Body language: Your cat speaks with his whole body

Wondering what your cat’s body language means? Here’s a look at several different behavioral ticks your cat might display and what they all mean. Does your cat do any of these things?

Does your cat arch her back up to meet your hand when you pet her?

This means she’s enjoying this contact with you.

Does she shrink away under your slightest touch? Save the petting for later: She’s not interested right now.

It’s important to know if your cat is in the mood for affection. This helps keep your relationship with you and your cat the best it can be!

Pay attention to your cat’s eyes, ears, body and tail—they’re all telling the story.

Here are some basic (though sometimes contradictory) clues:

Ears

  • Forward: alert, interested or happy
  • Backward, sideways, flat (“airplane ears”): irritable, angry or frightened
  • Swiveling: attentive and listening to every little sound

Eyes

  • Pupils constricted: offensively aggressive, but possibly content
  • Pupils dilated (large): nervous or submissive (if somewhat dilated), defensively aggressive (if fully dilated), but possibly playful

Tail

  • Erect, fur flat: alert, inquisitive or happy
  • Fur standing on end: angry or frightened
  • Held very low or tucked between legs: insecure or anxious
  • Thrashing back and forth: agitated. The faster the tail, the angrier the cat
  • Straight up, quivering: excited, really happy. If your cat hasn’t been neutered or spayed, he or she could be getting ready to spray something.

Body

  • 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

Rubbing

When your cat rubs his chin and body against you, he’s telling you he loves you, right? Well, sort of.

What he’s really doing is marking his territory. You’ll notice that he also rubs the chair, the door, his toys, everything in sight.

He’s telling everyone that this is his stuff, including you. But he does love you, too.

Kneading

This is sometimes called “making biscuits,” because the cat works her paws on a soft surface as if it she’s kneading bread dough.

It’s a holdover from kittenhood, when a nursing kitten massaged her mother’s teats to make milk flow.

Your cat does this when she is really happy.

Both rubbing and kneading are a sign of affection and love from your kitten!

The Flehmen response

Have you noticed times when your cat—perhaps while sniffing your shoe—lifts his head, opens his mouth slightly, curls back his lips and squints his eyes?

He’s not making a statement about how your shoe smells; he’s gathering more information.

Your cat’s sense of smell is so essential to him that he actually has an extra olfactory organ that very few other creatures have: the Jacobson’s organ.

It’s located on the roof of his mouth behind his front teeth and is connected to the nasal cavity.

When your cat gets a whiff of something really fascinating, he opens his mouth and inhales so that the scent molecules flow over the Jacobson’s organ.

This intensifies the odor and provides more information about the object he’s sniffing.

What he does with that information, well, we’ll never know.

– via humanesociety.org

Does your cat display body language like this?

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