What's a Clowder? Not a Soup, But a Group of Cats
You know about packs of wolves, murders of crows, and colonies of ants. But what is a group of cats called? No, it's not a pride like lions, but rather a clowder of cats. And while this term might make you picture a bowl of clam chowder, it actually shares origins with other words you know.
Clowder Etymology: Why Is a Group of Cats Called a Clowder?
According to Teresa Keiger, self-proclaimed word nerd and creative director of the Cat Fanciers' Association, the word clowder is English. Its origins trace back to the word "clotern," like other well-known words such as "clot," "clutter" and "cluster."
"These words refer to bits of things coming together, lying around ... hanging out," Keiger says.
There are also references to a group of cats being called a "glaring," but this distinction usually relies on the cats in question having an attitude. "Glaring" is used when cats are uncertain of each other. Think of a high school reunion—lots of awkwardness there.
How Many Cats Make a Clowder?
Three or more cats make up a clowder, which makes sense. After all, three is a clowd—er, crowd. Jokes aside, this is mainly because the word "pair" covers pretty much any group of two, and if a cat is by themselves, then they're just ... a cat.
Keep in mind that a group of kittens is not subject to the same rules. You already know this word—a group of kittens is typically called a "litter."
Where Would You Find a Group of Cats?
Cats are typically solitary creatures, but may group up if survival depends on it, Kieger says.
"Think of the 1500s when cats weren't house pets," she says. "They lived around the house and barns, perhaps hanging out together in pursuit of food and queens curled up with their litters, similar in respect to the feral cat colonies seen today."
In fact, feral cat colonies are the most popular type of clowder. But even though the cats live together, they hunt separately, unlike a pack of dogs or wolves. The grouping is mainly for protection and social bonding. Sometimes, cats will even lend a helping hand, nursing kittens that aren't their own in order to keep them alive, according to Cats on Broadway Veterinary Hospital in Missoula, Mont.
If you are the owner of three or more cats, they can also form a clowder. Domesticated cats are a lot more social than their more wild ancestors. Just keep an eye out for the hierarchy that sets in so you can keep the peace amongst your felines.
Other Words You May Hear for a Group of Cats
Although clowder is undoubtedly the most fun to say, you may, in your deep dive into cat history, come across a few other words that mean the same thing. Such as:
- Cluster of cats
- Clutter of cats
- Destruction of cats
- Dout of cats
- Nuisance of cats
- Pounce of cats
- Kindle of kittens
Just keep those in mind when you head out to your next trivia night.