Understanding a cat’s body Language



My last post concentrated on the sounds and voices that cats use to communicate with each other and their humans. After finishing that post, I decided that I needed to go further and point out actual body language that cats use in conjunction with their voices.

Cats are complex creatures. There is nothing simple about cats. That most likely comes from cats being meat eaters and therefore predators by necessity. Cats of all sizes must use stealth in order to get a meal. The

Stalking possibly a meal

smaller the cat, the more cunning she must use. So, over the years cats have learned a wealth of moves to fool other animals of her intentions.

Domesticated cats have carried over these ingrained moves to the sweet life of a pampered pet. So, beware the gorgeous little fur ball.

How to read your cat’s body language

Cats tend to use similar movements to indicate different actions. The particular body language is based upon the cat’s reaction to her surroundings. Is she calm, relaxed, contented? Or is she nervous, fearful or angry? A cat’s mood and actions are dependent upon her view of the moment So, before reaching down to pet kitty, take a moment to assess the situation and read her mood.

A cat’s mood can change in an instant. Let’s say kitty is asleep, or almost asleep. She is lying down completely relaxed when a loud noise outside startles her and she jumps up with wide eyes, a puffed tail, and maybe a startled hiss. That is not the time to try to pet her.

Wait until she and the noise settles down before approaching her. Most cats are not ready to embrace anybody that wants to make friends too fast. She will react slowly and study the surroundings before accepting a new-found buddy.

How to read a cat’s tail

The tail is a barometer of the cat’s confidence in her surroundings. A cat who is happy will demonstrate a high held quivering tail, ears high, forward and erect, and whiskers forward. A cat that exhibits such body language is a happy, confident cat, who is friendly and will accept some petting. She will check out a new person with body and chin rubs, and purring.

However, if the cat’s tail is high and flicking, it means the cat is agitated and on alert–give her some room to calm down. By tail flicking, I mean the tail is stiff but swishing back and forth. But if a cat is anxious, or frightened, she will hold her tail tucked down and her whiskers will be pulled close to her face. This is a time to talk quietly and approach slowly.

How to read other cat postures

When a cat suddenly “blows up” that is; her tail goes up, her back is arched, her fur is spiked and she approaches with sideways stance– she is highly agitated and frightened. It is best to approach slowly and talk to her in a quiet tone, until her stance slowly dissipates. This stance is sometimes referred to as the “Halloween pose.”

What the heck is that!

The normal posture for a contented cat is a forward stance; body and head forward; while a fearful posture is a crouched position.

Beware the “Venus Cat Trap.” That’s a cat on her back–think she is looking for a tummy rub? No so. This is a fighting stance-The cat on the bottom is ready to curl up over her antagonist, claws and teeth at the ready. And she can do some real damage to her opponent.

Cat upright leaves her tummy wide open for injury.

Cats who live in a loving family are not likely to assume this posture because she has no reason to come up fighting–unless she really is looking for playtime and a tummy rub.

A cat’s eyes can tell us about her range of contentment along with other parts of her body as well. Cats have beautiful eyes. Golden eyes, green eyes and sometimes blue eyes. Some breeds have eyes of a different color such as one green and one blue.

If the eyes are dilated, that is; mostly black with only a thin line of color, it means the cat is afraid, excited or angry. If her pupils are narrowed, that indicates aggression.

The slow blink or “bedroom eyes”

The exact opposite, which I have nicknamed “bedroom eyes,” is a slow blink. The slow blink shows affection and relaxation. Cats use this as  manipulation, too. Your cat looks you directly, eye to eye, her eyes close slightly and she slowly blinks her eyelids up and down slowly-did I say slowly? While she is giving you the “bedroom eye”, you can slowly blink back at her. Your cat will be delighted. The slow blink shows affection and relaxation between your cat and you.


As I said at the beginning, cats are complex creatures.

white kitten, contented

Cats take a little time to warm up to strangers. They are loving creatures but they need to trust their owner completely before giving back love. If your cat loves and trusts you, she will allow you to groom her, administer meds for her, take her to the vet for checkups and care. If you adopt a cat from the Humane Society or a rescue center, give her some time to get to know you and her new surroundings. Speak quietly, pet her, but don’t hold her against her wishes. Let her explore.

Body language would not be complete without the vocalizations cats use to make their intentions clear.https://my-pet-toys-and-stuff.com/why-do-cats-act-weird/ We spent time in my last post explaining their language. To wrap up both posts, here is a list of “cat talk”:

  • Growl–back off,
  • Hiss- cat is threatened
  • Yowl–out of options
  • Trill–friendly
  • Purr-pleasure, or pain
  • Chirp–excited
  • Meow–general: hungry, chatty. Strident or constant: may mean trouble or pain, time to visit the vet for a check-up.

My  thanks to “the definitive guide to cat behavior and body language”

I’m  Barbara Nelson and I always like to hear from my readers. Let me know what you think.

6 thoughts on “Understanding a cat’s body Language”

  1. It’s always fun to me whenever I see people who can interact with animals like cats and dogs like they are having a conversation with humans, it’s a kind of skill that is great. Understanding a cats body language is gonna be cool and this article has done well by explaining how to do that.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Bruce. I’ve had several cats in my lifetime and have learned their actions by observing them. Over the years you see the same actions and can figure out what it means.

  2. Hello there, I have to say a cat is one of the few animals that I have seen that have some really special body language and once you have one as a pet, you’ll have to be very careful and learn fast so you can know when you’ll need to get them a doctor. I have learned a lot here, even if I don’t have a cat. Cheers

  3. Oh, this is good, just perfect. I mean to learn about the cats and also about their body language is really gold. I feel like the cats are one of the most misunderstood domestic animals ever and even some vets agree totally with this. They are also very hard to decipher too. Your teachings on the cat body language is well received and I just got myself an eye opener.

    1. Thanks Suz for reading and commenting on my post. All animals communicate in some way with each other. The fun comes when we humans try to figure out what an animal is “saying.” Glad you found my post interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *