Understanding Your Cat's Body Language

Signs to help you understand your cat's mood.

How can you tell whether your cat is happy or furious when it twitches its tail? What does it means when it licks you? Cats have their special ways to communicate with each other and with their guardians. One of their ways includes signaling with their eyes, ears and tails.

A cat;s body language can indicate their state of mind, health and intentions. By observing your cat's body language you can tell whether it feels confident and willing to play or is feeling intense and ready to attack. Below you will find basic information about feline physical behaviors and a general interpretation:

Eyes

  • If the cat's eyes are open wide, it indicates that the cat is anxious and feeling intense and may be ready to attack. The wider the cat opens its eyes, the more information he can absorb from its surroundings and whatever it is that may be causing apprehension.
  • Eyes that are half open can indicate that cat is in a more relaxed state, but is still well enough aware of its surroundings to be instantly on the defensive it is becomes necessary. Never underestimate just how quickly a feline can prepare itself for attack or into a defensive mode. Cats are very aware and very quick.
  • Eyes that are completely closed indicate that cat is completely calm and confident; feeling no danger or stress.
  • If the cat widens its pupils in a well lit or light room, it is an indication of fear and distrust. It could be an unfamiliar smell or sound; but whatever it is, the cat is not relaxed.
  • If the cat's pupils are widening while its eyes are half closed and its ears are drawn backwards, he is ready to attack and it is recommended that you keep a safe distance, so as not to agitate the cat further or get a few scratches yourself.

Ears

  • If the cat's ears are erect and tend forwards, it is a sign of happiness. This is how your cat should look most of the time.
  • If the cat's ears are erect but tend backwards, the cat is stressed.
  • If the cat's ears are drawn backwards and attached to its head, it is a sign of fear.
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Tail

  • When a cat's tail is lifted up, the cat is happy.
  • If the tail is up and its tip bends to the side, the cat is feeling playful. This is a great time to play with your cat. Be alert though, as some cats tend to get over-stimulated and the play may become a bit aggressive, although that is not the cat's intention.
  • If the cat's tail is up but its hair is stiffen; the cat is afraid and ready to attack.
  • When the cat's tail is down, the cat is threaten and afraid, therefore it may attack as self defense.
  • When the cat's tail is lifted up and twitches to the sides slowly, it either invites to play or prepares to hunt.
  • If the tail twitches fast, the cat is tense and can behave in an aggressive manner.

Each cat has a wide variety of emotions and behaviors. In addition, cat behavior and physical reactions can vary from one cat to another. Therefore, the information here is generalized and basic and is provided to give you an idea of your cat's mood. However, if you combine the basic knowledge provided here with observing your cat, your expanded knowledge about cats and their emotional states, will help you know your cat better and hopefully help you avoid being scratched or bitten.

Summary:

  • A happy cat shuts its eyes slowly, erects its ears, sleeps on its back or slowly twitches its up-lifted tail.
  • An aggressive cat opens its eyes widely or half shuts them and draws back its ears and twitches its tail in fast movements.
  • A frightened cat widens its pupils, draws back its ears by pressing them close to its head, then drops down its tail and stiffen its hair.

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