Whenever multiple animals of the same species hang out in the same place, there’s usually a unique nickname for it. For example, it’s a “drift” of pigs, a “pack” of dogs, a “flock” of sheep, and a “gaggle” of geese. Now you’re wondering: what is a group of cats called?
A group of cats is called a clowder if they seem to know one another (formerly “clodder” in 18th century English). A group of cats unfamiliar to one another is called a “glaring,” and a group of kittens is either a “litter” or a “kindle.”
Nothing will make you sound like a feline expert more than pointing out a group of cats and saying, “Hey, look at that _____!” To learn about the different terms used to describe a group of cats, read on!
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Why Is a Group of Cats Called a Clowder?
There are two possible reasons that we call a group of cats a “clowder”:
- This term may date back to the word clodder (a word frequently used back in the 1700s through 18th century English. Clodder loosely translates to the phrase “clotted mass,” which somewhat explains how feral and stray cats tend to travel together — in a large clump. As the years went on, the pronunciation adopted a permanent change to clowder.
- Clowder is also noticeably similar to the English word clutter. While cats may be solitary animals while on the hunt for dinner, young or female feral cats tend to stick together via colonies — walking and feeding together en masse. When you see a cat colony of ten or more cats, you would think, “They look somewhat cluttered!”
Many feline enthusiasts call a group of two cats a pair, so any group of at least three cats could be a clowder.
Other Words to Describe a Group of Cats
Clowder doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly as a pack, gaggle, drift, or flock might. It’s also worth noting that this term also doesn’t accurately describe every group of cats — for example, you would probably use litter to describe a group of newborn kittens instead of clowder.
Here are a few other terms used to describe cat groupings:
You’d use the word glaring if you’re describing a group of cats who don’t seem to know one another — at least not well. For example, a group of feral cats may be crowding together alongside a dumpster while pillaging for food scraps, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re members of the same colony.
As the term suggests, these foreign cats may be glaring at one another suspiciously as they try to gauge whether their fellow felines are aggressive or friendly. It’s not unusual for a glaring of cats to result in fights over territory, especially if male tomcats are involved — this heightens the risk for the spread of FIV or FeLV through deep bite wounds.
Therefore, a mother cat kindles and produces a kindle — a litter of kittens. Very few people use this term over litter. It’s also unclear whether a kindle can also describe a group of kittens born to multiple mother cats (such as several unrelated kittens huddled together in a colony).
The most common way to describe a group of kittens born to a single mother cat is a litter — though some definitions of the word also require the same father amongst all offspring.
However, since a cat’s ovaries release eggs immediately after mating, a female cat may release multiple eggs during a single heat cycle. If she mates with different male cats over those seven days of fertility, a female cat may have numerous eggs fertilized by other fathers. Therefore, it’s not unusual for female cats to deliver a litter of kittens with multiple fathers — something called superfecundation.
If a group of cats lives and feeds together out in the wild, you can call that a colony. Both stray and feral cats join colonies to develop social bonds with other felines while sharing one similarity: a common food source. Cats living in colonies may gravitate toward residencies of people who leave food out or garbage bins known to contain food bits.
However, cats in colonies also wander — they may stray into the woods to hunt for rodents when food supplies are running low. Most cat colonies are matrilinear, meaning the members are strictly female cats and their offspring. In the absence of male cats, there’s also a lack of a colony hierarchy.
More Bizarre Terms Describing Cat Groupings
If you thought clowder and glaring were unusual terms to describe groups of cats, you’re in for a rude awakening. You could also call a group of cats:
- Destruction: A group of wild cats known to be fierce or territorial.
- Dowt: A group of feral or wild cats (this term does not apply to domestic cats).
- Pounce: A lesser-known way to describe a group of cats.
You may also hear a group of cats called a nuisance, cluster, or clutter, but only if it’s to describe a group of three or more cats. Otherwise, stick to pair when talking about two cats and a glaring or clowder when referring to domestic cats.
Want to know other collective nouns describing groups of other species? Watch the video below to learn more:
Words to Describe Individual Cats
A cat is a cat, and, if anything, you call your kitty by her name! However, did you know that you can use more specific words to describe a cat, such as if you were talking about an unspayed female cat? Here are some other cat-related terms for individual cats:
- Tom (or tomcat): An intact male cat with the ability to get an unspayed female cat pregnant; tomcats tend to spray and exhibit aggressive behavior to assert dominance and claim their territory.
- Gib: A neutered male cat; gibs tend to be less aggressive and territorial than unneutered male cats while also boasting lower risks of prostate issues and testicular cancer.
- Queen: An intact female cat who will go into heat every few weeks, marking fertility and egg release after mating; an unspayed female cat may reach sexual maturity as young as four months old.
- Spay: A spayed female cat; tend to have substantially lower risks of developing uterine infections or breast cancer throughout their lifespans.
- Sire: A father cat.
- Dam: A mother cat.
- Kitten: A young cat (either male or female) who has yet to reach full-grown status; usually younger than one year old.
Every term used to describe cats is very deliberate. For example, a tomcat and a gib are both male cats, but they differ in neuter status. The same logic goes for queens and spays. It’s time to start using these terms more freely and let the world know you’re a bit of a cat expert.
You’d call a group of geese a gaggle if they were on the ground but a skein if they were mid-flight. The words used to describe groups of cats are confusing and easy to mangle, but here’s a quick overview of when to use each:
- Clowder: Group of domestic cats
- Glaring: Group of cats who don’t know each other well
- Destruction, colony, or dowt: Group of feral or wild cats
- Litter or kindling: Group of kittens
Lastly, if you’re talking about two cats, stick to calling them a pair.
- Your Dictionary: List of Names for Groups of Animals
- The Free Dictionary: Kindled
- Wikipedia: Litter
- Wikipedia: Superfecundation
- Cornell Feline Health Center: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
- Cornell Feline Health Center: Feline Leukemia Virus
- Pinterest: Pretty Cats
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.