An Exclusive Guide to Solving the Mystery of a Cat’s Body Language

Cat Behavior

You may have tried to decipher your cat’s body language and made an attempt to understand what it is trying to convey. This article covers some easy tips that will help you to read your pet’s body language.
When a cat speaks, it’s because it has something to say, unlike humans who are the great refuse containers of speech. ~ V.L. Allineare

As rightly said by V.L. Allineare, cats do speak only because they have something to say. Let met introduce myself before I get along with my attempt to help the human race understand cat behavior. I am Peppers, a tomcat who is tired of being misunderstood by ‘my owner’ (I say this only to please the human ego. It is I who own the humans I choose to live with). There are plenty of my kind who want to be understood better by those living with them. The following paragraphs will help you in knowing your cat and building a better relationship with it.

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshiped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this. ~ Anonymous

From the tip of our nose to the tip of our tail, we are continuously trying to communicate with our human comrades. There are only a few people, whom we call ‘cat whisperers’, who understand our needs and act according to our commands. Many times, when humans fail to act according to our wishes and desires, they end up with scratch and bite marks all over their body. And to our surprise, they blame us for their misery without even understanding our language. Cats are creatures of a few words, and it is up to those claiming to be our owners to decode our body language.

Dogs come when they’re called; cats take a message and get back to you later. ~ Mary Bly

Some Common Signs

The most natural form of communication for cats is our body language. You need to figure out cats and their eccentricities by understanding this body language. The following tips will help you in understanding cats better.

Arched Back: If you find our backs arched with the fur on end, then it means that we want to play. This is the most common way for kittens to let their owners know its playtime. However, older cats may use it to let the human know that they want to be alone. If you see this body gesture along with a deep growl, constant eye contact, and stiff movements, then better back off.

Cat Kneading: Cat kneading is a sign that develops in kittens. A kitten kneads on her mother while nursing to increase the milk flow. However, a cat kneading on your lap means it’s just a way to remember the times spent with mum. Or it may also be comforting for many of us.

Rubbing Legs: When we rub ourselves on your legs, it means that we are marking you with our pheromones. We do this to get our scent on your body. This scent makes us feel comfortable as everyone in the house smells the same. Also, it helps us get your attention and love. Another important reason for this is to let the world know that this human belongs to a particular cat.

Crouching Cat: When a cat has its tail wrapped around the body and is crouching, it means that it is feeling defensive and fearful. When we are standing upright with a slight elevation, it is an offensive posture, ready to attack.

Halloween Cat: The Halloween cat posture is the one with the arched back, with all the hair turning into a bristle and the tail forming an arch. This means that we are frightened and trying to impose a physically scary look to our opponent. It gives out a clear message, ‘leave me alone’.

Aggressive Cat: When a cat is aggressive, you will find that the pupils are narrowed down to form slits. This helps give us a better depth perception and clear view. The ears will stand up and face forward or may be folded down on the head. The rear end will be held high and tail will be held low. The aggressor will approach the defensive cat prancing sideways. This makes us look bigger to the other cat.

Rolling Over: When a cat rolls over on its back, exposing its belly, it means that it is feeling safe and secure around you. Most cats do not attempt to roll over and expose their belly as it is the most vulnerable spot on our body. However, a sleeping cat that rolls over and even allows you to scratch the belly, means it trusts you with its life.

The Tail

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. ~ Mark Twain

A tail is the pride of a cat. Do not make the mistake of thinking that a cat’s body language is similar to a dog’s. We do not wag our tails like dogs when happy. And more importantly, tail movement in cat language is not called ‘wagging’, but known as ‘flicking’, ‘lashing’, and ‘thumping’. If you are reading a cat’s body language, make sure that you take the tail movement into consideration.

Swishing: When you see the tail moving side to side, slowly and gently, it means that we are alert, curious, and interested in what’s happening around us.

Lashing: When you observe the tail moving in a fast and aggressive way from side to side, it means that the cat is agitated and annoyed and will soon take the aggressive posture. You may even see our tail hair stand, making it look really bushy. It is better to leave us alone at such a time.

Twitching: A twitching tail means ‘I am interested in something I just saw’. And sometimes, a twitching tail is the first sign of aggressive cat behavior. For example, I twitch my tail when the cat from the neighborhood dares to enter my area. If he does not back off, then I begin to lash my tail.

