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Understanding cats can be challenging for most humans. Both domestic and feral cats have a special type of cat language that is difficult to decipher. This is a fascinating, wonderful animal, and behavior traits can differ from cat to cat.

But understanding cat behavior is important for many reasons. A cat’s behavior, including the way they shake their tail or their facial expressions, can provide clues to how they’re feeling. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you identify those clues.

Feline Mood And Attention: Tail Movement And Behavior

Paying attention to your cat’s tail will give you a great idea of how they’re feeling. It can be a sign that your pet is extremely relaxed. Or it can be an indication that your feline friend is experiencing stress.

understanding cats | Ultimate Pet NutritionThe differences are subtle – learn them, and you’ll get to know a lot about your pet. If your cat is relaxed, for example, their tail will typically hang loosely. If the tail is held high, with a curl at the end, that’s a great sign. It likely means your pet is happy.

If the cat’s tail is wagging slightly or the tail twitches, that means the cat is in a playful or curious mood.

You might see this when they’re looking out the window at a bird, a squirrel, or some other potential prey.

But if the cat’s tail is wrapped around their body or side, that could be a sign of anxiety. If the fur on the tail is bristled and stiff, that might mean your pet is scared.1

Other Body Language To Understand: Ears And Eyes

The ears and eyes of a cat also provide clues that humans can use to get a feel for their cat’s behavior. While petting your cat, playing, or during any other kind of interaction, pay close attention to these parts of the body.

The ears can tell you a lot about the mood of your pet. When they’re in their normal position of being slightly tilted forward, that’s a sign your pet is relaxed. If they’re standing straight up, that’s an indication your cat wants to play.

But when the ears are flat or turned back, that means the cat is angry or frightened.

understanding cats | Ultimate Pet NutritionThe next time you’re rubbing your cat’s head, watch their eyes. You might notice your cat blinking slowly. This means your pet is relaxed. If the pupils are dilated, that could mean a couple of things. Your pet might be ready to play, or they could be scared or even angry.2

If your cat has constricted pupils, meaning they’re very small, that is usually an indication that your pet is anxious.3 A little positive reinforcement at this point could go a long way toward calming your cat down.

Why Do Cats Purr?

Ever since your cat was part of a litter, they’ve purred. A purr is typically associated with contentment, for good reason. But a purr is also a form of instinctive behavior. Kittens do it when they need more milk from their mother.

A purr can also mean a cat is feeling friendly. In some instances, though, purring can be a sign of some sort of injury. An injured cat will sometimes purr to self-soothe.4

The Cat’s Meow

The meow of a cat is as familiar to humans as the bark of a dog. Like just about every other aspect of a cat’s behavior, the meow can actually be quite complex. It can mean a lot of different things depending on the situation.

Did you know that a cat meows at humans but often not at other cats? They know they can’t communicate with us the way they do with other cats – through touch, scent, and facial expressions. The meow is their way of talking to us.

If your cat likes to talk a lot, you’ve probably noticed that they do so in different ways, using different tones and tempos. But what do those differences mean?

Well, if the meow is fast, that’s your pet’s way of saying, “Hi.” If you get a barrage of meows when you come home, that means your cat is happy to see you.

If the meow is drawn out, that means the cat wants attention. If it’s high-pitched, that may mean that your cat is in distress or angry. Your pet might have been bitten by another animal, hurt their legs or paws, or suffered some other type of injury. A lower pitch meow might be your cat complaining about something.5

understanding cats | Ultimate Pet Nutrition

Unfamiliar And Aggressive Cat Body Language: When To Visit The Veterinarian

Your cat may act on instinct every once in a while and start growling or hissing. It might be because your pet saw a dog, or met some humans they don’t know. Both female and male cats will sometimes exhibit aggressive behavior when protecting their territory.

If you spay your cat, she might be a little aggressive if you mistakenly try to rub the area in which the surgery took place.

In addition to growling and hissing, other potential signs of aggression in cats may include:

  • A direct stare
  • Spitting (usually while hissing)
  • Holding the tail stiff or straight down at the ground
  • Swatting and scratching

A constantly aggressive cat needs to be checked by a vet. Continued aggression could be due to a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection. It could be due to a certain medication. In some instances, diet can play a role. Your vet should perform a thorough exam to see if that’s the problem.

If your vet determines that your pet’s aggression is not due to a medical problem, they may refer you to an animal behaviorist. A cat behaviorist can monitor your cat’s behavior and determine the best plan for addressing any issues that may exist.6

Learn To Read Your Feline Friend

Yes, cats can be perplexing at times, and animal behavior is complex. But you can learn how to read your cat’s behavior. Keep a sharp eye out for clues, and if your kitty is acting out of character, be ready to call your vet.

Learn More:
Why Does My Cat Bring Me Dead Things?
Fostering a Cat – What Does it Entail and is it Right for You?
Help! My Cat is Drinking out of the Toilet!

Sources
1 http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/5-keys-to-decoding-your-cats-body-language
2 https://www.tuftandpaw.com/blogs/cat-guides/the-definitive-guide-to-cat-behavior-and-body-language
3 https://www.foundanimals.org/eyes-know-cat-thinking/
4 http://www.pawschicago.org/news-resources/all-about-cats/understanding-cat-behavior/translating-feline-body-language/#c4839
5 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-dogs-go-heaven/201809/why-do-cats-meow-humans
6 https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/aggression-cats