Ever wondered what your cat’s feeling or thinking?
Ever wondered what your cat may be trying to communicate with you? Well, you might be right, cats use a variety of ways to communicate their feelings and needs. Use this guide to learn how to pay attention to their eyes, tail, mouth, posture and vocalisations and you’ll be a cat whisperer in no time!
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1. Tail up, curved and relaxed -This is a happy, cheerful cat who is most likely approachable.
2. Question mark tail - This may indicate a playful and curious cat. If you’ve been waiting to introduce them to that new toy, now is the perfect time.
3. Tail down - This may indicate a cat who is scared or threatened. A tucked away tail or a tail that is held tightly to the body can be a sign of anxiety and submission.
4. Halloween-cat tail - A cat in this stance is trying to appear larger and scarier than they actually are because they feel scared or threatened.
Tail moving rapidly back and forth – Unlike dogs, a cat’s wagging tail isn’t a happy gesture. A fast- moving tense tail usually signals that a cat is agitated and should be left alone.
Tail moving slowly back and forth – A slow moving tail often means a cat is trying to decipher the situation. This cat may be unsure about how to feel.
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1. Ears in a natural relaxed upright or forward position - This cat is likely feeling happy and calm.
2. Ears straight up or focused forwards - This cat is likely alert and curious.
3. Ears turned sideways or back -This cat is likely feeling nervous, irritated, or over stimulated, it’s a good idea to leave this kitty alone!
4. Ears back and flat against head - This cat is feeling scared and defensive. It may also indicate an angry or aggressive cat, either way its best to give this cat some space.
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Cats have vertical slit pupils so it is normal for their pupils to be this shape.
1. Dilated pupils - A cat with dilated pupils will have a more rounded shape, similar to the normal pupil shape of humans and dogs for example. Pupils may dilate when a cat is surprised, scared or stimulated.
2. Stare - A cat may stare just because they are intensely observing something (e.g., a toy, bird, person), want something (think cat waiting for food!) or may be communicating, particularly with another cat.
3. Slow Blinking - A cat will slow blink to indicate they feel safe, comfortable and trust you.
4. Half Closed - A cat with narrowed eyes is relaxed and is showing that they trust you. However, sometimes squinting and flattened eyes can be a sign that your cat is in pain. Contact your veterinarian if you are concerned.
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1. Lying on back with belly exposed - This cat completely trusts you and feels comfortable enough to reveal their belly to you. Whilst the exposed belly is a sign of comfort and trust, it is not an invitation for a belly rub, and they may grab your hand if you do try to rub the belly. If your cat growls while lying on their back, they are agitated and you should leave them alone.
2. Arched back - If a cat comes up to you and arches their back with the tail held up and curled at the end, they are trying to tell you they want some love, this is a good chance to give them a pet, or some behind the ear scratches.
3. Rubbing against you - A cat will rub against things to scent mark their territory, this is especially true when they rub their cheeks against something. When a cat does this to you, they are letting you know you are familiar.
4. Kneading - A cat kneads or ‘makes biscuits’ when they are particularly happy and only on people they are very comfortable with.
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5. Butt wiggling – A cat that has their behind in the air is either relaxed and stretching or playful and ready to pounce.
6. Licking you – A cat that is licking you is showing you affection, they do it in the same way that you show affection when you stroke your cat.
7. Curled up – A cat that curves their tail all around them in a relaxed way, creating a cute, fluffy embrace is a happy, satisfied one. This is also the most common sleeping position for cats and means your cat feels calm and safe.
8. Head Butting/ bunting – When your cat head butts and rubs against you they are leaving their scent on you. Cats do this to bond, socialise and comfort you.
9. Hiding/backing away – A cat trying to hide or appear as small as possible by backing away and curling up is likely expressing fear.
Cats can also communicate through a number of different sounds or vocalisations.
1. Purring- One of the best sounds your cat can make. The vibrating sound of the purr is a definite sign that your cat is feeling happy and affectionate. However, abnormal purring, such a purring that is louder than usual or in an unusual context (e.g., when you know they are afraid) can be a sign that your cat is stressed or in pain.
2. Trilling- This sound is somewhere in between a meow and a purr. It’s often used as a greeting or a way to get your attention.
3. Chirping- similar to the trill a cat will chirp to greet you, try and get your attention, and show acknowledgment and approval.
4. Yowling- This sound is a cross between a yodel and a howl and is usually used by entire cats as a call to attract other entire cats to mate.
5. Hissing and growling- A cat that is hissing and growling is likely frightened or angry, so its best to stay away. Sometimes hissing and growling can also be due to pain or injury.
6. Meowing- A meow is a friendly greeting and means your cat is trying to attract your attention.
Interested in learning how to provide the best quality of care for your cat so that they can thrive?
Read about best practice in cat welfare, health, nutrition, and environment.
*These tips were compiled from resources by RSPCA and SPCA.
Read RSPCA's website Keeping Your Cat Safe and Happy at Home for more paw-some tips.