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Cat Body Language Basics

Cats are amazing animals and great companions, but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what your cat is trying to tell you if you don’t know what you’re looking for!

The good news is that cats are very expressive animals and use their whole body to communicate with their human friends. According to our experienced trainers, taking into account the animal’s surroundings, body direction and physical cues all help to decipher what your cat is saying.

Body position is one of the most obvious ways a cat will express their emotions. A confident cat will have a relaxed body position and will angle their body toward you. Cats will also show they are comfortable and trust you by exposing their belly. This is not an invitation to scratch and you can lose the cat’s trust by doing this. If a cat becomes nervous, they may try to crouch down in case they need to flee. Watch out for an arched back with hair standing straight up — this means that the cat is fearful or angry and may try to get away through any means necessary!

Tails are energy meters. A high quivering tail means that they are excited and ready to receive affection! A fearful cat will tuck their tail and keep it close to their body to protect themselves. Many people think that a wagging tail means the same as dogs — it is actually the opposite. This means that they are agitated and you need to back off.

A cat’s pupils are like mood-rings and change depending on their mood. A happy cat usually has medium-sized pupils and will give you slow blinks to show they are not a threat. Make sure to give slow blinks back because this is a great way to communicate with your cat! Large and dilated pupils mean that a cat is stimulated. Generally this is not a good thing, but it can happen during play if they become overexcited! Slit pupils mean that a cat is not happy and may be scared or angry.

Ears are also good indicators of what a cat is feeling. Generally, if ears are perked up or moving around, the cat is curious and investigating their surroundings. Watch out for airplane ears, which is an obvious sign that the cat is unhappy and feeling afraid!

Context is key when learning how to read your cat. Instead of focusing on one part of the body, look at the bigger picture! Cats can be very easy to read if you understand what each movement means combined with what is going on in their surroundings. Just like anything else new, it may take a little practice, but your cat will be very happy that you are learning to understand their language.