You may be familiar with packs of wolves, murders of crows, and colonies of ants, but have you ever wondered what a group of cats is called? Contrary to popular belief, it's not a pride like lions, but rather a clowder of cats. While the term might evoke images of a bowl of clam chowder, its origins are actually linked to other words you are familiar with.
The word "clowder" is of English origin, as explained by Teresa Keiger, a self-proclaimed word nerd and creative director of the Cat Fanciers' Association. Its roots can be traced back to the term "clotern," which shares similarities with well-known words such as "clot," "clutter," and "cluster."
Keiger elaborates, stating that these words all revolve around the concept of things coming together, lying around, and simply hanging out. They describe the collective gathering of various elements. Another term sometimes used for a group of cats is a "glaring," but this typically applies to cats exhibiting an attitude or uncertainty towards each other, similar to the awkwardness experienced at a high school reunion.
In order for a clowder to form, there must be at least three cats. This makes sense since three is often referred to as a crowd. However, it is important to note that the term "pair" encompasses any group of two, and when a cat is alone, they are simply referred to as a cat. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that a group of kittens is commonly known as a "litter."
Although cats are generally solitary creatures, they may gather in groups if their survival depends on it. Keiger provides some insight, explaining that in the 1500s, cats were not commonly kept as house pets. Instead, they lived around houses and barns, occasionally congregating for the purpose of hunting and when queens desired to be close to their litters. This is similar to feral cat colonies observed in modern times.
Feral cat colonies are currently the most common type of clowders. However, unlike packs of dogs or wolves, these cats primarily hunt individually. The purpose of their grouping is mainly for protection and social bonding. In fact, Cats on Broadway Veterinary Hospital in Missoula, Montana, reveals that cats within these colonies may even lend a helping paw by nursing kittens that are not their own, ensuring their survival.
If you are an owner of three or more cats, they too can form a clowder. Unlike their wild ancestors, domesticated cats are generally more social. However, it is important to remain aware of the hierarchy that often develops within a clowder to maintain harmony among your feline companions.
While clowder is undeniably a fun term to utter, you may come across a few other words synonymous with a group of cats during your exploration of feline history. These alternatives include "glare" and "pounce." So, whether you are preparing for a trivia night or simply interested in expanding your vocabulary, keep these terms in mind.
In conclusion, a clowder of cats refers to a group of three or more cats. This English term is derived from the concept of things coming together and hanging out. While cats are typically solitary, they may form a clowder if their survival depends on it. Whether it is a feral cat colony or a group of domesticated cats, clowders serve as a means of protection and social bonding. So, the next time you encounter a gathering of cats, you'll know exactly what to call them – a clowder.