In a recent post we looked at cat vocalizations, including common cat sounds like meows, purrs, growls and howls. However, cats actually communicate predominantly with their body, what is sometimes described as ‘cat sign language.’
If you want to know what kind of a mood your cat is in, the best way is to pay attention to the following body parts and cues:
The position and movement of their ears often betray cats’ feelings. The more they move backwards, the greater their arousal or distress. Backward ears accompanied by a hiss is a rotund ‘stay away!’
The movement and position of the tail is also a good barometer of a cat’s state of mind. Both height and motion are relevant. A flailing or thumping tail usually means that you better keep your distance, while a tail that swishes back and forth often signals they are in a playful mood.
Their eyes can tell a lot about how they are feeling. Both the eyelids (how open or closed) and the dilatation of the irises are important. For example, a sudden dilatation of the irises denotes sudden arousal, often due to fear, interest or another strong emotion.
Happy, relaxed cats have beautiful fur that rests smoothly against the body. If that’s not the case, then something is probably wrong. After all, cats are self-grooming animals, and a healthy cat will almost invariably maintain a healthy-looking fur.
The fur can also express strong emotion. For example, a sudden fluffed coat, including a ‘bottle brush’ tail, is a sign of aggression. Stay away!
Smells and scents:
Cat use a range of scents to mark their territory. Some of the most common ones include urine and feces, bunting behavior (also know as head rubs, or head butts), and clawing. They are like Post-it Notes that they leave for other cats to read.
A cat’s overall body posture indicates everything from confidence, fear, submission, etcetera. For example, if they arch their back upwards as you extend your hand to pet them, you can assume that your petting is welcomed. If they shrink away, you better stop it!
All these body parts and cues should be taken into consideration when determining just how your cat is feeling. Familiarising yourself with the different ways cats express emotion will help you determine whether residents at the upcoming Ministry of Cat are to be pet and played with, or whether it’s better to leave them alone!
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