Low Growling of Cats

Early this morning my female black American short-haired cat (Pilgrim) was out and met a similar cat who lives close by. That cat rarely goes out. Pilgrim went up to it (I do not know its sex) and initiated a low growl, which the other cat echoed, facing each other. That went on for a few minutes but with no aggressive motions until the other cat went home. It did not sound like friendly greetings. Does anyone know what it meant?

Pretty much what it sounded like. “You picked the wrong neighborhood, Pilgrim. Get along now, or there’s going to be trouble.”

Cats are fascinating to watch. If you’d have watched carefully, you’d have noticed that they both tensed up. They may have both sunk down into a ball, facing toward each other but slightly off center (i.e. like looking over each other’s shoulders). The goal is to get the other cat to back down. The problem is that neither cat wants to turn his back on the other one because he may get attacked. After a few minutes, one will very slowly ease backward or sideways, still keeping the other cat in his peripheral vision. If the other cat doesn’t make a move, then the backing-down-cat will move more quickly to get out of there.

Funny story about cat dynamics:

I brought a tabby cat into our marriage and husband brought a gray cat. They got along okay for the most part, not friends but not blatant enemies either. One day I got home from work and went into the bedroom to change clothes. My tabby cat was on our bed, in a “football” hunch, facing the door. The gray cat was laying on her side on the floor near the door.

I had to do a double take at them because there was something kind of “off”. They both looked calm but… tense. When my tabby stood up and leaned down as if to jump off the bed, and then settled back into a football where she was, I knew what the game was. Gray cat was guarding the door and if tabby cat tried to leave the room she’d get pounced. I picked up my tabby and set him on the floor outside the door and ruined gray cat’s game.

When we had our (very cool and collected) Maine coon, one evening I found him on the patio a foot or so away from a strange cat, exchanging…not exactly growls, but something more like Celtic witches muttering spells over a caldron. This went on for a couple of minutes until the other cat became uncomfortable with my presence, and left.

I don’t think it was mutual hostility, but it was very strange.

It’s a territorial dominance thing. The barn cats go through this, especially as the younger ones are maturing.

Cats tend to be standoffish and scaredy when it comes to strangers. A low growl with no aggressive motions may simply be a way of saying: “Stay away from me.” on their initial encounter. Doesn’t mean they can’t eventually become friends but you should supervise their interactions.