The Feline Language

July 6, 2018

The Feline Language

Cats are one of the most common household pets. They are beautiful, affectionate, playful, snuggly, and even though they often like to be pampered, they can also be extremely territorial. Sounds wonderful however, they can be demanding, frisky, mischievous, moody, and very sneaky.

Others tend to believe that these felines are a representation of people because of their blunt and honest behaviour, or for being fickle at times. There are so many characteristics but no matter what they manifest, it’s up to their human companion to interpret what their mood is at that moment.

The average life of a cat is 15 to 20 years. Before getting, adopting, or giving one, you have to consider if the party getting it is ready to take care of it. Apart from this, the owner needs to choose a cat that would be suitable to them especially if they are going to be taking care of it for a long time.

You will also have to prepare your home for the new addition, there are hazards abound even if you are going to raise an indoor cat. More often than not, indoor cats are identified as lazy. Maybe because they need a stimulating cat environment inside their home so they don’t get bored.

They can be provided with toys, teasers, plants (they love to chew grass, so better be careful that the type of plants you have at home are not hazardous to them), and scratching posts.

But how best to understand them if we don’t share the same language. That’s an interesting question when it comes to getting pets. It becomes a responsibility. Why do we take upon ourselves the responsibility of being able to nurture and care for them?

Cats, they say, are complicated creatures. Some people do not really have the highest opinion of cats; however, to some they provide a social and emotional support. As humans, we thrive when we interact with others, we grow through our daily interaction and experiences, and through emotions we connect not just to other humans but to all living creatures.


Through interaction, we can define how best to understand our cats. Even though we don’t share the same verbal language, we can still communicate through other means.

Understanding through their gestures, the sounds they produce, seeing their cues, and most especially their body language – from postures, facial expressions, to the positions of their ears, or tails, and whiskers.

Knowing these and understanding what they mean can help manage the emotional and physical disposition of your feline companion more effectively.

Cats have distinct body language and unique body postures that normally convey different emotions or meanings. People will be able to learn how to interpret these gestures by monitoring the behaviour of their cats.

Even their meows convey different signals and it’s up to their humans to interpret what they are trying to tell them. Whether they are hungry, seeking attention, or they’re just happy to see you, and if you are unable to distinguish the sound, you better learn fast else they won’t stop nagging you. They are demanding after all.

But lucky for you, the meowing part is only one indication that they might need something from you. You have to check other feelers as well. Cats usually display their emotions through their tail, ears or body gestures, like rubbing their heads or their entire body on your leg. But if they’re just following you around and keeping up their meows, there’s a very high chance they’re just hungry. Visit Cat Psychology for more information about cat language.

Cat Moods

Learning to decipher the body postures, facial expressions, and sounds will help you deepen the bonds of affection with your felines that will help prevent misunderstandings, confrontations and aggression.

There are tell tale signs on specific cat behaviour or language. You just have to be keen on interpreting their cues and expressions.

Body Cues

A feline’s total body posture will show everything from happy, contented, confident, aggressive to fear, stressed or submission. To be able to understand the entire message, the body cues should be read in conjunction with what we see with their eyes, tail, fur and the sound they express.

When your cat is being friendly, playful, and contented, you will see suggestive signs like ears that are held or positioned forward, they’re lying down stretched out with fur flat, bodies without signs of tension, and displaying their tummies.

They also have twitching or vibrating tails when they are excited to see you.

Keep note as well that when they softly blink their eyes at you, it’s a sign of affection and you can do the same to them; however, if you start staring them down, they will take it as an aggression and they will react at a possible threat.

If your cat is fearful or stressed, their heads will be lowered and whiskers tend to be pulled downwards, pupils will be constricted with a hard focus, body low and tense, tails will be down, hiding between legs or whipping hastily back and forth, and the ears will be pinned back.

When they get irritated, pissed, and angry, you will definitely see obvious signals and warnings and you better back off if you don’t want to be scratched or bitten.

When they get highly defensive, their back is arched with fur standing on end, there will be hissing and growling, ears pinned back, eyes or pupils very constricted, but the most significant cue will be their tail fur sticking straight up but the tail curls like an N shape which translates to extreme aggression.

At times, when their tail is thrashing back and forth, they are agitated – the faster it moves, the angrier the cat.

Most cats don’t really want to fight but would prefer standoffs; however, it can advance to fighting if the other feline does not back down.

