Just like cats have specific names according to gender, age, and development stage, a group of cats can also have various names according to its members. However, these are not commonly used terms, since cats rarely get to be a part of a group.
With families adopting one or two cats on average, a group of cats is quite a rare sight these days. You may find them in catteries or in a household with a very large number of cats.
But what is a group of cats called, anyway? We've put together a small dictionary of the correct terms referring to a group of cats to point out the similarities and the differences. Take a look!
Terms for a Group of Cats
Clowder - This is the central term used to refer to a group of cats which includes both adults and kittens, both males and females.
But what makes a clowder? The answer is a cat community. It is not enough to put 10 cats in a room to get a clowder. Like their much larger ancestors, household cats are wired to interact in groups.
While household cats are usually quite independent, if they do have the chance to interact with several other cats for a prolonged period of time, they will develop very strong relationships with them. As you may have guessed, a lot of it has to do with dominance and territory, but the interactions within the clowder are quite remarkable.
Other terms used to describe a group of cats
Glaring - This term also refers to a group of cats, but it suggests that the cats are not quite certain of each other. Their relationship might be at a starting point, when cats still observe each other a lot, aiming to determine if the others are to be trusted or not.
Clutter - This is yet another term describing a group of cats, but it does not go into detail regarding the types of relationships between the cats in the group.
Not to Be Confused with
Dowt - This is a term used to describe a group of wild cats. As such it does not apply to groups of domestic cats. Please note that dowts display different interactions between their members.
Another Type of Group of Cats
Litter - This term describes a different type of cat group. A litter is a group of kittens, not cats, from infancy up to the moment they reach adulthood. A litter is made up of all the kittens that a queen has given birth to and all of its members are siblings.
Kindle - This is another term used to describe a group of kittens. While litter is very specific to the kittens coming from the same mother, the kindle, on the other hand, is not. A kindle can refer to a group of kittens with different mothers. Please note that this term is not widely used.
How many cats are there in a clowder?
There is no predefined number of cats required to qualify as a clowder. While two cats make a pair, any group with more than three cats makes a clowder. Whether the cats are part of a clowder or not has more to do with the level of interaction between them than with their numbers.
The Members of the Clowder
There are several types of clowders according to their dynamics, but before we get to that, let's review the typical members of a group of cats:
The Tom Cat - This is the adult male in the group. This is the term used to refer to males from the moment they reach adulthood.
The Queen - This is the adult female cat from the moment it becomes pregnant. The same term is used for cats that have kittens and are lactating.
The Molly - This is the adult female cat in the group. It is a useful term to differentiate pregnant cats from those that are not pregnant.
Interactions Between the Members of a Clowder
The nature of the interaction between the members of a clowder depends heavily on instinct. The primary instinct is survival, of course.
But taking out the competition for food, since that is more present in wild cat groups, the central instinct remaining is reproduction. At the same time, territory is also extremely important. With this in mind, let us tell you about the central interactions between cats:
First, males and females live together for a limited amount of time, since they have different primary instincts. While female cats are more interested in caring for their kittens, male cats are extremely interested in territory and dominance.
Groups of female cats include mollies, queens, and kittens. Usually, more than one cat has kittens and they will all care for the litters together. It is not uncommon for a lactating cat to feed its kittens, as well as those of another cat.
Moreover, all the members pitch in with caring for the young up to the point when they reach adulthood. When this time comes, the female cats from the litter may choose to form groups of their own or they will remain as part of their mother's group.
The female cats in this group interact with males for a limited amount of time. The main purpose is reproduction. Since they spend most of their time caring for the kittens, female cat groups usually target small territories and stick to them.
The main drive of males is perpetuating their genes and conquering territories. While female groups stick to small territories, males usually aim for far larger territories where they can go to several female groups. This enhances their chance to produce kittens with their genes.
Male cats compete for the females they target, as well as the territories. During mating seasons, males typically fight for the right to enter female groups. Then, some males stick around to care for the kittens, but it is usually not for a long time.
Other Important Interactions
Aside from the large-scale interactions between cats from various groups, there are other types of relationships among cats that are very strong. Here are some of them:
Mother-Daughter/Son - The relationship between the mother, the queen, and its kittens is very close and quite powerful. However, a cat may develop a deeper relationship with one or several cats from the litter. Usually, one cat from the litter remains in the clowder even after reaching adulthood. Female cats will have kittens of their own in their mother’s group.
This is also a type of interaction that can be seen in households with mother and daughter/son cats. The two remain very close all throughout their lives and become true companions. The mother keeps up the protective tone of the interaction and can often be seen washing its kitten, even if it is now an adult.
Between Siblings - Kittens that grow up together develop a special bond. They both care for each other and are also very playful. Their interaction is very joyous and they maintain their playfulness even as adults when interacting with each other. Again, this is something that can be seen in households with sibling cats.
Pairs - Two cats form a pair, regardless of gender and age. This is mainly tied to the cats in a household, rather than as part of a clowder. When people adopt two cats or bring in a second cat, sometimes the two cats end up forming a very special bond. It is a matter of compatibility and when it does work out, it is extremely lovely to watch.
So, a group of cats is called a clowder and the interactions inside a clowder are very complex and interesting to observe. Have you ever seen groups of cats? If so, what type of interaction did you observe between the members? What about one-on-one relationships between cats? Do you have cats that are close? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.