Decoding Your Cat’s Body Language

Understanding what your pet needs or wants can be a challenge since we must rely on non-verbal communication. It all comes down to paying attention to and accurately translating their body language. A dog’s body language is pretty straightforward. They wag their tails when they’re happy, they whine when they want something, they snarl when they’re angry. Cats on the other hand do not have such cut and dry communication. It takes a little more time and effort to get to know these mysterious little creatures. Don’t worry – we’re here to help. Here are a few common cat behaviors that you can learn to recognize and understand.

Rubbing against or head-butting you – This is how cats “mark their territory” and claim what they feel belongs to them. If your cat is rubbing against you, it means he loves you and consider you his.

Puffing her tail and arching her back – This is a sign that your cat is frightened.

Rolling over onto his back – When your cat is in a calm state and does this it means he fully trusts you. He is making himself submissive and welcoming you. Be careful, though, if he does this while playing as this position also allows him to use his hind legs for kicking or scratching.

Ear position – The way your cat’s ears are positioned can tell a lot about their emotions.

  • Ears forward – happy, alert, curious
  • Ears flat against head – defensive
  • Ears flat against head, tips twisted forward – aggressive

Tail position – Like the ears, the way a cat holds her tail can be a way to decipher how she is feeling.

  • Tail high and straight up – happy, content
  • Hooked/curved at end – happy, but a little unsure
  • Tail down, and tucked between legs – submissive
  • Tail horizontal – wary, but not aggressive
  • Swishing, twitching tail – Irritable/angry, but also a sign of playfulness

Staring – You may see this more in how cats interact with one another, but it does translate to humans on some level. To a cat, holding eye contact can be a sign of aggression. The first cat to look away is the more submissive. Cats may find it inviting to come toward and even climb on a human that isn’t staring back at them since they see no signs of aggression.

These are, of course, just the most commonly seen behavioral nuances in cats. Any feline owner knows that there are countless others, and that each cat has their own unique personality. If you’re lucky you’ll come to understand your cat’s individual body language so that you can both develop a stronger bond and a more trusting, loving relationship with each other.