Bolt Upright: A cat walking with its tail straight up, pointing towards the sky, means ‘I am a happy and confident cat’. You will even observe contentment and confidence in the overall body language.

Tail Tuck: If the tail is half tucked between the legs, it means that the cat is scared and feels threatened. The head will be down, the ears pulled back, and the body will lie low towards the ground.

Quivering: If you find your cat quivering its tail, then you are a lucky human. This is a sign of great affection for the human from a cat. Also, quivering is part of cat spraying behavior.

The Ears

After scolding one’s cat one looks into its face and is seized by the ugly suspicion that it understood every word. And has filed it for reference. ~ Charlotte Gray

Cats can hear sounds that are up to 100,000 cycles per second. They can hear high frequency sounds that are about 30 Hertz to 60 Kilohertz. Humans cannot hear what we can hear and detect. We can even differentiate between sounds coming from about three feet away, whose sources are just about three inches apart.

Turned Back Ears: When our ears are flattened towards the head and turned back, it means we are feeling threatened. Turning our ears back is just a way of protecting them.

Ears Pricked Up: Ears that are pricked up means we are interested to hear the sound we are listening to. Pricked up ears help us catch the sound without even having to move our heads.

Ear Position Against Head: If the cat’s ears are facing forward, it means we are happy, curious, and alert. If we hold our ears flat against the head, then we are in a defensive mode. And when our ears are flat against the head with the tips twisted towards the front, it means that we are aggressive.

The Eyes

Cats always seem so very wise, when staring with their half-closed eyes. Can they be thinking, “I’ll be nice, and maybe she will feed me twice?” ~ Bette Midler

Cats have an excellent vision and can function at only 1/6th of the light level that is required for humans to see. We are also known for our beautiful eye colors, that are popular as contact lenses among humans.

Wide Eyes: You will see wide, staring eyes before and during a cat fight. If your cat stares at you with wide, staring eyes, back off or face painful consequences.

Narrow Eyes: A happy cat will have narrow, slowly blinking eyes. It means that it is happy to be around you and other cats or animals in the room. It could also mean that the cat is in a submissive mood or is content.


A meow massages the heart. ~ Stuart McMillan

Understanding a cat’s body language also includes decoding the meows. Different meows mean different things.

Brief Meow: A meow is a way to help us tell you that we are hungry or are seeking your attention. When you hear a brief meow that sounds like a chirp, it means that we are feeling affectionate, or it is a form of greeting when you return home.

Hissing: Hissing with our mouths open or growling indicates aggression. We may even shriek or spit if we become highly agitated or fearful. You should also look out for other signs like dilated pupils and tail positions to differentiate between aggression and fear. If our ears are pressed back or are pointing sideways, then it is better to stay away.

Caterwauling: Loud cat sounds or yodeling are usually reserved for mating purposes. Sometimes, they are a signal to the human that their cat is in distress or pain. And like some humans, few cats are just loud. For example, Siamese cats love to engage in loud conversations. You can just ignore the loud sounds or learn to live with it.

Chatter: This is a strange cat behavior accompanied by a strange sound that is accompanied by rapid jaw movements. This is a sign of excitement or frustration. I usually make this sound when I am looking at a bird out of the window and wanting to make it my next meal.

Purring: Purring is the most natural sound cats develop as kittens. A purr may mean different things, it may be a sign of pain or the indication of a content and relaxed cat. Many times, a purr is a way to comfort ourselves and show care.

Everyone knows cats are on a higher level of existence. These silly humans are just too big-headed to admit their inferiority.

That statement is for all those humans who care less to understand the hidden meaning of a cat’s body language. Many people think cats are distant and uncommunicative creatures. We love only the company of ourselves and want our independence. However, these people have their eyes clouded by the emotional display of dogs. We too have our ways of saying, ‘I love you’, like blinking our eyes a few times in a row.

Take good cat care as a happy cat is equal to a happy and satisfied owner. I am sure you all agree with Ellen Perry when he says, ‘As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat’. Remember, ‘A person who manages to understand a cat is qualified to understand almost anything else’.

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Hi, I'm Jess and this is Nala.

I've loved cats since I was a child and over the years I became obsessed with them. I love all animals and pets, but I have studied cats with special passion. I’ve spent most of my life trying to understand them and why they are the best companions, if they ‘allow’ you to be their friend.

I put this blog together with the aim of sharing things about cats that interest me and that can help you to understand your own…

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you find something to interest you along the way.



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