Understanding Your Cat's Body Language

Understanding Your Cat's Body Language

As humans, we know that body language accounts for the majority of communication. Well, it's pretty much the same in most species, including cats!

Does your cat arch their back up to meet your hand when you pet them? They are wanting affection from you.

Do they try and avoid you touching them by backing away or ducking when you go to pet them? Maybe they aren't looking to be touched at the moment.

It's important to pay attention and always treat them with the respect you would expect from another human being. Pay attention to your cat's eyes, ears, body, and tail—they're all giving you clues as to how they're feeling. 

Two white cats; one laying in a modern cup shaped bed, the other standing beside it.


    When your cat rubs their body against you, they're telling you that you're their territory. They want their scent on you. But they do love you, too. This same concept applies to the household items they rub up against. They are marking their territory. This is their stuff!


    Cats like to work their paws on a soft surface as if they're kneading bread dough.  They used to do this when they were kittens to help keep their mother's milk flowing. Your cat will do this when they are really happy.

    The Flehmens response

    Photo by Andrew Apperley

    When your cat lifts their head, opens their mouth slightly, curls back their lips and squints their eyes they're not making a statement about how your shoe smells; they're gathering more information. It's rather comical and appears as though they are disgusted with something they just smelled or tasted. 

    When your cat gets a whiff of something really fascinating, they open their mouth and inhale so that the scent molecules flow over the Jacobson's organ (located on the roof of their mouth behind their front teeth). This intensifies the odor and provides more information about the object they're sniffing.

    What kind of mood is your cat in? Here are some clues:

    Photo by Angie Holubowich

    A content cat will be sitting or lying down, eyes closed or half-closed, tail still, ears forward and purring. If your cat is really happy they will often knead a soft surface such as your leg or their bed. It's cute until they stick their claws out!


    If they're frightened or startled, they will have the appearance of the Halloween cat. Their ears will be back and flat against their head, back arched, whiskers back, fur standing on end and their tail erect or low. They may yowl, growl, hiss, and spit.

    Cat playing with electronic Autonomous Yo Yo Teasing Toy from Cattoyz.com

    If your cat is in a playful mood their ears will be forward and their tail up. Their whiskers may be forward and pupils somewhat dilated. Playing is hunting to your domestic house cat; they may stalk their prey (aka you or a toy), then crouch down with their rear end slightly raised. Before you know it they…pounce! Your feline will grab their prey, bite it, wrestle it on the floor and kick it repeatedly with their hind feet.


    Nervous or anxious cats will typically have their Ears sideways or back, pupils dilated and tail low or tucked between legs. They might slink through the house close to the floor, looking for somewhere to hide or turn their face to the wall to shut the world out.


    Ears back, pupils very constricted, and their tail with the fur standing on end is how an angry or aggressive cat will look—they will stare down another cat and growl or yowl until the other cat gives way. Their bite is usually as bad or worse than their 'yowl,' however, they prefer not to fight.  



    Written By Jan,

    Blog Writer/Social Media Manager at Cattoyz.com 

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