Your cat is intently focused on “prey” outside the window, such as a bird or squirrel. Suddenly, he opens his mouth and makes a strange chattering sound, complete with gnashing of teeth. This is frequently accompanied by excited tail-twitching. Just what is going on?
This is common behavior for most cats, and seems to reflect his excitement at spotting such enticing prey, and/or frustration at being unable to capture the prey he is so intent upon. Certainly, the twitching tail reflects either excitement or frustration. Some animal behaviorists also suggest that the rapid jaw movements are an instinctual behavior reminiscent of the killing neck bite a cat would use in the wild.
British zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris refers to this as a “vacuum activity,” that is, an instinctive behavior the cat is performing in the absence of the ability to perform the actual behavior.
Keep in mind that a cat may chatter his teeth due to dental pain. If your cat chatters his jaws in the absence of visual stimulus, and without the characteristic chattering vocalizations, a dental check may be in order.
Have you ever heard a cat chattering?