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How Do Cats Communicate With Each Other

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Cats communicate with each other through meowing, physical contact, and scent marking.
  • Physical contact includes nose-to-nose greetings, head rubbing, and tail rubbing, while scent marking involves depositing pheromones and oils.
  • Meowing is a common form of communication between cats, although they meow more frequently at humans than at each other. Meowing is more common in kittens.
  • Cats can understand other cats' meows and use them to communicate with each other.
  • Cats can recognize other cats based on their faces and names, and they can perceive when humans are talking to them.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Friday 16 February 2024
Last updated on
Monday 30 October 2023
How Do Cats Communicate With Each Other
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Many people assume that cats only communicate through meowing at each other. However, that is simply not true. There are other ways in which cats talk to each other. So now, in this article, we will answer the question: “how do cats communicate with each other?” In addition, we will also discuss whether cats understand each other’s meowing and the answers to other frequently asked questions about cat communication.

How Do Cats Talk to Each Other? 

There are different ways cats communicate with each other and with other pets, like dogs. Their communication is not only limited to meowing or vocalization. Aside from meowing, they can also talk through physical contact and scent. 

Thus, let’s all take a look at them one by one: 

Physical Contact

Cats have strong social instincts. For example, they often greet each other through nose contact. Thus, you can see them rubbing their nose at other cats once they saw them. Moreover, they express their love by stroking their heads together and along their bodies’ sides. Even cats will occasionally hook and rub their tails together.

On the other hand, cats do not often brush their backs against one another. This characteristic can be the reason why some cats are not fond of long exposure to back scratches. Their heads and the sides of their bodies are typically where they prefer to be touched.


Cats use the smell glands on their foreheads, cheeks, and chins to deposit pheromones and oils when they brush against one another and objects. When their bodies and tails rub against one another, they also trade odors. Cats will also rub on noticeable items in the home to establish their territory and create a smell trail.

In addition, cats also mark their territory through urine spraying. This behavior is extremely common among cats living outside or those who occasionally go outdoors. However, spraying can occasionally take place indoors. When this happens, your cat may be reacting to another stressor in their lives to an outside cat being on the property.


And lastly, one of the most known ways of cat communication is through vocalization. Although studies have found that cats prefer to meow more when dealing with humans and less frequently when engaging with one another, cats may utilize a meow or trill sound to greet one another. When addressed at humans, the meow appears to be a care-inviting vocalization.

Both inhalation and exhale cause purring. Cats may purr when they are with other cats, as well as when they are around people and other items. They purr when rubbing on objects, rolling around on the ground, or kneading blankets. 

Although it is common knowledge that cats purr when they are pleased, they may also purr when they are ill. There are also instances where cats who are near death occasionally purr. Endorphins are released while purring, which reduces discomfort. According to studies, purrs vibrate between 25 and 100 hertz (HZ).

When a cat is scared, it may growl or hiss to warn the other cat to leave her alone or to keep its distance. The first cat may intensify their vocalization to a snarl, spit, or yowl before an assault if the other cat does not stop and moves closer. When in despair, cats may also wail.

Can Cats Understand Other Cats’ Meow?

Yes, cats can understand other cats’ meows. Since it is one of their ways of communication, cats use meowing to talk to each other. For example, cats meow at each other as a sign of greeting. However, even though they understand each other’s meows, observations showed that cats meow more toward their pet parents. 

In addition, meowing is an intriguing vocalization since mature cats only often meow at people and not at each other. Meowing to other cats is more observed in kittens. Kittens usually meow at their mother to signal that they are hungry or cold. But, once they grow up, they tend to meow less to other cats. 

However, take note that meowing is not the same as purring and hissing. Even though they are all vocalizations, they are different from one another. 

How Do Cats Communicate With Each Other: FAQ

Before we end the article, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how cats communicate: 

Do cats actually communicate with each other?

Yes, cats communicate with each other. They communicate in various ways aside from meowing. Physical contact and sent marking also serve as their way of talking to each other.

Do cats know other cats are cats?

Yes, cats know other cats are the same as them! In fact, according to a study by Takagi, et al. (2022), cats can recognize other cats based on their faces and names. In their study, cats were shown pictures of other cats they lived with (either in a house or in a cat cafe), it was also accompanied by a sound stating the cats’ supposed names.
The results showed that cats looked longer in pictures with incorrect names stated in the audio. Thus, the authors of the study came to the conclusion that this behavior may have happened because the cat was anticipating the right name and was perplexed when it was not presented.

Do cats know humans talk to each other?

Despite the fact that cats may not comprehend human language in the same manner that people do, studies have shown that they can identify and occasionally react to human vocalizations, gestures, and emotions. 

What do cats hear when we talk to them?

Although cats lack the cognitive ability to understand human language, they can tell when you are speaking to them. Or, to put it another way, cats perceive language the same way that we do when we hear them meow.

Is it OK to meow back at your cat?

Yes, it is okay to meow back at your cat. Pet owners often do this to act like they are having a conversation with them. However, if you are trying to call a cat by meowing, it might approach you but will leave the moment it saw that it is coming from a person. 

Cats communicate through different vocalizations, physical contact, and scent markings. With that, they can also understand other cats’ meows. More interestingly, cats meow more at humans compared to other cats. Meowing as a way of communication is more observed in kittens. In addition, even though cats do not understand human language, they can tell or identify if you are talking to them. 

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