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Understanding Feline Behavior

27th Feb 2023

We sure do love our cats, but, as any cat owner will tell you, keeping them happy can require a little patience and experimentation. Plus, their personalities come in all different shapes and sizes, so what works for one cat may not work for another.

The best way to make sure your cat is happy and content is to try to understand what they want and to read the signs—but it’s not always clear what our feline friends are trying to communicate.

Understanding cats’ behaviors and body language goes a long way toward reading their mood, understanding when to engage with them or when to leave them alone. There are many things to look out for, including their eyes, whiskers, fur, body movement, vocalizations, and tail movement. Looking out for some key indicators will tell you a lot about your cat’s mood or what they’re trying to tell you.

Check out the handy infographic below to learn more about understanding cats’ body language and behavior.

understanding cats behavior infographic

Feline behavior is fascinating, and watching your cat or kitten can tell you much about what they are thinking and what they need to be relaxed, playful, and healthy. Feline body language offers clues you can learn to read, and understanding feline behavior can deepen your relationship with your companion.

Watch for these signs of your kitty’s current mood:

Showing the Belly

Cat Communicating with Tail

Stretching out and rolling over is often a sign of relaxed contentment and may be an invitation to pet the soft underfur, but this is also a defensive pose. If your cat rolls over during rough play, don’t be surprised to feel claws and teeth as the next move. Purring or growling will usually tell you what this feline body language is saying.

The Tail Tells a Tale

Cat Communicating with Tail

Cats may very slowly move their tail when focused on hunting, or when watching a tempting toy and planning to pounce. However, your cat may rapidly swish its tail when annoyed, aggressive, or if over-stimulated during play. This feline behavior is a warning to other cats and animals to back off, and the faster the swinging tail, and the more it resembles a bristle brush, the more annoyed or aggressive your cat feels.


The Eyes Have It

Cats close their eyes when relaxed and affectionate with another cat, pet, or person. The long slow blink is considered a sign of love and trust, and you can give a long slow blink in return to show that you return the feeling.

Wide open, dilated eyes and a direct stare conveys the opposite thought. Cats often combine a wide eyed, dilated pupil stare with their full defensive display, the “Halloween cat” pose with arched back and bristly tail. This is how cats say “don’t touch me.”

Ears the Rest of the Story

When your cat is curious and interested, the ears will face forward and be fully open. As confidence fades or if your cat is distracted, the ears move back slightly, turning toward the sides. When your feline friend is alarmed or aggressive, they will fold their ears back in preparation for battle, to protect the delicate and vital hearing apparatus.


Fortress of Solitude

Hiding away under the couch or inside a cat tree gives your cat a sense of security. Cats who lurk in caves are safe from unexpected attacks and can truly relax, or plan an ambush on the next unsuspecting prey or ankle that passes the entry. As long as your cat only spends part of the day in seclusion, this is normal feline behavior and there’s no need to worry.

What Your Cat Would Say

Understanding feline behavior will help you communicate your own trust and affection while knowing when your cat has had enough of the new kitten or that battery operated toy. Your cat will tell you clearly that living in a loving and stimulating environment with spaces for quiet reflection is good for felines and humans alike.