Your cat will use every part of it’s body to communicate different messages to you. In this article, we will explore some of the different ways cats use their body language to communicate with us and with other animals.
An upright posture with the head held high indicates a content and confident cat. When your cat lowers his head and turns it sideways, avoiding eye contact, he is expressing lack of interest and non-aggression. However, when danger is present, a cat’s head will move down and it’s back will begin arching which is an indication he is ready to attack if necessary. When a cat is on the hunt, he will start by lying down quietly with the forelegs in front and the back legs under the body. When he is ready to jump on his prey, his backside goes up with his head almost flat on the ground. He will move his head from side to side to better judge the distance between him and the prey. A very content, relaxed cat will lie on his back with his legs spread outwards. When your cat is in this position, he is indicating that he feels safe and secure and that he trusts you.
Cats have over 20 muscles controlling their ears and they can literally turn them through 180 degrees. He will turn his ears toward incoming sounds. Because his ears can move independently, you may often see one ear facing forward while the other ear moves sideways to get better sound reception. The ears straight up, slightly facing forward and the whiskers relaxed are all signs of a happy and alert cat. When the ears are moved forward and erect, it indicates your cat is fully alert and very focused. If the ears are sideways, your cat is ready for a fight. If his ears are pressed backwards and look as though they almost disappear, your pet expects some type of harm and is protecting his ears.
When your cat is pleased to see you, he will hold his tail straight up. In extreme happiness, his tail will be upright and quivering. If his tail is tucked in, he is afraid of something and is displaying a defensive signal. If your pet’s tail is in a half-mast position and moving slightly, it conveys that he is somewhat interested in what you are doing or in what he is seeing. A “bottle brush” tail ( tail straight up and bushy) indicates an angry, emotionally charged cat. Sometimes the hair on his back will be standing up. If the tail is curved to one side, this is most often saying that your pet is ready to play. He may also lay on his side or sit down with his tail twitching slightly.
A cat’s eyes are very large and the pupils can expand to take up almost the entire area of the eye. This allows the cat to absorb the maximum amount of existing light. This is very useful for night vision. When there is a lot of available light, a cat’s pupils will narrow to a slit.If the pupils are fully dilated and almost black in color, your cat is communicating that he is in some type of pain and is extremely stressed. If your cat has a fixed gaze and does not blink but his posture is relaxed and he is purring, it means he wants something from you. If his posture is rigid then it is a sign of hostility. When your cat’s eyes are wide open and looking straight at you, he is ready for action. If his eyelids are fluttering it means he trusts you completely and he is totally relaxed.
The head is the first part of your cat’s body that you or animals see and the position of the head will communicate several things to you. A cat holding his head up is a confident and content cat. When your cat feels submissive or inferior, he will lower his head as a sign of submission. Friendly cats will show friendship by head butting or head rubbing with other cats or people they like. When you observe friendly cats from the same household, you will notice them touching noses, gently butting heads or engaging in a full body rub. When he is feeling friendly toward you, he will try to do the same thing to you, such as when you are putting food in his bowl.
When a cat is relaxed, he will always retract his claws but when showing hostility or when getting ready to engage in a fight, he will extend them. A swiping movement of his paws indicates he is ready for a fight and the fur is going to fly! A happy contented cat will very often treadle with his paws, much like kneading dough. Since kittens will knead their mother’s breast to stimulate the flow of milk, kneading is always associated with pleasure. Some very loving cats will even put their paws around you and hang from your neck–this is their way of giving you a big hug!