Communicating with your cat isn’t impossible—you just need to learn his (or her) language. There are certain clues about your cat’s body language that can give you some insight into your furry family member’s feelings.
The eyes, the tone of voice or the position of the ears, the motion of the tail could all reveal to you what your cat’s thinking. Understanding what your cat is saying can be clear once you understand what these mean:
#1: Belly Displays
Cats and dogs are not the same. That seems obvious, especially to dog lovers, but a lot of the time people forget that what applies to dogs doesn’t apply to cats. Cats are masters of subtlety, and that means their body language is super-subtle. When your cat rolls over and displays his belly, a lot of people think “oh, he wants belly rubs! He loves me!” and they are thoroughly disappointed when the belly rubs turn into devouring your hand! Your cat can be perfectly comfortable revealing his belly to you, but not be so happy to have you pet it. Knowing when to give your kitty a belly rub and when not to will truly depend on your cat alone.
#2: A Fluttering Blink
No, your cat isn’t winking at you, nor does he have something in his eye (usually). Cats say hello by greeting you with a slow, languid blink. It’s their way of saying “Hi, I like you, welcome to my space”. By slowly blinking, they’re expressing that they’re aware of your presence but they don’t feel threatened at all. The next time it happens, say hello with a long blink yourself.
#3: Halloween Pose
Everyone knows this pose. The cat’s back is arched, his hair is standing up, and his tail is puffy. This is the biggest, most undeniable sign your cat is saying “I am not ok right now”. Cats feel threatened by whatever is around them (a new cat, or maybe even your broom if he’s a little strange). Whatever the source of the threat, you should remove it right away, or find a better way to introduce your cat to it.
#4: Direct Stare
Cats are just like almost every other animal. Direct eye contact feels threatening and is a sign of dominance. When a cat is feeling particularly afraid, his pupils will dilate to allow as much visual information in as possible. Myrna Milani, DVM, is an animal behaviorist at Tipping Point Animal Behavior Consulting Services and she has found that this bug-eyed, direct stare is not one of friendliness or arousal, but one of fear instead.
#5: Audio Clues
Cats make a lot of different noises. They meow, they purr, they’ll make high pitched chattering noises, just to name a few. But what do those noises mean?
- Purring: This generally means that they are seeking comfort and contentment. Purring is the way that cats self-soothe when they are in need of some affection, and also when they are happy and content.
- High-pitched chattering: this is friendly chattering.
- Growling, hissing, spitting: stay away! Back off—this cat is not happy.
- Caterwauling: A very loud, deep sound that cats can make when they’re feeling threatened by other cats. It’s also a common sound for deaf cats, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they feel threatened in those cases.
There are a lot of different signs and clues your cat can give you with their body language and voice, but at the end of the day cats have individual personalities and are unique as humans are.