Feline Body Language

Understanding Your Cat’s Body Language


By Guest Author Amy Fowler


Just like people, cats all have different personalities. Even if yours is a purebred known for its calm demeanor, he or she can turn out to be skittish. Like a first-time parent learning to pick up on the nonverbal cues of their newborn, you can learn how to “read” your cat’s body language.

Reading Their Body Language

Unlike dogs that travel in packs, wild cats often go a long time before seeing another of their kind, so they don’t really need to communicate visually. When two cats meet, however, they convey messages to each other through their body movements.  By properly interpreting those signals, you can learn how to best handle your cat.

What Does my Cat’s Movement Mean?

Your cat’s hair, tail, eyes, ears and stance can tell you a lot, if you know what their signals mean. It can be hard to decode the body language of cats, simply because it’s meant as a way to communicate with other felines. Signs of aggression or fear can be misconstrued as excitement because the behaviors look similar to the untrained eye—most of us also assume that cats have body language like dogs, when it’s usually exactly the opposite. Below you’ll find more information on the various nonverbal cues your cat uses:

  • His or her tail is used like a signal flag. A happy and relaxed cat’s tail will be down. You may think that a wagging tail means a happy cat, but in fact, it means that he or she is upset. Generally, if they’re just moving the tip, they’re only slightly aggravated; for instance they’re hungry or just want to be left alone. If the whole tail is moving, and quickly, this signals that the cat feels threatened.
  • Cats like to cuddle, but on their terms only. They’ll greet you with a cheek rub, but let them initiate. One cat may blink at another as a form of greeting, but they very rarely stare; if you stare at your cat, he or she will freeze and then look away.
  • If your cat is curled up, he or she is either content or cold. Sick cats usually don’t curl up though; they lie in whatever position takes the least energy to maintain.
  • If your cat is scanning the area with pricked ears, they’re tuning in on potential threats. A scared feline may arch its back and bare its teeth, raising its tail and the hair on its back. If you see your cat like this, don’t try to “cuddle” them out of it—just stay out of their way!

Very few cats are born aggressive, but even the sweetest-tempered kitty may scratch if they’re overstimulated or annoyed. Teeth and claws can be dangerous, so take your cat’s cues seriously. Don’t let small children tug on or carry your cat around like a baby doll—most cats don’t like to be handled roughly or confined. Knowing how to read your cat’s body language can make it a lot easier to build a friendship that lasts for life.

Attached Images: License: Creative Commons image source

Guest post by Amy Fowler, on behalf of House of Paws; specialists in luxury dog beds for dogs of all sizes. Find out more here, or visit their sale section by clicking here.

Please visit my web site at Pet Portraits by Deena and see the many portraits I have painted.  10% of proceeds goes to support CorgiAid.