Tuesday, 14 April 2020

L is for Cat Language

Cats may not be able to talk but they still have many ways of communicating with humans and with each other.

They have many ways of communicating with you, from the look in their eye and the tone of their sounds to the position of their ears and the twitch of their tail.

When it comes to vocalising, you can soon get to know what they are trying to say by their chirps and meows. They can tell you when they're hungry, when they want a cuddle and if they're feeling threatened or are in pain.

Purring is usually a sign of contentment. Cats purr whenever they're happy but sometimes a  cat may purr for other reasons. See this previous post: Inappropriate Purring

Growling, hissing or spitting indicate a cat who is annoyed, frightened, angry or aggressive. Leave this cat alone.

A yowl or howl tells you your cat is in some kind of distress. Find your cat if they're making this noise. However, in unneutered and unspayed cats, these sounds can be part of mating behaviour.

Chattering, chittering or twittering are the noises your cat makes when they're sitting in the window watching birds or squirrels. Some experts think that this is an exaggeration of the "killing bite," when a cat grabs their prey by the neck.

When it comes to body language, your cat has it down to a fine art. Does your cat arch their back up to meet your hand when you pet them? This means they're enjoying this contact with you. Do they shrink away under your slightest touch? Save the petting for later: they're not interested right now.
Pay attention to your cat's eyes, ears, body and tail—they're all telling the story.

Here are a few more clues.

Ears forward: alert, interested or happy.

Ears backward, sideways, or flat: irritable, angry or frightened

Eyes with pupils constricted: offensively aggressive, but, conversely, they could be content. You can see which by their body language.

Eyes with pupils dilated: nervous or submissive (if somewhat dilated), defensively aggressive (if fully dilated), but possibly playful - again,  judge which by their body language.

Tail erect, fur flat: alert, inquisitive or happy

Fur standing on end: angry or frightened

Tail held very low or tucked between legs: insecure or anxious

Tail thrashing back and forth: agitated. The faster the tail, the angrier the cat

Tail straight up, quivering: excited, really happy. If your cat hasn't been neutered or spayed, they could be getting ready to spray something.

Back arched, fur standing on end: frightened or angry

Back arched, fur flat: welcoming your touch

Lying on back, purring: very relaxed

Lying on back, growling: upset and ready to strike

When your cat rubs their chin and body against you they are marking their territory - another way of telling you they love you!

My sassy, grumpy cat Toffee is also taking part in the A to Z Challenge. Take a look here: www.notsosweettoffee.com 

*     *     *     *     *     *    *
If you are a cat lover - especially a lover of the grumpier members of the species, this is the book for you. Written by Toffee who, despite her name, is the least sweet cat you can imagine. The world according to Toffee exists to serve her and woe betide anyone who forgets it. Paperback on left, Kindle version on right.


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  1. There was a great NOVA episode on cat communication. At least, I think it was great. I fell asleep in the middle of it. (

    1. Whoops, published before I finished...
      I wanted to say that doesn't tell you that the show was boring. All shows of that nature relax me to the point of sleep.

  2. Nice post. Sometimes I ignore cat language and I get scratched.

  3. our Lucy tells us all the time what she needs!

  4. oh our Kaspar does that howling sad song when he is distressed that we are not around especially daddy. Good grief my hubby and him need a room!


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