Guard Cat Rhea and Cat Language

Regular readers know that I have four cats and love them dearly. Sometimes they do things that really confuse me, other times, they just make me laugh. Rhea’s behaviour when someone comes to the front door is an example of this.
I first noticed it a few weeks ago. Someone knocked on the door and she ran to door growling. I’d never seen this in a cat before.
“Does she think she’s a dog?” I wondered.
Nothing else in her behaviour changed, she’s a very loving little thing, so I thought no more about it. Until it happened again. And again. It now happens every time someone knocks on the door. Wherever she is in the house, she runs to the front door, growling.
One of the reasons that cats growl is that they feel insecure or threatened, and it is actually not as an uncommon as I thought for cats to growl when someone comes to the door. It’s their way of saying,
“Go away, you’re not welcome here.”
Cats also growl when they are angry. And if they start hissing and spitting, leave them well alone.
Why has she just recently started this behaviour? I don’t know for sure, but I think it is because she is predominately a house cat. She will occasionally go outside, if the weather is nice and I leave the back door open, she’ll stay out for a while. But the moment that door closes, she is like a little Meerkat, standing on her hind legs at the door, until I let her back in. She has never stayed out over night and shows no signs of wanting to do so. (Which is just as well, I don’t like my girls being out overnight.)
So, because she is in the house most of the time, it’s her domain, her territory. And she’s very fussy about who comes in. The funny thing is, if someone comes in, she will usually hide. As I said, she can be a little timid.
Rhea is a great talker. If I pick her up, she says “yes” or “no.” Seriously. That’s exactly what the noises she makes sound like. In fact, all of my girls like a little chat. Particularly when they see birds in the garden. I’ve always called the noise they make when they see birds chattering, but it’s also known as chirruping or chirping. It’s a very distinctive sound, and only ever use this when they are watching birds.
I’m pleased to say that they all purr. My Titan had the loudest purr. I even recorded it and used it as my ‘phone ring tone, it was so loud. Most times it’s a good sound, but did you know that cats sometimes purr when they are distressed or in pain. It seems that it is the cat equivalent of sucking a thumb or some other similar comfort gesture.
Then there’s the meow. I think cats must be Italian, because, in the same way that in Italian, the same word can have several meanings, cats do this with meow. It can mean,
“Hurry up and feed me,” or
“I’m not in the mood for you to stroke me, I’m annoyed with you,” or
“Cuddle me.”
And then there is the yowl. Usually, this means the cat is in some sort of distress. However, quite often, male cats will make this noise when they are engaged in a turf war. Two of the male cats around here sit in my garden making this noise for hours. It’s also, apparently, a noise they make in mating behaviour. Obviously, I wouldn’t know about that, my cats are just not those type of girls.
Cats also use body language to communicate, but that’s the subject of another post. So, for now,

©Susan Shirley 2014


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