Any cat owner knows the struggle of trying to communicate with their cat. A meowcan mean almost anything from “I’m hungry” to “I’m in pain” to “I want attention.” At times it can seem tricky to figure out what your cat is trying to tell you. That’s why it’s important to watch your cat’s body language. Cats have their own way of communicating through body language. Learning what you cat is saying through their movements and posture can help you better interact with them and strengthen your relationship!
A happy, content cat has a soft and relaxed body posture. When walking, their tail will be upright with a soft curve on the end. When sitting their tail will be held out loosely from their body. A relaxed cat’s ears will be forward and relaxed. Their eyes won’t be wide and alert.
A relaxed cat’s eyes might be half closed or sleepy looking, probably getting ready for a nap. Cats might even slow blink at you! A slow blink is a sign of a happy, relaxed, probably sleepy cat. Slow blinking is often assumed as a sign of affection for a cat. You can also slow blink back and them and turn your head to the side to show you are not a threat.
A happy cat might lay down and roll to expose their belly. This doesn’t mean they want you to touch their belly! Most cats will swat at you if you try to rub their stomach. Rolling to expose their belly is a sign of trust. Your cat feels comfortable enough with you to relax and expose their most vulnerable area.
Cat owners are usually familiar with the situation of your cat coming up to sit next to or on you, only to turn around and face away from you. You might think it’s an insult that your cat prefers to sit with their back to you, but it’s actually a sign of trust! Your cat trusts you enough to keep you in their blind spot.
Headbutting is an act most cat owners will have probably experienced at one point or another. Cats will push their head into your face and rub against you. This is an affectionate way for your cat to mark you as theirs. Cats will also rub their scent on other objects they want to claim. But if you cat is rubbing their head on your face, it’s a pretty good sign that you cat likes you and wants to keep you as theirs!
Kneading, the act of a cat scrunching their paws open and closed repeatedly, is an adorable action cats engage in which might confuse you, even if you love to watch it. This act is leftover from kittenhood when kittens would knead their mother to increase milk flow during nursing. Older cats often do it when they are extremely happy. Kneading will usually be accompanied by purring. While purring is not a guaranteed indicator of a cat’s happiness (as we’ll review later), when accompanied by a happy body posture or a fun activity like kneading, you can safely assume your cat is happy!
An anxious cat will stay low to the ground and slink around if they are moving. They will hold their body tightly and their muscles will be tense. Their tails will be tucked into their body or low to the ground. An annoyed cat’s tail may be flicking back and forth. Their ears will be flat if they are scared or swiveling to listen for threats. An anxious cat’s eyes will be wide and alert. Anxious cats often like to find places to hide. It’s best to let your cat be alone until they feel safe enough to come out again.
A sad cat might yowl in distress if they are upset. When they are annoyed or angry, they might growl to show their displeasure. If a cat is in pain they might purr, as purring can be self-soothing. If your cat is acting lethargic or reclusive and constantly purring they could be in pain. The same goes for constant meowing and yowling. If your cat is constantly meowing and showing signs of being anxious, they may be in pain. Consult your vet if you think your cat may be experiencing pain.
A threatened cat will be tense. They will hold their body tight and be ready to strike or run. If your cat is lying down when they feel threatened, they might slightly roll their body to one side. They will flatten their ears and bare their teeth. A standing cat that feels threatened will arch their back and bristle their fur to make themselves appear bigger. Their ears will be flat. Your cat might lift their paw off the ground to be ready to strike if needed. They will bare their teeth and growl or hiss.
If your cat has ever jumped at your ankles like they were trying to take down a wild beast, that’s probably exactly what they were doing. Cats enjoy hunting their prey as a way of playing and releasing energy. Cats enjoy pouncing and attacking their “prey” even if it’s not a wild animal but a toy. If your cat is attacking you, it’s probably a sign they’re bored. So, it’s a good idea to have toys and enrichment for your cat to play with. When a cat is on the hunt, they often get low to the ground in a crouch. Their pupils will dilate as they eye up their target. Right before a pounce, cats will often engage their butt wiggle, and then jump to kill their prey! If your cat is running around with the “zoomies” as they are affectionately called, it might be time to break out some toys and let your cat work off that energy.Learning how to understand your cat’s body language will help you to communicate with them and better understand their moods. Knowing when they want attention and to back off from an anxious cat will help you avoid being swatted and attacked. The best way to learn is to spend time with your cat and figure out their own unique ways of showing you their moods.