What is My Cat Trying to Tell Me?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, talks about cat body language.

Posted: December 3, 2010, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: How can I understand my cat’s body language?

A: Our cats always try to tell us something and the more we can understand their signals, the better. Have you ever noticed when you have a group of friends over the one person who is ignoring your cat, while everyone else is making a fuss, is the one your cat seems to like? I believe that cats do not like prolonged eye contact, which can make them feel threatened. That is why they might walk over to the person in a crowd not looking at them — but I always joke that they secretly just want to win over another cat lover.

Cats use every part of their body to communicate with us and other species. When a cat slowly opens and closes her eyes it is a sign of utter contentment and relaxation, particularly when being petted or shown affection. When my cat Roscoe was a kitten, I made a point of always giving him lots of love and affection and would gently kiss his tummy and blow softly on it. My cat enjoyed it so much that even as a 16-pound adult, he still rolls over on his back and with a silent meow says he is ready for some TLC. Exposing the tummy is a sign of total trust and my cat is still cute as a button.

Ears are a good barometer of how cats feel and actually move independently of each other. Even during cat naps you can see ear movements, but when your cat is fully awake and has her ears flattened against her head, it’s a sign of danger so be careful.

cat’s tail is very expressive and will certainly tell a tale all by itself. A gently waving cat tail is a sign of contentment or concentration. A vigorously lashing tail usually signals anger and a fully charged Halloween-style tail can be a sign of fear or the start of aggression — something is going on. More often than not it is easily diffused and all can return to normal. As always I welcome your comments and stories.

See more articles by Jeanne Adlon>>
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Reader Comments

melanie    atlanta, TX

2/16/2014 10:24:25 AM

Why after petting my cat dose he try to get up on me he tries to grab me and he lays his ears back.

Peter    Oakville, ON

2/8/2014 6:21:32 AM

my cat will enter the room stand at the foot of the chair I am sitting in, stand perfertly still with he tail held vertical. She then vigorously vibrates her tail and then walks away, what is she saying.

Peter    International

11/15/2013 6:28:11 PM

Every time my cat comes into the room, she presents me with her rear end , tail fully verticals a vigorously vibrates her tail at me What is she saying??

Barbara    Des Plaines, IL

12/20/2010 12:56:22 PM

My male cat sprays when the other two girl cats get attention. Sometimes the spray is dark pink. Has no trouble going pee - we would really like to know what to do to stop this. We have tried everything imaginable including prescription from vet.

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