People often wonder about the special names given to groups of animals, like a murder of crows or a pod of dolphins. One question that often comes up among cat lovers is, what is a group of cats called? While there are a few different terms used to describe groups of felines, some more whimsical than others, it all comes down to the context and the cats’ relationships to one another. Let’s explore some of the most popular names for cat groupings and when each is commonly used.
Common Terms for a Group of Cats
The most commonly used term for a group of cats is a “clowder.” This refers to a group of domestic cats who are familiar with each other and coexist peacefully. A typical clowder is made up of intact females, neutered males, and kittens living in close proximity.
Cluster and Clutter
“Cluster” and “clutter” are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably with clowder. They imply a haphazard grouping of cats milling about in the same area. These words evoke the image of cats clustered or cluttered together without much order or hierarchy.
A “glaring” refers specifically to a group of cats staring intently at the same object or person. Picture a row of cats with their gaze fixed on a pesky squirrel in the yard or an uninvited guest at the door. Their unified stare is referred to as a “glaring.”
Less common but more playful is the term “pounce.” This implies a group of energetic cats getting ready to playfully attack or jump on something all at once, like a cat toy or hapless human.
Domestic Cats and Their Social Behavior
Unlike dogs that form cohesive packs, domestic cats do not have a rigid social structure or hierarchy. They come together in loose groups only when it suits them, not out of a sense of loyalty.
When in groups, cats mostly tolerate and largely ignore each other. There are no alpha cats that dominate the others. Any conflicts are usually limited to hissing or swatting and then they go their separate ways.
Male cats are generally solitary creatures and prefer being on their own once reaching adulthood. They guard their territories as individuals and seldom form close bonds even with other males.
A typical clowder is primarily made up of related females (mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters) along with their kittens and neutered males. The males are drawn to the group for mating access to the females. But they do not form a tightly knit social unit beyond that purpose. The core clowder is usually the bonded females caring cooperatively for the kittens.
Specific Terms for Kittens
When it comes to groups of kittens, there are a couple of special terms to describe the adorable furballs.
The most ubiquitous phrase used for a group of kittens is a “litter.” This simply refers to all the kittens born to a single mother cat. Kittens from the same litter are birth siblings birthed in rapid succession from the same pregnancy. A litter usually consists of two to five kittens, though larger litters are not unheard of.
A more unusual phrase for a group of playful kittens is an “intrigue.” This charming term evokes the image of the kittens secretively plotting together or getting up to mischief.
Similarly evocative is the expression “kindle” used to describe a litter of kittens. It conjures up the endearing sight of a pile of cuddling newborn kittens keeping each other warm.
Feral or Stray Cats and Their Groupings
When it comes to feral or stray cat populations, they are referred to as a “colony” rather than a clowder or other domestic cat terms that we use for pet cats. Feral cats lead very different lives than house cats and have adapted to surviving outdoors in the wild.
Feral cats gather together in distinct communities called colonies in order to increase their chances of survival. By banding together in a colony, these streetwise cats can cooperate to protect food sources, share shelter, and defend territory against threats.
Within the colony, the feral cats develop a social structure and hierarchy, with dominant males and females presiding over the group. There are complex power dynamics as cats jockey for status within the colony. The members may not be as closely bonded as a family clowder of house cats, but they depend on the colony for food, mating access, protection, and shared resources.
Even though feral cats are not pets, understanding how they organize themselves into colonies gives us insight into the innate social capabilities of felines. Just like their domesticated counterparts, feral cats have rules and relationships even without human influence.
While we often use the terms “clowder,” “glaring,” and “litter” when referring to groups of cats, it’s important to remember that feline social behavior is more complex than just applying a clever name. Cats exhibit different types of groupings depending on factors like familiarity, setting, age, and even mood. Understanding how our furry companions interact provides insight into their behaviors and needs. Whether house cats or feral colonies, learning about how cats relate to one another tells us a lot about what makes them tick!