When you have more than one cat, you often wonder at the seemingly bizarre communication methods they have with one another. Two cats can be contentedly curled up snoring happily next to each other and then 30 seconds later, feline war has broken out. What happened?
Cats have many ways of communicating with each other, much of which we can’t easily understand because our noses aren’t as sensitive as theirs. Scent is one of the most important ways a cat learns and interacts with his environment. Cats also see very differently than humans do, so they pick up on nuances of body language we often don’t notice.
Some cat owners who did not get their cats neutered soon enough may know that cats mark territory by spraying urine. In the wild, they’d be doing it on trees for all their feline buddies to smell. (In your house, you get to smell it instead, which is unpleasant to say the least, so get your cat neutered.)
Fortunately, cats have other ways of depositing their scent and marking their space. If you’ve ever seen a cat rubbing his face on a table leg or scratching post, he’s actually depositing facial pheromones. These scents mark the space and help the cat navigate through it.
Cats that like each other will rub their cheeks on each other. If you cat likes you, he may rub his cheeks on you too. It’s a social thing that means he’s comfortable with you and thinks your safe. You may also have noticed that cats that know each other well will sniff each other’s rears. This activity is actually a sign of acceptance.
Cats exhibit other body language as well. A cat with his ears forward and eyes half closed is relaxed. When he wakes up, his eyes open wide and his whiskers stand out. When your cat is scared of something, he flattens his ears back on his head and his pupils dilate. If he’s angry or upset, he’ll flatten his ears, push his whiskers forward, open his mouth, and make growling or hissing noises. And as all the Halloween pictures depict, a cat arches his back and puffs up to look larger when he’s defending himself.
As with dogs, staring is considered a form of intimidation in the feline world. So if you see two cats in a "stare down" match, they are probably getting ready to pounce on one another. If you have a cat that’s somewhat afraid of you, don’t stare directly at him. Slowly blink your eyes. Looking like a sleepy cat makes you seem less scary.
Unlike a dog, a cat that is wagging her tail is not happy. She’s in conflict, probably annoyed, and trying to figure out what to do next. A relaxed cat lowers her tail, and a happy, proud cat holds her tail high above her back.