Cat communication consists of a range of methods with which cats
communicate with humans, other cats, and other animals. While
superficially cats may seem to lack social behavior, in fact close
study reveals a wide repertoire of subtle behaviors, which serve cats
in their natural wild setting where they form organized hierarchies,
and in their domestic interactions with humans.
When passing solid waste, cats, like many types of predators, release
from anal glands a small amount of liquid that scents their feces to
mark their territory. Other animals such as the skunk use similar
glands for self-defense. During moments of excitement or other strong
emotions, a cat's anal sac may discharge, releasing a foul-smelling
brown liquid. Anal irritation, possibly shown by the cat rubbing its
bottom on the floor and frequent licking of the area, can be a sign
that the cat's anal sacs are not being emptied when waste passes.
Although this condition can be treated through the addition of a small
amount of bran to each meal, it may require veterinary attention.
Shorthair cats are more prone to this problem.
A cat vocalizingThe unique sound a cat makes (listen
(help·info)) is rendered onomatopoeically as "meow" or similar
variants ("miaow", "miau" etc.) in most European languages as well as
Mandarin Chinese. Japanese has it as "nyaau", "nyu", or "nyan"; Korean
as "yaong" or "nyaong". In Arabic the sound is transcribed as "mowa'a"
or "naw". Other variants exist throughout the world. The sound of an
increasingly annoyed cat is transcribed in James Joyce's Ulysses as
"mkgnao", "mrkgnao" and "mrkrgnao".
The cat's pronunciation of this call varies significantly depending on
meaning. Usually cats call out to indicate pain, request human
attention (to be fed or played with, for example), or as a greeting.
Some cats are very vocal, and others rarely call out. Cats are capable
of about 100 different vocalizations, compared to about 10 for dogs.
A kitten's call first starts out as a high-pitched squeak-like sound
when very young, and then deepens over time. In sterilized cats,
especially males, the call tends to remain similar to that of a kitten
Main article: Purr
Cats can also produce a purring noise that typically indicates that the
cat is happy, but also can mean that it feels distress, thus a purring
cat is not necessarily a happy cat. A cat in great pain, distress or
even a female giving birth will purr. Cats purr among other
cats—for example, the mother when she meets her kittens, or the
kittens when suckling. Until recently, there were many competing
theories to explain how cats purr, including vibration of the cat's
false vocal cords when inhaling and exhaling, the sound of blood
hitting the aorta, vibration of the hyoid apparatus, or resonation
directly in the lungs. Currently, though, it is believed that purring
is a result of rhythmic impulses to the cat's larynx.
It is possible for a cat to call out and purr simultaneously. In
addition to purring, cats may blink slowly or partially close their
eyes when they are relaxed and happy.
However, purring may also be a way for the cat to calm itself down. As
stated above, cats have been known to purr when hurt or distressed.
Although not proven, research has suggested that the frequency of the
vibration produced by purring may promote healing of bones and organs
Cats will bite out of playfulness or aggression. A common
misunderstanding about the motivation behind a cat's bite is that it is
a form of affection. People most likely assume this because a cat will
sometimes bite suddenly while it is being petted. A petting-induced
bite is not a form of affection, but rather a mildly aggressive signal
to inform the human to stop petting. While this behavior may seem
unexpected to humans, a cat will usually give other subtle indications,
such as "tail-lashing or thumping, skin rippling, growling, cessation
of purring, ear flicking or rotation sideways, or shifting of body
position" to announce that it does not wish to be petted.
Cat hissing and arching its back to make itself appear larger.Most cats
growl or hiss when angered or in danger, which serves to warn the
offending party. If the warning is not heeded, a more or less serious
attack may follow. Some may engage in nipping behavior or batting with
their paws, either with claws extended or retracted. With cats who are
improperly socialised and do not know their own strength, this can
result in inadvertent damage to human skin. Like any injury, cat
scratches can become infected, and in extreme cases can result in cat
Cats are also known to make chirping or chattering noises when
observing prey, or as a means of expressing interest in an object to
nearby humans. When directed at out-of-reach prey, it is unknown
whether this is a threatening sound, an expression of frustration, or
an attempt to replicate a bird-call (or replicate the call of a bird's
prey, for example a cicada).  Whereas this conduct was originally
viewed as the feline equivalent of song, recent animal behaviorists
have come to believe this noise is a "rehearsal behavior" in which it
anticipates or practices the killing of prey, because the sound usually
accompanies a biting movement similar to the one they use to kill their
prey (the "killing bite" which saws through the victim's neck
A type of chirrup, the chudder, is used as a greeting. Tigers also use this sound.
Cats in close contact with humans use vocalization more frequently than
cats who live in the wild. Adult cats in the wild rarely vocalize; they
use mostly body language and scent to communicate.
Main article: Cat body language
A mackerel tabby cat kneading a blanket before a nap. Note the forward position of the whiskers, indicating happiness.
A young black cat with his eyes partially open, showing relaxation and
happiness.Cats will twitch the tips of their tails when hunting or
angry, while larger twitching indicates displeasure. They may also
twitch their tails when playing. A tail held high is a sign of
happiness, or can be used as a greeting towards humans or other cats
(usually close relatives) while half-raised shows less pleasure, and
unhappiness is indicated with a tail held low. A scared or surprised
cat may puff up its tail and the hair along its back and turn its body
sideways to a threat in order to increase its apparent size. Tailless
cats, such as the Manx, who possess only a small stub of a tail move
the stub around as though they possessed a full tail, though it is not
nearly as communicative as that of a fully tailed cat. Touching noses
is a friendly greeting for cats, while a lowered head is a sign of
submission. Some cats will rub their faces along their guardian's cheek
or ankles as a friendly greeting or sign of affection. This action is
also sometimes a way of "marking their territory," leaving a scent from
the scent glands located in the cat's cheek.
When cats are happy, they are known to paw their guardian, or that on
which they sit, with a kneading motion. Cats often use this action
alongside purring to show contentment and affection for their
guardians. In the vernacular this action is often referred to as
paddy-pawing, happy feet, making muffins (or biscuits), boop bopping,
stompy or treading paws. It is instinctive to cats, which use it when
they are young to stimulate the mother cat's breast to release milk
during nursing. As a result, cats hand-raised by humans may lack this
reflex. Pawing is also a way for cats to mark their territory. The
scent glands on the underside of their paws release small amounts of
scent onto the person or object being pawed, marking it as "theirs" in
the same way they would urinate to mark their territory.
4 Other noises
5 Body language