Cat Body Language- How to Read it Purrfectly
As a potential cat owner, you probably think you have a great grasp on what’s going on in a cat’s mind. After all, you only need to worry about feeding, sheltering, and cleaning them, right? Or maybe you think you can handle all those tasks and you only have cat allergies to worry about. Whichever your stance is, think again. Cat body language can be quite subtle, so it’s easy to miss out on something your feline friend wanted or even needed to tell you.
Unlike other pets, such as hypoallergenic dogs, cats can be much harder to read. Dogs descended from wolves, which have a loose pack mentality. So naturally, their instinctual skills center on group interaction. To make sure their interactions help them work together efficiently, they socialize frequently and express themselves much like people go through noticeable body postures and facial expressions.
By contrast, cats are solitary hunters, so their instincts are focused on their own survival. Cats want to know that they’re going to be safe and sound in their own territory first. Once they’re settled and secure, they’re happy to socialize. But they do so with smaller, less noticeable body movements.
So, how can you read this subtle body language? Read on to find out!
Take Time to Look at Their Tail
To start, let’s consider how a cat communicates with its tail. Your first assumption surrounding this might be that you should treat a cat’s tail movements like you would a dog’s. But this could earn you a well-deserved scratch if you’re not careful! While a dog might wag their tail vigorously to display their happiness, a cat typically thrashes their tail back and forth to indicate their irritation.
But that’s not the only tail movement you should be aware of. Consider the following:
- Sticking straight up — When a cat’s tail is straight in the air or is straight with a slight curve at the top, it usually means that the cat is happy, playful, and approachable.
- Staying low to the ground — This movement is a bit more difficult to read even for the more knowledgeable. Some cat breeds tend to keep their tails low to the ground, so it could just be a neutral stance for them. But for other cats, when their tails are low, it might mean that they feel threatened and could respond aggressively.
- Tucking between the legs — If you see this position, there’s probably something in a cat’s nearby environment that the cat dislikes. Tucking their tail between their legs lets you know that they feel anxious or fearful.
- Standing up while big and bushy — To make themselves look intimidating to a perceived threat, a cat will make their tail stick up straight into the air and make it look big and bushy. When this happens, you should be cautious around the cat as it means the cat is severely agitated.
- Moving back and forth slowly — When you see this movement, you know a cat’s curious. Typically, they’ll do this when their attention is drawn to something in particular that interests them. You may even see it just before your cat pounces on something!
Examine Their Ears
Next, to see how a cat communicates with their face, you should examine their ears. As humans, we don’t really use our ears for anything except listening, so this may seem odd. But there are a lot of cats can say with their ears!
You just need to look at their position:
- Facing forward — If a cat’s ears are pointing up and facing forward, it typically means that the cat is feeling happy, relaxed, or playful.
- Pointing straight up — When a cat’s ears are only pointing up, it shows that a cat is alert and aware of something that has caught their attention.
- Turning sideways and looking partially flattened — An anxious, irritated, or frightened cat is likely going to have their ears flattened and facing sideways.
- Flattening entirely and going backward — Once a cat’s ears start moving backward and flattening entirely, it’s a significant sign of fearful or angry cat body language , which may precede them act aggressively.
Eyeball Their Eyes
Don’t forget to eyeball those eyes of theirs! No matter the creature they belong to, eyes convey quite a bit of meaning.
But what can cat eyes tell you?
Here are some signs for you to find out:
- Looking alert and blinking — A typically neutral sign, a cat who’s got round pupils with eyes that look alert and are blinking at a regular pace is one who is taking an active interest in the world around them.
- Showing constricted pupils — The stereotypical narrow pupils that cats are known for actually don’t show unless a cat is agitated. But it’s important to note that in bright enough light, a cat’s eyes will constrict anyway.
- Displaying dilated pupils — Much like constricted pupils, dilated pupils can occur due to a light change. For instance, a cat’s eyes will constrict in low light. That may mean nothing in particular at that point. But in other situations, dilated pupils can indicate that the cat is fearful or angry.
- Blinking slowly — A safe and comfortable cat will convey their feelings by slowly blinking at you. Some suggest that this is a cat’s way of smiling at you!
Monitor Their Mouth
Speaking of smiling, while a cat may not be able to do so, they can certainly still communicate with their mouth! Unfortunately, no one can interpret what exactly a cat’s meowing means. But there is at least a way to determine the general meaning behind it.
All you need to do is look at the different ways a cat vocalizes:
- Meowing — Unfortunately, this is the vaguest vocabulary of cat chatting. A cat’s meow is considered to be an all-purpose word. It could be used as a simple greeting, a demand for something, an objection to action, or an announcement. So you’ll have to consider the situation you and the cat are in before determining what the cat’s meowing means.
- Chirping and trilling — These are usually reserved for when a mother cat needs to tell her kittens to follow her. But if you find a cat chirping or trilling at you, they might be giving you the same command.
- Purring — Most people know that purring is a sign of contentment in cats. But that isn’t all that purring is used for! It can also be a way for a cat to comfort themselves when they’re anxious or sick.
- Growling, hissing, or spitting — Another well-known sign, any form of growling, hissing, or spitting is exactly what it sounds like: a sign to leave a cat alone. A cat will only vocalize like this if they feel annoyed, frightened, angry, or aggressive.
Be Observant of Their Back
Last, but not least, consider a cat’s back. There are several ways a cat can convey its feelings to you through just its spine:
- Arching — If a cat is arching their back while their fur stands on end, then the creature is probably frightened or angry. If the fur is flat while the cat arches their back, they are simply showing that they welcome your touch.
- Lying — See a cat lying on its back and purring? They’re just very relaxed. Is any growling involved? Then, avoid bothering the cat as they are upset and most likely willing to strike at you.
As you can see, a cat has a number of ways to signal to you about their feelings in any given situation. And if you’re keen enough to keep a good eye on what they’re signaling, you’ll find yourself chatting in cat in no time!