Behavior Pet Body Language Cat Body Language: Understanding Your Feline Friends

Cat Body Language: Understanding Your Feline Friends

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You can tell a lot about what a cat is feeling and communicating to you through their cat body language. Being observant will enable you to distinguish between the moods – from Kitty being excited and happy, to anxious, angry, uncomfortable or when she’s feeling threatened. Let’s delve more into understanding your cat’s behavior.

Value Of Context

You need to put the context into focus when making the interpretation. For instance, Kitty raising her tail vertically and holding it high is usually a sign that she is comfortable, and you can interact with her. However, the same tail position when there is a strange cat waltzing into her environment will be a sign that she is willing to attack. As such, you should be keen on both the physical cues and the context in which they are taking place.

Cat Body Language During Confrontation

This is for those situations where there is an imminent threat to the cat – it can be a person or even another pet. When cats feel fearful and angry, they tend to make themselves try to appear as big as possible. The hair may stand up to – what’s referred to as piloerection. This is a behaviour intended to make the cat look intimidating. Here, Leo is prepped to hold his ground and fight back.

If the cat feels threatened and scared, he is likely to scrunch up into a ball, since in this position he will be less exposed. With that cat’s ears turned back, then that’s a sign that your cat is either fearful or angry. There will be situations where the cat will have arched the back high, and stand with the body positioned to the side of the threat. This is an indication that your furry friend is terrified of whatever he is facing at that moment. Cat body langauage is easy to read when you understand it.

Safe and comfortable

A relaxed cat will usually stretch out, in a posture that exposes the body. Cats rub themselves on you as well when showing affection. If the cat is calm, but has rolled the body into a ball, then he is not so keen on advances, so you should let him be. Displaying the tummy is a typical sign that the cat is comfortable, but it is not always an open invitation for a belly rub – which is why people often find themselves getting their hands seized up in the cat’s claws when they try it.

Anxious situations

Here, the cat may crouch down, holding the body low to the ground. With increasing stress levels, there will be fast breathing and flattened ears. If Kitty suddenly stops and freezes when she sees you, then she is not comfortable in the situation. Also check the whiskers. When cats are fearful, they bring their whiskers close to the face in an attempt to make themselves smaller. On the other hand, confident cats will be strutting around with their whiskers pushed forward and the tail held high.

Observing the cat’s body orientation

Cats usually give you a hint of their intentions by pointing the body in the direction they are heading. If Kitty has stood to your side, she may be shy and looking for an escape, and this position gives her the opportunity to make a clean break in case there will be a chance. When the cat is in a crouched position, she is ready to take off if needed.

Has Leo pointed his head to you? He is interested in interacting with you. This does not mean that cats facing away are disinterested though. It may show that the cat has let down his guard, feels safe, and is open to being touched.

Apart from your cats body orientation, you can read a lot in its tail language. Read all about the 101 guide on how to interpret what your cat is telling you in this blog.

Reading the Eye Language

The cats’ eyes are a good pointer to their mood, and you should pay attention to them. If Kitty is blinking slowly, then she is comfortable. When the cat trusts and feels comfortable with you, you may notice a slow blink. This is typically a sign of affection, and an indication that the cat is not threatened by you. You can also blink slowly back at the cat as a way to show affection on your part, returning the gesture.

Cat licking and looking into the camera. Part of the "Cat Body Language: Understanding Your Feline Friends" article.
Photo by Shubhankar Sharma on Unsplash

Also check out the pupils. They can show you how stimulated or relaxed the cat is. Large and dilated pupils point to stimulation. Note that the stimulation can be triggered by different conditions. For instance, a playful cat will have dilated pupils, but this will also occur when your furry friend is angry. As such, this sign should be interpreted with the context in mind.

Playful cats

Here, the cat behaviors mimic survival tactics, so cute little Leo will be pretending to be aggressive. Pupils will be dilated, toes spread out to give your furry friend traction for those sudden moves, and the cat’s tail may twitch or be flicked from side to side. There will be crouching, stalking, shaking or biting, but all this will be softer as opposed to those situations when the cat is actually hunting or defending himself from a threat.

The sounds made

The cat noises also factor into the cat’s communications. Like the other signs, they should be interpreted based on recent events. For instance, while the cat purr is usually an indication that the cat is in a happy mood, they can also purr if injured or when they’re feeling sick. If the cat is growling, then it’s a warning that you should back off. If it’s a hiss, then this is an indication that Kitty is feeling threatened, and she is in fight or flight mode. As the aggressor approaches, the canines will be in full display, and the hair standing. There will be a yowl after she hisses. Next will be a sharp shriek – meaning that the action is about to go down: she will either attack or flee.


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