A Guide Through Cat Body Language

A Guide Through Cat Body Language

Cats are mysterious wonders, and sometimes we wish we could figure out what’s going through their smart little heads. Luckily for us, cats give away a lot of tell-tale signs that can help us pick up exactly how they’re feeling. With the little bit of help from Nicky Trevorrow, the Behavior Manager from Cats Protection, today we present to you a quick guide through 'cat'. Here's your cat through Cat Body Language.

"If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much." – Mark Twain.

Reading cat's basic emotions

Just like us, cats experience a wide range of emotions. They can feel happy, sad, angry, scared, frustrated, impatient, relieved. Here are some of the signs that can help you recognize some of the numerous feelings your cat may be experiencing.

1. Relaxed & happy

cute orange tabby cat laying on the back Cat Body Language: Relaxed Cat

The relaxed or neutral state is the emotion that usually dominates throughout a cat’s day. When the cat is relaxed, it will keep casual posture, relaxed whiskers and blinking eyes. The ears here will be relaxed or pointed upright very casually. The tail is usually still. A happy cat usually expresses similar conduction of from, except the ears are pointed upright and the tail may be wavy. Some of the interesting body languages you may notice in relaxed/happy cats are:

The tummy display: A relaxed cat may stretch out and roll over. But the tummy display does not mean the same thing as it does in dogs! If your cat stretches out and shows you its tummy, it feels relaxed with you and trusts you. But, does it try to claw or bite you if you go for a belly stroke? Yeah, for many cats this is a big no-no. Just because they trust you, it does not mean you get to abuse this trust! Cats would much rather have a gentle head scratch when they greet you with the tummy display.

The fluttering blink: A relaxed cat may greet another cat or human with a slow, gentle blink. Closing eyes in the presence of another is the ultimate sign of trust in the cat world. Does your cat blink at you when you walk up to it? It is the utmost sign of affection.


The curled tail: A curled tail around a human’s leg or another cat’s tail is a sign of friendliness.

2. Anxious

Cats generally don’t like change. It makes them feel insecure and anxious. It’s very important to note when your kitty is nervous and help them relax and accustomed to the new situation. You will recognize that your cat is anxious if it keeps wide open eyes without blinking with round, dilated pupils. They usually lower their head and pull their whiskers to the back. A slowly waving tip of the tail is a distinctive cat tail sign that reveals the state of anxiety. Anxiety is more subtle conduction of form than fear.

3. Scared

scared cat hissing cat body language Cat Body Language: Scared Cat

A scared cat is a lot easier to recognize than an anxious cat. This is one of the easiest behaviors to spot. The ears are flattened to the back of the head, eyes wide open and pupils dilated and round. Cats generally find the direct eye contact threatening. The more fearful the cat, the wider the eyes and the pupils. The cat may either try to escape or stand very still.

The tail is held under the body or waving from side to side in a threatening mode. Hissing, spitting and clawing are all also signs of fear. It is very important to offer a place to hide for scared cats, or even a chance to go to higher position.

4. Angry

An angry cat holds its tail stiff and straight or curls is around and under its body. The upright bottle-brush tail is an unequivocal sign that your cat is feeling threatened. The spine is usually arched, the legs stiff and the hair erected. These are all attempts to appear larger and more dangerous. They may also hiss, growl or spit to scare the object of anger.

Their eyes are wide open, directly pointed to the object and the pupils may be narrowed or contracted to focus on the detail. It is very important to remain careful with angry cats and make no sudden movements, as fear would make the cat even more uncomfortable than it already is.

5. Frustrated

Frustration can be a little trickier to spot, as it can be easily confused with other behaviors. A cat may become frustrated in a short-term occasion, i.e. when it can’t reach an object of interest. But a cat may also experience long-term frustration if it’s not stimulated enough, i.e. it doesn’t get enough exercise.

You will recognize a frustrated cat as it will be intensely focused to the object of frustration until they either get it or eventually give up. On the other hand, cats with long-term frustration will often be lethargic, they may refuse to eat and play with others.

Other gestures to keep an eye on

Here are some additional interesting gestures that may tell you more about your cat outside the spectrum of the basic emotions:

1. Greetings

"When the cat comes towards you with their tail up, usually with a pointed tip, that’s a sign of a greeting in cats. This is a lovely behavior." – explained Trevorrow.

Cute and short white Munchkin cat running up the road Cat Body Language: A Greeting Cat
2.Rubbing against humans, other animals or objects

You may sometimes notice your cat rubbing its sides, cheeks and forehead against different objects. This is the way the cats leave their scent and mark their territory. They will often rub against their humans when they get home. While this is also a way of greeting behavior, they mostly do it as we smell odd after being outside for a while.

3. Lip licking

This behavior can occur for many different reasons. A cat may lick its lips after it had a delicious meal, or even if it's feeling nauseous or stressed.

4. Purring

Purring is often associated with content or desire for attention. Sometimes it can also mean that the cat is in pain.

5.Kneading the front paws

It is still not explained why adult cats knead their front paws. As kittens, this is a common behavior during nursing. Sadly, we don’t yet understand why adult cats are continuing practicing this adorable gesture. It seems to be associated with content and happiness though.


Hopefully you found this guide helpful for understanding the ‘cat’ a little better. Share with us your experiences about your cat’s body language and help us all learn more!

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