If only we could speak the same language as our cats. We could ask them how they’re feeling, what they want for dinner and explain that we’ll be back soon when we have to go to work. The next best thing, though, is cat body language. Your kitty makes numerous signals and gestures which can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling.
Just like us, cats have a wide range of emotions - from happy to sad and calm to angry. By understanding cat body language, you can recognise these emotions and help them out - or simply give them some TLC - exactly when it’s needed.
So, let’s go - here are some of the most common cat body language signals and what they might mean:
Cat body language: facial expressions
Look at me! ©Pixabay
Have you ever noticed your cat look at you, hold their gaze for a few seconds, blink softly and then look away? Well, take it as a compliment - this cat body language pretty much means they love you to bits!
Yes, really - this heavy-lid blinking feline gaze is the ultimate sign of trust and affection. And did you know you can do it back too? By blinking slowly and calmly directly into your kitty’s eyes, you’re communicating that you pose no threat and you consider them a true friend. Cute, huh?
Oh no… watch out for this kitty! A cat with dilated pupils might be feeling excited, playful and possibly a little bit mischievous. Make the most of it and grab your favourite cat toy - this is the best time for cat playtime
On the other hand, it’s not all fun and games. Dilated pupils could mean your cat is feeling anxious, defensive or nervous. In this case, it’s best to leave them calm down or remove any obvious stressors.
Flattened or turned back ears
If you spot that your cat’s ears are flattened back or to the side, there’s one thing for sure - kitty isn’t happy! You might have noticed this whilst introducing your kitty to a new animal, after a loud bang, when the vacuum is out, or during a feline standoff.
It usually means your cat is feeling scared, irritated, anxious or nervous. The best thing to do is remove them from any stressful environments - for example, put them in a quiet room if the vacuum is in action or let them outside whilst a friend’s dog is in the house.
However, if your cat appears particularly agitated, it’s probably best to leave them alone as they could turn on you.
Happy, content, alert and interested kitty? Now that’s what we like to hear! Upright ears mean your kitty is happy as can be, whereas a slight tilt forward signals playfulness. Purrfect!
Cat's tail says a lot about the cat's behaviour ©Shutterstock
Tail held high
If your cat is wandering around with their tail held out loosely behind them, be rest assured that they’re calm and content.
If it’s high in the sky, however, your kitty is extra happy - it’s probably a good time to approach them for some cuddle time!
You’ll probably see this cat body language whilst your kitty is staring at a bird, squirrel or rodent from the window or in the the garden. You may also notice that they twitch their tail a little while playing with their favourite toy.
A little twitch at the end of your feline friend’s tail is associated with hunting behaviour and shows that your kitty is intensely focusing on their prey (or, of course, their toys) ready to attack.
Uh oh! Once the twitching gains some oomph and turns into more of a swing, your cat’s probably in a pretty bad mood.
If you notice their tail swinging from side-to-side whilst trying to pet or cuddle with them, it’s best to stop and give them some alone-time. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, they’re just not in the mood - and you wouldn’t want to end up with an arm full of scratches!
Beware… the bushy tail is even worse than the wagging tail! Your kitty is unlikely to get this agitated around you, but may become particularly fearful, nervous or angry around other animals or strangers.
The bushy tail often goes hand-in-hand with an arched back in order to look bigger and scarier to their enemy. Sorry, Fluffy - you’re so cute, that being scary is almost impossible, no matter how hard you try!
When your kitty is sporting a huge, bushy tail, it’s best to back off, encourage them into a quiet, sheltered room and give them some time to chillax.
A cat showing a tummy means he trusts you! ©Shutterstock
We’ve already spoken about the bushy tail and arched back scenario, but we thought we’d go over the scenario once again with some simple mathematics:
Kitty + arched back + bushy tail = angry kitty!
Okay, that’s enough anger for one day - here comes some super cute cat body language! Once your kitty has settled into your home and considers you their best bud, you’ll probably notice them laying on their back and exposing their belly.
Guess what? This means your kitty trusts you and feels completely comfortable in your presence - how sweet!
While it might feel tempting to go in for a belly rub, you should probably admire that fluffy belly from a distance. Instinctively, a cat goes into defense mode when their belly is touched, so they might not react how you’d expect.
Rubbing against you
When a cat rubs against something, they mark it with pheromones, claiming it as theirs. So, yep - whenever your kitty rubs against those legs of yours, they’re basically saying “you’re mine, human!”.
You can take it as a compliment - your kitty considers you part of their group. Sweet!
So, we’ve just about covered the most common cat body language. We hope this helps you to understand your kitty on a deeper level and help them out when you can - whether that means giving them extra cuddles or some alone time. Good luck!