Learn a cat’s body language and they’ll tell you what they’re thinking

The animal’s eyes, ears and tail reveal a wide range of moods and attitudes. You just have to learn the signals, and watch closely.

Bob Urano
Furry Friends

Although cats seem aloof and inscrutable, there are ways to figure out what a cat is thinking.

The large eyes of a cat can reveal much.The size of their pupils is usually dictated by the amount of light in the environment. Thus, the pupils go from large marbles to tiny slits. However, if the pupils are large spheres in broad daylight, chances are the cat is in a fight-or-flight mode. The increased pupil size is not intended to threaten other animals or people but to allow the cat to see as much detail as possible. The only other time a cat’s pupils are dilated in a brightly lit room occurs when a cat is in severe pain.

A sign of trust
The degree to which the eyes themselves are open is also revealing. Wide-open eyes indicate alertness and increased mental activity – the cat may have heard an unusual noise, seen something move or be planning an action. Semi-closed or fluttering eyes imply that the cat is in a complacent, relaxed state.

If your cat squints or periodically closes his eyes while looking at you, it is a sign of trust for it shows that the cat feels safe and secure. When a cat stares intently at another animal, the cat is attempting to assert its dominance and not to be the first to blink.

Ears back and eyes dilated means cat is in a defensive mode.

A cat’s ears can adjust to several positions that can tell us much about its emotional state. Ears that are erect and forward suggest alertness and focused attention; ears pressed back low toward the head indicate an extreme defensive state; one ear forward and one back suggests uncertainty and when an ear rotates like a radar dish the cat is attempting to find the source of a sound.

You can see an example of this rotation if you whisper your cat’s name while he is sleeping. One ear will rotate toward the sound of your voice although the cat may otherwise appear to ignore you. We often think of cats sleeping most of the time, but despite their repose, they are usually attuned to their environment as the rotating ear indicates.

Mildly interested
Tail movement and position gives us another insight into a cat’s psyche. When the tail is tucked down, the cat is fearful or defensive – the tail-between-the-legs adage.  A tail held at half-mast and moving slowly from side to side indicates mild interest and a tail going straight up is a sign of eager anticipation or friendliness. A tail that is frantically switching in wide arcs and puffed up, often accompanied by hairs bristling along the back, indicates anger or aggression. Lastly, a tail that is held low with the tip twitching is in the typical stalking position.

A cat’s mouth doesn’t give us much information because a cat can’t smile or frown. However, a cat’s mouth is usually closed, so if you see a cat looking off into space with its mouth open, it is likely trying to savour certain odors, often from another animal. Of course, when the mouth is open and the teeth are bared, the cat is indicating hostility. A cat’s yawn does not show sleepiness but quite the opposite. It usually indicates preparing for action or trying to make a decision.

Cat rubbing on object to mark territory.

A learning experience
Head butting, or bunting, is a cat’s way of showing affection. The cat may do this to the owner or to another friendly cat. Socialized cats bunt frequently, particularly if they are attached to their owners or others they know. Another frequent head movement is rubbing with the chin. This action is usually done to mark territory. Many cats will do this daily on the same corners of the furniture.

While cats can communicate with each other by way of scent, for humans cats’ body language is one of the best ways we have to construe what they are thinking. Observing your cat, especially when the cat is unaware that you are watching, can be a great learning experience. It can help you understand and interpret your cat’s behaviour, which in turn can strengthen the bond you share.

Maybe it was the tail, or perhaps the ears – but Robert Urano’s cat Oscar managed to project an aura of fierce independence – well ok, independence – at his master’s pet food store. Customers loved him anyway. Robert gave up his store a few years ago.


Funny and cute cat videos for your to enjoy!

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