Every cat is different, but you can learn a lot about their mood by paying close attention to their body language. From a fuzzy raised tail, to subtle twitching of the ears, these signs are more than just unique personality traits – they’re essential ways in which our cats communicate with us, and each other.
While cats can’t always be predictable (they love to keep an air of mystery), here’s a basic guide to what your cat’s body language is telling you:
A friendly cat demonstrates its mood with alert, blinking eyes and ears pointed forward. While meowing can be a complaint or demand (for an extra helping of Pamper), most of the time, intermittent meowing is a sign that your cat wants to communicate with you. Spread out whiskers and gentle nuzzling is also a sign that your cat is looking to spend some quality time with their favourite human.
We all know cats can be fussy, and sometimes even diva-like, but it is essential that we read and respect their body language. When your cat is unhappy, they are not interested in any kind of contact, and may even hiss or growl at you. Cats do not want to be picked up when they are in a bad mood, and will sometimes arch their back and the hair on their back and tail will be raised. This is a sign of irritation and is often accompanied by slightly dilated pupils and flattened eyes. Some cats exhibit the same behaviour when they are sick or hurt. If your cat is acting uncharacteristically for an extended period of time, consult your vet.
Besides being stretched out in a sunny patch, there are a few cues which can help you tell if your cat is relaxed. In addition to relaxed, pointed down ears, cats also tend to make their tails visible. While a curled up position may sometimes indicate fear, a relaxed cat is likely to allow you to approach them, with whiskers fanned out instead of being pulled back. If your cat shows you it’s belly, consider this the ultimate compliment. Cats’ natural instincts tell them to always keep their tummies protected, so if they’re sleeping belly-up or rolling on the floor in front of you, they are completely relaxed and trusting in your presence. (Tip: As tempting as it may be – it’s not always a good idea to go in for a tummy rub. Those instincts are strong, and could get you a swift swipe or even a bite.)
Anything from an encounter with another cat, to a loud noise or an unfamiliar environment can make for one very fearful cat. While a scared cat may not always show its fear overtly, there are subtle clues. They are particularly sensitive to noise or sudden movements, and are likely to avoid you, even if they are generally quite open or loving. Dilated pupils and flattened ears are also tell-tale signs, with your cat’s tail pressed close to their body.
This is by far the best mood for your cat to be in. Rolling side to side, stretched out on their back or pawing at you gently, these are clear behavioural signs that your cat is keen for a little tumble. This is the ideal moment to bring out a cat toy – or that red laser light.