How confident are you that you know what your cat is thinking? Can you read their every ear movement, meow, or flick of the tail? Understanding your pet's body language is important if you want to develop a lasting bond with them and importantly, be able to detect any signs of distress or illness.
Can You Speak Cat?
Need to brush up on your kitty communication skills? Here are some signs - in cat speak - to help you understand how your cat is feeling:
"I am relaxed"
If your cat's eyes are closed or half-closed, they are normally feeling relaxed. Their ears will typically be facing forward, with their whiskers relaxed too.
This is a good sign of a happy cat, who will probably welcome some love and attention from you. Cats love to be gently stroked around the areas where their facial glands are located - at the base of their ears, under the chin and around their cheeks. But always keep kitty consent in mind; and if they don't want attention, leave them to relax!
If your cat is lying on their back exposing their tummy, it is another good sign that they are relaxed. But it doesn't always mean they want their tummy rubbed! Cats touched on this area are likely to go into a defensive roll and grab your hand with their claws.
You will also know that your cat is relaxed if they regularly doze in their favourite spots around the house and they are spending time preening and grooming themselves.
"I am alert!"
There may be some mixed messages here, but your cat's tail can be a good body language barometer! If their tail is upright (with a little kink at the end), it's a sign that your cat is alert and quite happy to say hello. But watch out! If their tail is wagging side to side, it could mean that they are assessing a potential prey or threat, so be aware that they may be ready to pounce or protect themselves. A subtle, but important difference! Would you pass the Cat Body Language test?
When your cat is alert, their eyes will be wide open, their ears will be standing upright and their whiskers pointing forward.
"I am wary!"
If you see your cat's tail moving from side to side, and they are pacing a little, they are still making their mind up about a situation. Let them determine how they will respond and don't force them to relax with you - they will make their own mind up! Going and hiding in a safe place may be best for them.
Watch out if their tail moves whilst they are crouching - this may mean they are about to pounce. Of course, they may take this stance if you are playing with them and they are chasing a fluffy mouse on the end of a string, which means they will be feeling playful!
"I am playful!"
Unlike dogs, cats don't drop big hints that they want to play - their body language is more subtle than a ball being dropped at your feet!
Playfulness is a great sign that your cat is happy! So if your cat's ears and whiskers are facing forward, their pupils are a little dilated and their tail is up, it's a sure sign they want to play. Rolling a lightweight ball along the floor for them to chase, or shining a laser light on the floor to a soft mouse will allow them to practice their stalk and chase skills.
"I am stressed!"
Keep a wary eye open for these signs so that you can take action to relieve your cat of any symptoms.
Again, how your pet holds their tail is a good indicator if they are stressed. If their tail is held to the side, and sometimes moving from side to side, this can be a sign they are not happy.
Their body language is a good clue too; if your cat is arching their back (trying to look taller) they may be feeling very threatened. Or if they are crouching low to the ground, they may be trying to pretend they are very small and not there.
Flat ears (pointing away from each other), backwards facing whiskers, and wide eyes are other body language signs of stress or when facing a threat. Cats also show signs they are feeling fearful or anxious about something by hiding, scratching or spraying. Over grooming may also be a sign of stress, so you should try and determine the reason and minimise the cause.
"I am worried!"
If your cat's ears are pointing in different directions (one to the side, one forward), their whiskers are facing forward and they have wide eyes they may be feeling worried or concerned about their situation and they are trying to gather some more information. There may have been some changes around the house (like new visitors or loud noises) - and from their point of view, they may feel threatened and worried, so take steps to reassure them by making sure they have plenty of safe places to retreat to until they feel more comfortable.
"I am happy!"
A happy cat means a happy home! A cat purring is normally a sure sign that your cat is happy, particularly if they are snuggled up close to you and you are having some bonding time with them. If, however, you notice they are purring at unusual times, it could also indicate some stress or maybe an injury, so keep an eye out for this.
A happy cat will love a routine, with some alone time, regular playtimes, you may find them kneading, they keep themselves groomed (but not too much), and if they are blinking slowly or resting with half-closed eyes, you'll know that all's right in your feline friend's world!
It's good to have a little help to ensure your cat is always a happy cat!
Now test your Cat Body Language skill with our quiz and see if you recognise the signals your cat is giving you.
Remember there is always FELIWAY to help your cat show happy cat signs.
Enjoy your cat-chat!