Do you ever get the feeling your cat is trying to tell you something? Of course you do, because your furry friend is speaking to you with every purr, stretch, and twitch. But, since you’re a human, you likely have no clue what your cat is trying to communicate, and if you guess wrong, you might end up with one frustrated feline. Therefore, read on for some of the most common types of cat communication. You may have already noticed some of them from your curious kitty.
What Your Cat Is Saying with Their Body
Cats communicate mostly through their bodies and gestures. They have tons of absolutely adorable antics, from the upside-down glance as they roll onto their backs to the playful swats at irresistible laser pointers. But, they also have several gestures and positions they don’t mean to be cute, like a bristled tail or a stiff stance with an arched back.
For example, if your cat arches her back but is standing to the side, she’s likely nervous or scared. Although she might be willing to fight, she’s more likely to flee to somewhere she feels safe in this situation. However, if your cat arches her back and is standing face to face with another cat (or someone or something else), she’s saying she’s ready to fight.
Conversely, if your kitty relaxes her body or rolls on her back, she’s telling you she trusts you and feels at ease. Also, if she starts kneading her paws on your lap, she’s saying she’s perfectly content. Of course, you might not feel the same if your cat has sharp claws, so make sure to give her plenty of ways to keep them in good shape.
If you’re really feeling motivated to up your communication with your feline friend, you could give speech buttons a try. This recent tool involves a series of buttons, each representing something different, that you train your cat to press when she wants something. Amazing, right?
If buttons aren’t your thing, here’s a look at what your cat is trying to say with all of her different poses and positions.
Talking with the Tail
Your cat’s tail might be one of the best ways to read what she’s thinking and feeling. In fact, she uses it so much that if you notice her suddenly not moving it at all, something could be wrong. If your cat stops wagging or moving her tail, ensure she doesn’t have any tail injuries.
Here are a few common tail positions and motions and what they mean:
- Low Tail - If your cat is holding her tail low, she is likely telling you she is feeling scared or wary of something.
- Bristled Tail - Your cat bristles her tail to tell you she’s scared or ready to fight. The best way to tell which is the case is to pay attention to what the rest of her body is doing. Often, cat communication involves several different body parts doing certain things. For example, an upright, bristled tail along with an arched back and exposed claws is your cat’s way of saying, “You better get out of here right now.”
- Trailing Tail - If your cat simply trails her tail behind her, not holding it high or low, she is most likely feeling relaxed.
- Tucked Tail - When your cat tucks her tail between her legs or below her body, she’s trying to tell you she feels anxious or worried.
- High-held Tail - If your cat holds her tail high, but it’s relaxed and not stiff, she’s feeling confident, just like when you tell a friend to hold her head up high.
Talking with the Ears
As a human, you have many ways to communicate, but it’s a pretty good assumption that you don’t do so with your ears. However, when it comes to your cat, she can actually tell you quite a bit with her ears.
- Ears Pricked Forward - Your cat is telling you that something has caught her attention. Whatever it is, she is on alert and ready to investigate.
- Ears Relaxed Forward - Your cat is saying she’s on alert but feeling relaxed.
- Ears Held Back - In some cases, this could be as simple as your cat heard something behind her, but it usually means she’s anxious or feels threatened.
- Ears Held Back and Flat Against the Head - Basically, your cat is saying, “back off.” She feels scared or angry, and if she feels threatened, she is likely to scratch or get aggressive to get out of the situation.
- Ears Held Down and to the Side - Your feline friend is telling you that she’s happy and content. Especially if she’s also purring and her eyes look sleepy.
Talking with the Eyes
The eyes are how many different animals, including humans, express their emotions and communicate various messages. Your cat is no exception. Here are a few popular ways that your cat speaks with her eyes.
- Wide Eyes - Wide eyes mean your cat is on alert. Pay attention to the rest of her body language to decide if she’s alert and relaxed or if she’s feeling antsy or threatened.
- Narrowed Eyes - If your cat’s eyes are narrowed, she is on alert but likely scared, or she can potentially get aggressive. Again, it’s vital to assess all of her different body cues to determine the case.
- Sleepy Eyes - If your cat’s eyes are closed or barely open, she’s telling you she is feeling super relaxed.
- Dilated Pupils - Your cat’s pupils can dilate if she’s excited or if she’s scared. However, narrow pupils can signal a mad kitty. Of course, her eyes could also merely be responding to the light in the room, which is why considering her overall body language is so essential.
Talking with the Whiskers
Yes, even your cat’s whiskers are trying to tell you something. Here are the most common ways your cat tells it like it is with her whiskers.
- Bristled Whiskers - Typically, bristled whiskers signal that your cat is scared or about to fight. However, she would usually give off some other signs as well, like a stiff, upright tail and arched back.
- Forward Whiskers - Your cat is telling you that she sees something that has her on alert, whether it’s food or a threat.
- Whiskers Held Back - Your cat is saying she feels relaxed and calm.
In addition to this popular cat lingo, your cat also has numerous ways to tell you she loves you. Unfortunately, not all of them might feel too good. For example, she might gently bite you (like a cat does when it grooms a kitten). Other ways your cat shows affection is by butting her head against you, and if she rubs her nose or cheek against you, she’s claiming you. Yep, that’s right; she’s marking her territory and saying, “This human is mine!”
Cat Chat: Get the Message?
Just like humans, your cat also talks with her voice, although perhaps not as much as with her body; you just need to learn her language. Cats communicate with various sounds, including meows, purrs, hisses, and other interesting noises. Each trill, rumble, and mew means something, and many pair with different body positions and gestures to expand your cat’s communication skills.
What’s in a Meow? - Cats basically meow to tell their humans they want or need something. Typically, this is more food or water in their dish, affection, or they want to play. You won’t usually hear cats meowing to each other in conversation, although they use other sounds to talk to their feline friends.
Warning Words - When your cat hisses, it’s exactly what you expect, a warning. However, you can use this knowledge to your advantage. If your curious kitty is up to something she shouldn’t be, give her a hiss. You’ll likely distract her, and she’ll stop the undesired behavior.
If you come across a cat you don’t know and receive a hiss, don’t push the issue. One scratch from a feral cat could lead to rabies and other issues.
If your cat emits a loud, rising yowl sound that seems to go up and down in intensity, she’s ready to fight. However, if it sounds more subdued, your cat might be trying to tell you she’s uncomfortable or not feeling well...or about to cough up a hairball.
Pleasant Purrs - Although your cat might produce a type of raspy-sounding purr if she’s injured, usually, a purr signals ultimate trust and satisfaction. Your cat will purr when she’s relaxed, happy, and perfectly content with how things are going in her world. In fact, she might be so peaceful; she’ll fall asleep.
You might sometimes hear your cat give a short little purr, often to another cat. This is the equivalent of you telling a good friend hello. Your kitty also may use this sound as a reply when you speak to her.
Of course, every cat is unique and will have her unique ways of telling you how she feels, but most cats follow this basic cat code. Once you know what your furry friend is trying to say to you, your relationship can get even better. (Now, if only she could scoop her litter box). For more ways to help be the best pet parent you can be, make sure to check out the rest of our blog. You’ll always find something useful and interesting to learn about your precious pets.