Many people think cats are asocial, but in fact they are very social animals. They bond with other cats in their house or neighborhood, their owners, even other pets like dogs and birds. They communicate to each other and us a variety of ways.
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A keen sense of smell is important in cat communication. When her human returns home, a cat carefully sniffs then proceeds to rub her face against the owner's legs. She is placing her scent on you, marking you as her territory. As you have gone through your day, scent molecules have attached to your clothing. Your cat must mark you again to cover up those other smells.
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Cats also communicate through body language. Your cat's posture, gestures, facial expressions, tail, ear and whisker position can all be an indication of how your cat is feeling. A bristling tail held straight up, or one that thrashes back and forth are warnings. If a cat is feeling defensive, the tail is usually arched. Hissing and backing away with ears flat against the head are other defensive poses. You can tell a lot about a cat's state of being from its eyes. Wide, dilated eyes communicate anger or fear. A contented cat slowly blinks its eyes, or keeps them half-closed.
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There are probably many more movements that send signals, but they are so subtle, only another cat can notice and interpret them. This explains why cats seem to “read one another's minds.” Two cats might gaze at each other without moving for a very long time, then suddenly erupt into action. What was the signal? A twitch of lip, lift of a lip, tilt of the head? Only the cats know.
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Did You know there are at least nineteen different types of “miaow”? When it comes to sound, cats say more than meow. Their vocalizations fall into three groups, murmurs, open/closed mouth and intensity sounds. Murmured sounds include the low sound cats make when treats are coming, as well as the famous purr. Purring is usually interpreted as a sound of contentment, but it is really more a vocalization of intense emotion. In fact, an injured cat, or one being handled by a stranger – like a vet – often purr.
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Open/closed mouth vocalizations include all the variations and intonations of “meow” that a cat uses to greet you, or ask for food, or otherwise demand attention. Intensity vocalizations are created when the cat holds her mouth open the entire time she is making sound. These are the highly emotional vocalization of fear, anger, and extreme pain.
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Some cats are more talkative than others. Many owners notice a difference in the types of noises their cats make for them as opposed to strangers or other cats. A few owners believe their cats have learned to mimic the syntax and pitch of some human words. Whether that is true or not, it is certain that the more time you spend with your cat, the more she'll communicate with you.
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