Cats and communication


By looking at the way cats leave signals for each other and communicate by various means in different situations, we can perhaps understand some of the signals they leave for us. We may also be able to unravel the reasons for some of their behavioral patterns, especially those which we may see as problems (such as indoor spraying) by ascertaining the circumstances in which these behaviors occur in the wild-living cat.

We can compare the domestic cat to it solitary-living feline cousin, thanks to the way they communicate. They also need separate consideration because they live at much greater densities than these wildcats and can choose to live in groups (like lions), albeit without the hunting co-operation. Thus, they communicate not just with long-distance signals, but at much closer range and have perhaps developed ways of doing this that are absent in their wilder relatives.

When animals live closely to one another they have to learn to tolerate each other and have some way of communicating to avoid conflict and thus injury. Dogs are pack-living animals, they need a pack around them to have a behavioral repertoire and to feel safe, that allows them to fit into a pack slot and appease them, submit or dominate as befits their status or place (or desired place) in the pack. Thus, although there may be a great deal of grumbling or cringing going on, there is little outright aggression and the pack works well together. For this, dogs have the ability to perform a wide range of body language in order to work together and prevent injury. Dog groups do have a hierarchy, and the rules of status prevent them hurting each other unnecessarily and save energy by having a structure whereby the group knows how to act and doesn’t need to make an issue out of each decision.

The only group-living cats that co-operate during hunting are lions; they also live in groups and manage to live seemingly in harmony. However, these are female groups with cubs. The male lives alongside the females until it is ousted by a younger or fitter rival; males do not have to live alongside each other in harmony. Young males will form small groups when they are of an age to be pushed out of the pride.

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Cats and hunting