How to understand cat body language

Understanding cat body language

Cats are alien to most of us, and their behaviour sometimes very unexpected. According to a recent poll on the DogZone Facebook group 90% of cat owners do not understand cat body language. Even the basics.

Do you?

It’s not always easy to know what our cats are thinking from one moment to the next, but there are tell-tale signs that can give you an indication as to whether your cat is happy, sad, or angry.

If you learn to recognise your cats emotions from her body language you will be able to anticipate how she is feeling, an act accordingly.

How to tell if your cat is HAPPY

A relaxed, happy cat is easy to recognise. There will be no tension in her body and her ears will be pointed up and forwards.

If she is really secure and happy she will have her paws tucked beneath her – cats who are fearful or insecure will never lie in this position as it makes them vulnerable, because they cannot quickly escape or defend themselves.

Her tail will be still and her whiskers relaxed. The overall expression on her face may appear to be that she is smiling at you. The final signal that your cat is happy will be her purring.

Is your cat happy right now?

How to tell if your cat is ANXIOUS

Spotting this emotion will enable you to rectify the situation and put your cat at ease.

If she is anxious your cat will be staring in the direction of whatever has made her feel unsettled. Her ears may twitch and move from the happy position of pointed upward and forward to a more rigid position.

Her tail may move from side to side slowly as she considers what she perceives to be a threat, and at the same time her whiskers may move from side to side or be held close to her face.

Her back may be arched, but her head slightly forward trying to get as much information as possible.

If the perceived threat increases, her ears will be pulled right back to her head and she will cower closer to the floor.

How to tell if your cat is FEARFUL

A frightened cat will display obvious signs of fear that are similar to that of the anxious cat.

However, as the fear increases she will put her body into a “flight or fight” position. Her back will be arched, her back paws low and her front paws raised higher so that she is in a position to run or fight depending on what the occasion calls for.

Her ears will be pulled tight to her head, her eyes wide, and her mouth open, maybe even making noises to ward off the threat. Her tail will be moving rapidly from side to side and she may bring her back legs round to a right angle to the rest of her body.

How to tell if your cat is ANGRY

An angry cat will have her body in the “fight or flight” position, but with the intention of fighting. Her ears will be pulled hard down on to her head, her eyes will be slanted and unblinking, and her whiskers will be straight out away from her face and stiff.

She is also likely to be spitting and hissing at the same time as moving slightly toward the object of her anger then backing away again. She may fluff up the fur on her body and tail, making her appear to be almost twice the size she really is.

When your cat is angry, and it’s directed at you, be warned!

Understanding the body language of your cat will help you forestall bad emotions and help your cat to adjust to situations more easily. I hope this guide to cat body language has given you a head start!


Gina & Maisy



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