How to interpret your cat's body language?

Just like humans, cats have their own way of expressing themselves without ever opening their mouth. However, this body language may be difficult for pet owners to interpret. This article will help you to finally understand what kitty is "saying".

The tail:
  • A wagging tail doesn't mean a cat is friendly or happy to see you. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Angry cats usually vigorously swish or wag their tails when they are irritated. This is a warning sign that a cat is ready and willing to attack, so always treat wagging tails with caution.
  • A straight tail, held rigidly vertical, with the tip curled down to one side, indicates a cat that is curious or interested in something.
  • A straight tail, held rigidly vertical, with the tip also straight, is an intense show of happiness. Usually, a happy cat's tail doesn't do anything at all, but when it is held in this manner, you can be sure that your kitty is happy to see you.
  • A stiff tail with a twitching tip means that your pet is becoming mildly irritated, so watch out!
  • A bristling, arched tail shows that your cat is in a defensive position. You must be careful, because defense can very easily turn to offense.
  • A submissive tail resembles an angry tail in its wagging motion, but it is usually held lower to the ground.

  • If a cat rubs against you with its body or the sides of its face, it's only marking its territory. However, if a cat rubs against you with its forehead or nose, this is a true sign of affection.

  • A happy or curious cat has fully-extended whiskers that help him navigate around his world.
  • An irritated or sick cat has whiskers that are pulled back more tightly towards the face.

  • Happy cat ears are up and always moving, rotating in the direction of every little sound.
  • Frightened or defensive cats flatten their ears against the side of their heads as a sign of submission. Fighting cats often exhibit this behavior because they are trying to avoid injury.
  • An angry cat shows his aggression by pointing his ears forward at an angle.

  • Wide-open eyes are signs that kitty is curious and happy. Often, you can see a slight glint in your cat's eyes when it's about ready to do something mischievous.
  • Half-closed eyes are obviously a sign that your pet is ready to go to sleep. However, if the eyes are half-closed but the cat is fully awake, it may mean that your cat has some sort of infection or illness.
  • Dilated pupils indicate a cat that is frightened and about ready to become aggressive.

As a final warning: if your cat seems to be acting strange, it is very likely that it has contracted some sort of illness. Closely watching and learning to understand your cat's body language will not only bring you and your pet closer together, but it may help you recognize the early warning signs of sickness; you might even save your cat's life.

©2001 by PageWise, Inc.

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©1999-2016 F. Dörenberg, unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be used without permission from the author.