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How do cats communicate with each other?


rodheadlee

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We live in a marina with a RV park attached and a city park further out. It's really cool for local wildlife, including feral cats. It's quite a jaunt down to our boat and some of the feral cats have been coming down and eating our cat food aboard our boat. So we put 2 dishes put on the docks for them to eat from. Our cats eat from it too. At first there was just 2 cats + our  2 cats. So the other day there was a line of them. One would come down and eat, then leave. Then another would come and eat and so on until at least 5 feral cats had taken turns at the cat dish. It was really interesting how they would not fight and crowd each other out, they just politely took turns. I wonder how the word about the food got around?

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That's a fun question! I don't know that much about cats but I know about mammals in general. Obviously they don't have language that is even close to human language but they do communicate in nonverbal and instinctual ways. Cats are what I would call "semi domesticated"--even feral cats because they are descended from cats who are used to human families. There are "rules" about eating that are instinctual to them so probably eating one at a time (at least with "outside" cats) is probably a behavior that is instinctual to them.  Cats have a rhinarium--that soft, moist kind of nose that we don't have. So rather than the 5 million or so "smell" receptors that we have, cats have over 200 million. They can smell the food you put out from an incredibly long distance and they can also smell each cat that has eaten the food so they are experiencing your food in a way that is very different than we perceive but just as accurately.

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3 hours ago, katherine the great said:

Cats are what I would call "semi domesticated"--even feral cats because they are descended from cats who are used to human families.

I am thinking that all of the cats I have ever known would take issue with the idea that they are domesticated, or even "semi-domesticated".  In fact, I am quite certain that cats see it the other way around, humans are a "semi-domesticated" primate–and, if they could be bothered to, they might someday finish our domestication. As it is, we suit their purposes. For now. 

Edited by deli_llama
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2 hours ago, katherine the great said:

That's a fun question! I don't know that much about cats but I know about mammals in general. Obviously they don't have language that is even close to human language but they do communicate in nonverbal and instinctual ways. Cats are what I would call "semi domesticated"--even feral cats because they are descended from cats who are used to human families. There are "rules" about eating that are instinctual to them so probably eating one at a time (at least with "outside" cats) is probably a behavior that is instinctual to them.  Cats have a rhinarium--that soft, moist kind of nose that we don't have. So rather than the 5 million or so "smell" receptors that we have, cats have over 200 million. They can smell the food you put out from an incredibly long distance and they can also smell each cat that has eaten the food so they are experiencing your food in a way that is very different than we perceive but just as accurately.

I know that they aren't mammals, but it has been shown that birds have syntax in their communication with each other.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160308134748.htm

Also, studies have been done with prairie dog language.

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/20/132650631/new-language-discovered-prairiedogese

http://conslobodchikoff.com

 

These are a couple example of animal communication that I can think of off the top of my head.  I'm sure there are more studies out there.

And, not based on any science at all, I can tell from the calls of the quail in my back yard when there is a cat in the yard.

Edited by ksfisher
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13 hours ago, rodheadlee said:

It was really interesting how they would not fight and crowd each other out, they just politely took turns.

It may look polite, but I bet the order they are eating in is based on dominance.

Edited by ksfisher
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3 hours ago, deli_llama said:

I am thinking that all of the cats I have ever known would take issue with the idea that they are domesticated, or even "semi-domesticated".  In fact, I am quite certain that cats see it the other way around, humans are a "semi-domesticated" primate–and, if they could be bothered to, they might someday finish our domestication. As it is, we suit their purposes. For now. 

Lol! Yes. There is some evidence that cats actually domesticated themselves; choosing the humans rather than us domesticating them as we did with dogs.

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2 hours ago, ksfisher said:

 

And, not based on any science at all, I can tell from the calls of the quail in my back yard when there is a cat in the yard.

Interesting! I have also seen studies on monkey communication that demonstrate different warning vocalizations for airborne vs terrestrial predators. It would be interesting to observe if your quail calls differ if an eagle or a hawk flies overhead.

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1 hour ago, katherine the great said:

Interesting! I have also seen studies on monkey communication that demonstrate different warning vocalizations for airborne vs terrestrial predators. It would be interesting to observe if your quail calls differ if an eagle or a hawk flies overhead.

No eagles but we have hawks occasionally.  We have several bird feeders in our backyard and the place is normally pretty noisy (bird noise that is).  When there is a hawk around it's dead silent.

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6 minutes ago, ksfisher said:

No eagles but we have hawks occasionally.  We have several bird feeders in our backyard and the place is normally pretty noisy (bird noise that is).  When there is a hawk around it's dead silent.

Had to smile at that, it is just the opposite here. This morning the crows were making a huge ruckus, when I went outside to see what had them so upset (it is usually one of the hawks, or a human that has earned their ire in the past), I was in time to see them ground one of the local bald eagles (again).

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/25/2017 at 11:10 PM, rodheadlee said:

I'm voting for telepathy.

Yes, cats seem to be quite sensitive, particularly like my Bob... sometimes it's almost scary.  For instance, since we live alone with just us we've become quite "in tune" with one another.  The thing he does that is the most amazing is when I'm praying... sometimes I barely whisper and sometimes I purposely pray silently in my thoughts only so he can't hear me... Nevertheless no matter which, almost without exception he comes and starts nuzzling me.  He can be curled up in a deep sleep, and I'll bow my head while sitting here at the kitchen/den table to say my morning or evening prayers, and pretty soon here he is... nuzzling my hands and face.  It's uncanny... what does he sense that brings him out of his sleep?

The other thing he does that gives me goosebumps is he will suddenly focus on something, like just above my head, his eyes becoming alert, sharp, his body not moving but alert.  Does he see something?  Do I have an aura?  whatever... it's unnerving...  soon he relaxes but I'm left with this "feeling"...

GG

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