Cat Body Language

Many people think cats are aloof, asocial creatures. However, your feline friend is actually highly social, able to communicate with you not only with her voice but also with her body. Even if your cat isn”t making a lot of noise, pay attention: Her body language might be telling you something.

Tricks of the Tail

A cat uses her tail for balance, but she also uses it to convey her thoughts, moods and intentions. Here are some common moods that cats portray with their tails:

  • Agitated cats wave their tails back and forth from the base. Generally, a cat swishes her tail more rapidly and broadly as she becomes more and more upset.
  • If a cat sees something interesting, she will often stick her tail straight in the air and bend its tip.
  • When a cat is frightened or attempting to avoid a confrontation, she will often fluff her tail, which she will then lower or tuck between her legs to indicate submission.
  • When a cat is happy to see you, she will often hold her tail straight in the air. Often, the cat will also twitch the tip of her tail in excitement. You might notice this behavior when you first come home from work or school or when you are about to feed your cat.
  • When a cat is involved in a conflict, especially with another cat, she will often puff her tail and extend it straight into the air as she turns to her side. She does this in order to appear larger and more intimidating.
  • When a cat swishes the tip of her tail, she is letting you know that she is annoyed. For example, if you ever pet a cat and notice her swishing her tail, she”s probably letting you know that she”s had enough. If you keep petting, beware: You might get scratched.

Body Talk

A cat”s body language isn”t restricted to her tail. The way a cat moves can signal many emotions, too. For example, a cat”s stance and ear position can let you know what she”s feeling. Here are some common ways that cats communicate through their movements and postures:

  • When a cat bends her forelegs, she”s letting you know that she would prefer not to fight but will defend herself if necessary.
  • When your cat fluffs up her fur and expands her body, she is showing both confidence and aggression.
  • When a cat fully stretches her legs, she is feeling self-assured and is ready to attack. When her hind legs are bent, however, she is feeling timid and/or submissive.
  • When a cat crouches and curls her legs underneath her, shrinking her size, she is showing submission or is readying herself for action.
  • If your cat is slinking around low to the ground and holding her ears back, she is probably feeling shame or remorse.
  • When a cat tucks her ears and holds a steady posture, she is unsure of what move to make. You will often see a cat do this if she is debating whether or not to fight another cat.
  • When a cat raises her head high, she is showing dominance. When her head is lowered, she is showing submission.
  • If your cat is sneaking around with her body very low to the ground, she is probably stalking something.

Cats also use contact to communicate with you. For example, a cat might gently rub her body against your legs to remind you that it”s time to fill the food bowl. At times, rubbing against you may be your cat”s way to signal to others that you are taken!

Kitty-Cat Chitchat

Tiger Striped CatCats meow to get your attention, but they also vocalize in other ways, including by purring and hissing.

While not every cat purrs to socially communicate, the behavior is very common. In general, we don”t know much about how cats purr. However, we do know that they often purr to signal contentment and happiness. In some cases, severely ill, injured or anxious cats have also been known to purr. This has led some people to claim that cats purr to comfort themselves and/or to promote healing.

Some cats meow a lot, while others are quiet and rarely “talk”. Cats often use meows to get attention or to greet others, though they will also call out to express pain. While dogs are only capable of performing about 10 different vocalizations, cats are capable of about 100.

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