Knowing these body cues and tell-tale signs will get you on the fast way to understanding your furry companions. Even though cat body language is a bit subtler than dog language and harder for people to interpret, over the course of time, you will surely be able to understand the cues by knowing these basic postures and what their signals mean. In time, you will be able to effectively deal with problems and enjoy your cat’s company because now, you can understand a common language.

Cat Behaviour

As pointed out above, you just need to learn what your cat’s trying to say. Some cats don’t vocalize much even though they do have a vocabulary of sounds.

Then there are some that are much expressive in how they vocalize what they want especially when interacting with humans.

Low pitch, high pitch, some strange chattering noise, hissing, growling, and grumbling can be interpreted differently. But their main communication is their body language.

Cats love to rub their head, chin, and body against you. They do tell you they love you, however, on an instinctive level, they are marking territory. You would see that you are not the only one they rub against but also including the furniture, the door, their toys, and everything else. They are broadcasting to everyone that it’s their turf and they own you too. Rubbing their bodies against you is also their way of letting you know they are being affectionate or they’re just hungry and you need to feed them asap.

Like kneading dough, kittens do this instinctively when they are still feeding to stimulate the production of milk from their moms. It’s when they push in and out with their front paws, normally alternating left or right. No exact explanation why adult cats also do this but most would say it is a leftover behaviour from when they were young. They may paw or knead on soft surfaces, blankets, furniture, or a person most probably marking them as theirs because they do have scent glands in the pads of their paws.

Yawning can be a sign of trust, as your cat’s way of telling you he feels safe and relaxed. It does not need to be on alert. Just like sleeping on your lap, it is a sign of trust and affection that they feel safe enough to be this vulnerable. Some people think most cats spend most of their time sleeping especially for domesticated cats. They are considered to be expert sleepers in the sense that they are light sleepers (like the expression cat nap).

When a cat scents something and they want more information from the odor, they sniff it and capture the scent, they curl back their upper lip, allowing the smell to pass through their Jacobson’s Organ. So, depending on what they decipher, it could lead to either aggressive or passive behaviour.

It’s in the nature of a cat to do scratching. Their most basic instinct is to mark their territory and one way to do that is scratching. But that’s not the sole reason though, they do it to also remove the dead outer layer of their claws. If you don’t want to get scratched yourself, try to forgo declawing your cats, instead provide them with cat trees (See: Cat Scratching Tree Post Scratcher Pole Furniture Gym House Toy Small) , scratching mats, scratching boards, or scratching posts (like:Cat Tree Scratcher TUBU-amazon) You can easily get them from online stores like (

Cats do the nipping and biting gestures but there is a difference between a playful nip that can be recognized as friendly or affectionate especially from the young ones vs a warning or a signal with a clear intention to hurt.
Well, if the nip is followed by aggressive body postures like mentioned above (a fast swish of the tail back and forth, ears flattened back, hissing, and growling) the cat is not in the mood to be bothered and you may need to back off.

It’s normally found in young felines that are still growing up. They are more active and they spend more time exploring and developing hunting skills. Playful aggression seldom leads to a rough full-blown fight.

This type of aggression commonly happens and a number of people have experienced this especially when they are around cats that are not theirs. This is when you are contentedly petting the feline and you think you are safe, then suddenly it turns and reaches out with its claws or bites off your hand. Sometimes, if the petting goes on a bit longer, the cats will make their irritation felt.

When a cat’s territory has an intruder’s presence, it will lash out. This often occurs when a new cat is introduced or if it’s already in a multicat household in the presence of other cats.

This obviously occurs when a cat is scared or frightened. If it does not understand the situation and is being either threatened or challenged, it will stand up for itself and wil lash out in self defense.

Cats may seem mysterious but if you just pay enough attention, you will be able to decipher what they are feeling. Some will be obvious, others may not. Patience might be the key since getting a feline pet has a longer life span than others, in time you will be in tune with what your cat is feeling and needing.

They are fickle as some would describe, because some felines if not most may change their moods or behaviour all of a sudden. Something upsets their balance and affects them emotionally. They can be playful, they can be aggressive, and they can be passive. (Cats tend to communicate with us through their actions or gestures, to learn more visit Cat Behavior.)

But it’s not that they are fickle, something triggered them that led to a specific response why there’s a need to fight and defend or to be playful and affectionate. If you are unable to understand the behaviours of your pet, you’ll be walking on eggshells. The most important thing to keep in mind is how we interpret the warning signs so we can control or manage our pet or they will manage us.

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