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You’re familiar with a pride of lions, a herd of cattle, and a pack of dogs. While some names of animal groups are used regularly—a pod of dolphins or a bed of oysters—others are less familiar.
As a case in point, have you heard of the name of a group of cats? If you’re stumped, don’t worry—you aren’t alone. Even the most devoted of kitty parents may have never heard the term.
What do you call a group of cats hanging around together? The most commonly used name is “clowder,” though various other terms exist for a group of felines.
The Origin Of “Clowder” Of Cats
Merriam-Webster says the name is a variant of “clutter,” meaning “a crowded or confused mass or collection.” And if you’ve ever watched a large group of felines milling about or weaving between each other to get a coveted spot at the food dish, it’s easy to understand how this name was chosen.
8 Other Names For A Group Of Cats
Other terms you can call a group of cats include:
- Cluster: This term dates back to the 1400s and refers to “a number of persons, animals, or things gathered in a close body.”
- Colony: Feral cats often live in groups called colonies. These groups live collectively, sharing one territory and food sources.
- Destruction: This term describes a group of wild cats. These cats can be pretty territorial and may fight to protect what’s theirs, thus leading to the term “destruction.”
- Dowt: Also spelled “dout,” this word is used to describe wild or feral cats and means “to put out” or extinguish.
- Glaring: Another term used to describe a group of cats, possibly referring to cats who are uncertain of each other.
- Kindle: While we typically refer to a group of young kittens as a litter, “kindle” is also an acceptable term.
- Nuisance: This word may be used when a group of felines is a source of annoyance.
- Pounce: Can you guess where this term originates? As a cat’s favorite playtime activity, “pounce” feels like an appropriate term for a group of playful kittens or energetic cats.
Names For Individual Cats
Want to blow the competition away during trivia night? It would help if you also familiarize yourself with unique names for individual cats as well.
A male cat is often called a “tom” or “tomcat.” This term was popularized by a 1760 book called “The Life and Adventures of a Tom Cat,” in which the main character—Tom—wooed many female cats. Before this, general names for males included “boars” and “rams.” However, with the popularity of the “tomcat,” these other terms fell out of style.
A “stud” or “king” refers to an unneutered male specifically used for breeding. These cats can be challenging to manage and typically require separate accommodations to avoid aggressive behavior. A neutered male is called a “gib.” This term can also refer to an older male cat.
“Molly” refers to any female cat—kitten or adult. It’s also used to describe spayed females. While the origin of this term is debated, some people believe it stems from the word “mollita,” coming from the Latin term for weakness or softness.
When a female begins her heat cycle, you can call her a “queen.” Females are considered queens during pregnancy and nursing. A purebred female explicitly used for breeding is called a “dam.” While not typically used in everyday conversation, this term is used in a cat’s paperwork and can be heard in a breeding environment. Some people also use it as a general term for an older purebred feline.
Etymology Of “Cat”
Let’s go all the way to the beginning. The Old English term “catt” is believed to be from the Late Latin “cattus,” derived from an unidentified African language and referring to a domestic cat. The Late Latin word is also the source of the Gaelic “cat,” Breton “kaz,” Welsh “kath,” Italian “gatto,” Spanish “gato,” and French “chat.”
The word may also be derived from the Proto-Germaic word “kattuz,” which is the source of the Dutch “kat,” Old Norse “köttr,” Old Frisian “katte,” Old High German “kazza,” and German “katza.”
Who Comes Up With Animal Group Names?
Many group names can be traced back to a 1400s text on angling, hunting, and hawking called “The Boke Of Saint Albans.” In this book, writer Juliana Berners gave groups of animals imaginative—yet appropriate—names based on her knowledge of wildlife.
However, when it comes down to it, anyone can make up a name for a group of animals. The English language constantly evolves, allowing people to create their own terms. So go ahead and give it your own spin—maybe your term will catch on, and you’ll be responsible for coming up with new animal group names.
20 Animal Group Names
Looking for inspiration? Some of the most unique animal group names to date include:
- Aggregation of manatees
- Barrel of monkeys
- Bloat of hippos
- Cackle of hyenas
- Cauldron of bats
- Confusion of wildebeests
- Conspiracy of lemurs
- Flamboyance of flamingos
- Gaggle of geese
- Gang of turkeys
- Lounge of lizards
- Mob of emus
- Murder of crows
- Pandemonium of parrots
- Parliament of owls
- Shadow of jaguars
- Skulk of foxes
- Smack of jellyfish
- Watch of nightingales
- Wisdom of wombats
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are questions we frequently get asked by our readers regarding groups of cats. Don’t see yours? Ask us in the comments.
Are Certain Cats In Charge In A Clowder?
If you’ve got a clowder of cats in your home, you may be curious about their relationship with one another. Like humans, felines can develop stronger bonds with certain friends and family. In a multi-cat household, cats will develop social relationships and boundaries. Domestic cats do not have a dominance hierarchy, where particular cats rank higher than others. Still, one cat may appear more dominant based on social interactions.
What About Alpha Cats?
When a person refers to an “alpha” cat, it doesn’t mean the housecat is in charge or dominant. Cats do not have a dominance hierarchy, and there is no position that a cat is trying to keep by force. Instead, an “alpha” typically displays negative behaviors that stem from their needs not being met. Behaviors are often described as dominant or “alpha” include:
- Conflict over resources (litter box, resting spot, etc.)
- Fear-based aggression
- Unwanted/inappropriate play
- Demanding food, attention, or play
If your cat is showing any of these behaviors, a change in home setup, additional playtime, or training could help resolve these issues and lead to a happier home.
Adding An Additional Cat To Your Home
Adding a cat to your home can be stressful for your current furbaby. It is not uncommon for a cat to experience depression after a new kitten is added to the family. If your older, sweet kitty has suddenly become aggressive or withdrawn after a new family member joins the household, follow our tips for helping your cat overcome depression and/or aggression.