Because most of an animal’s speech involves body language, posture, and gesture, the key to understanding your cat is learning to read its body language. Vocal speech, in the sense of sounds with a particular meaning, also exists, but it is secondary.
Most actions included here exist in combinations rather than singly. Thus, a cat with slit eyes and ears hard down will probably also be arched or tense, whereas a cat with narrowed eyes and ears slightly down and to the side may also be purring and will be relaxed.
WHAT A CAT’S TAIL TELLS YOU
- If the tail is trailing behind body but not held low: The cat is relaxed but alert.
If the tail is bristled: The cat is fearful or ᴀ ɢ.ɢ ʀ.ᴇ s.s.ɪve; other body cues will tell you which.
- If the tail is held low: The cat is cautious; it may be looking for a safe place, especially if the body is also held low to the ground.
- If the tail is high, relaxed, and waving: The cat is relaxed, happy, confident.
CATS COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR EYES
- If the eyes are lazily open or closed: The cat is relaxed.
- If the eyes are narrowed: The cat is alert, but may be fearful or ᴀ ɢ.ɢ ʀ.ᴇ s.s.ɪve. Look for other cues.
- If the eyes are wide: The cat is alert. Other cues will tell you if the cat is relaxed or ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛᴇɴᴇᴅ.
- Pupil dilation is also important: Wide pupils can signal high interest, excitement, or possibly fear or ᴀ ɢ.ɢ ʀ.ᴇ s.s.ɪon.
CAT BODY LANGUAGE
If the body is relaxed, soft, feet tucked under or kneading: The cat is relaxed.
- If the back is arched, the cat is on its toes, standing sideways-on: The cat is fearful and may fight, but will probably run.
- If it rolls on its back: The cat is very relaxed, trusting. A cat does this when it is absolutely confident of safety. It may also be asking you to play or rub its stomach (proceed at your own ʀɪsᴋ).
- If the back is arched, and the cat is standing face-on: The cat is ᴀ ɢ.ɢ ʀ.ᴇ s.s.ɪve and will almost certainly fight.
CAT CUES FROM WHISKERS
If the whiskers are bristled: Usually seen with other cues that indicate fear or ᴀ ɢ.ɢ ʀ.ᴇ s.s.ɪon.
- If the whiskers are hard forward: The cat is alert, interested, perhaps sees a ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛ, prey, or food.
- If the whiskers are back: The cat is calm, relaxed.