Cat Behavior – Body Language
Cat behavior has been over-simplified with time. Purring is commonly thought to be a sign of contentment in cat behavior- and most times it is. However cats that are dying or in labor can also purr so this is why it is important to understand the body language – audio signals are not reliable.
Just like us humans, animals have a silent body language that speaks volumes if you know how to read it. Looking at cats, specifically, you can quickly learn here the types of emotional states your kitten or cat is in at any moment.
Sometimes we get in the habit of assuming our cats are happy if they are not meowing incessantly or hissing at the dog. Those are vocal expressions and generally are the end result of a language that your cat has been communicating in its cat behavior up until that point.
By simply observing your cat for a little while, you can determine if it is happy, distressed, upset, threatened or content. The entire cats body is pretty much a map of indicators – the ears, the whiskers, the tail, the eyes and the entire body what are the prime indicators of the cats mood?
Happiness and Contentment:
Half mast eyes – slightly closed
Tail curled comfortably with small movements
Tail straight up in the air when it sees you or is walking by
Ears sitting at a 45 degree angle from the face
Distressed, Threatened and Upset
Tail flicking fast
Tail bushed up
Ears pinning back
Eye pupils dilated
Whiskers pulled back
Head down and shoulders up in a hunch
A distressed or upset cat is an aggressive cat and if you are noticing aggression then it would be wise to seek the cause. Watch the cat carefully and see if it shows any indicators described for stress. In feline distress, we work on the three F principle
Freeze – This is the time when the cat literally freezes and is assessing the situation
Flight – Kitty will be bolting for any open door or window
Fight – The cat will fight the dog, another cat or you and stand its ground
Watch for any of the three F’s and connect that situation with its stress and you may have found out why your cat is aggressive or upset. If the cat is doing any of the three F’s when a machine or appliance is switched on, the dog walks by, your music is blasting away – whatever it is, this would be a cue as to what is upsetting your cat.
With cat body language it is important to remember that it is a language and a language cannot be communicated with one word – it is a series of words put together – stated in another way; one indicator may mean nothing but a series of indicators will tell the story. Watch your feline for a few moments a day and be aware of the signs.
Remember too, that distress is not always about a perceived threat – it could be that the cat is ill or in pain. Certainly, understanding your cats silent language will go a long way to reading its needs and addressing any poor cat behavior.