, then your cat is ready to fight. However, if the eyes are closed around another cat, it signifies your cat is at ease with the other cat hence no need to be wary.
According to Feliway, cats use a special type of chemical communication called pheromones to communicate with each other. The pheromones are produced by glands mainly in the face and also on the paws. Those on the face produce pheromones that contain as many as 40 different chemicals. The strangest thing is that all cats, regardless of their age, understand what each chemical means. Hence do not expect your cat to start vocalizing when all he needs is to recognize the meaning of each chemical produced by another cat. They transfer the pheromones by scratching or running their heads on surfaces and spraying urine. Cats use the vomeronasal glands located on the roof of their mouths to detect messages other cats may have left for them. The chemicals are used to signal fear, happiness, the need for a mate, mark territories, enhance bonds and create familiarity. Outdoor cats especially rely on these pheromones for survival since the messages can help them avoid confrontation with other felines.
According to Science Norway, cats meow because they learned the behavior during their early months as kittens to communicate with their mothers. They, therefore, reason that if it works with their mothers, it should work with humans; hence domesticated cats meow at us. If you continually ignore them, they realize you do not understand their language, and they eventually stop. In the wild, meowing is not necessary, but animals have other ways to vocalize when around each other. For instance, when in danger, cats howl, yet when they feel threatened, they hiss, and when a female wants a male cat to mate with her, she calls him. NCBI published an ethogram detailing the adult cat vocalization and in which context each sound is applicable.
Do Cats Talk to Humans?
Although scientists make fun by saying that cats only use their meows to train us into submitting to them, it is true that cats talk to us through various sounds and body language too. One professor, Alphonse Leon Gilmadi, translated some of the sounds cats use and came up with 17 words of the feline language. However, regardless of how many animal behavior experts tell us that cats communicate with us, only you as a kitty parent will understand what your fur baby means, just like a mum can understand her child’s gibberish when everyone is else can’t.
According to The Cut, researchers recorded meows from 12 cats placed in five different scenarios. Only the pet owners knew what their cats meant from each sound played. Still, even humans sometimes mistake the sounds and gestures make. Purring has for a long time been considered to indicate that your cat is happy, but it has been discovered that it signals your kitty is asking for your presence.
While some of the behavior is easy to spot and translate, like your cat rubbing against you as he circles your feet once you are back home, others are not so obvious. It is up to you to pay close attention and learn what your cat is trying to tell you because only then will you be able to meet his needs. Some scientists think that even the meows have different pitches depending on each situation. Remember that cats can be persistent in their communication, and the more you ignore his vocalization, the more he will try and “talk” to you to understand him. The same reasoning is what cats use to warn you numerous times to leave him alone before he bites you.