Many people think that cats aren’t as expressive as dogs, but this simply isn’t true. Though cats might not be as vocal or energetic as dogs (and there are many exceptions to this general rule), they communicate both vocally and with nonverbal body language.
Cats cross their front paws when feeling relaxed, secure, and comfortable. Accompanied by retracted claws, this is one of many nonverbal signals of safety. Since house cats depend on their claws to defend themselves from threats, this gesture is considered as a ‘stowing of weapons.’
One of the more common poses that cats strike is lying down with crossed front paws. This gesture can leave pet parents feeling confused or curious. In this article, we’ll discuss why cats cross their front paws, as well as other common feline body language signals.
Cats Communicate Using Their Bodies
While you might think that cats only communicate vocally, the bulk of their communication is nonverbal. So though your furry feline might be talkative, you can also look for body language signals to determine their mood. But how?
Most notably, cats tend to nonverbally communicate using their:
For example, when a cat lifts their tail high in the air and approaches you, it’s a sign that they view you as a friend and would like to greet you. But when a cat flattens their ears against its head, they’re showing fear and hostility, so it’s best to stay away.
Understanding these common types of nonverbal communication can help you interpret your cat’s behavior more accurately and effectively.
Check out this educational animated video about cat body language to learn more:
How Cats Communicate With Their Paws
Though a cat’s paws aren’t its primary means of communication, a few behaviors and nonverbal signals utilize the paws. For example, playful kitties tend to reach out with their paws to grab toys or wrestle with one another.
Some cats will reach up toward their pet parent during feeding or treat times, but this is a sign of excitement and impatience.
Far more adorable is the soft, claws-retracted touch that affectionate cats occasionally give. It’s not unusual for a kitty to reach out and touch its loved one’s face with their paw, showing love and trust.
If your cat is lying on its stomach in a comfortable spot, you might also see it cross its paws. This polite gesture typically indicates that the cat is feeling safe, comfy, and relaxed.
Remember, cats rely on their claws to fight and defend themselves. So when your cat poses their paws across one another, it’s showing that it doesn’t anticipate any aggressive situations or actions. This sign of friendship and trust is one of several familiar nonverbal cues.
Other Signs Cats Show To Express Friendship & Trust
It’s relatively easy to tell whether or not a cat enjoys your company. But, of course, if you haven’t spent a lot of time around cats and kittens, you might not be familiar with these signs. After all, unlike dogs, cats tend to remain somewhat reserved.
Still, you can tell that a cat is interested in you and trusts you if they:
- Follow you around
- Show their belly
- Keep their tail upright
- Purr when you pet them
- Bring you toys
- Mark you as property
Let’s take a moment to discuss why cats express themselves this way and what it means if you spot any of these behaviors.
Follow You Around
If your cat always follows you around the house, that’s a significant sign that they enjoy your company. House cats can be picky about the humans they let touch or see them, so a cat that refuses to leave you alone likely loves you very much.
Show Their Belly
When a cat rolls onto their back, exposing their belly, it’s a meaningful display of trust. The abdominal area is one of its least protected spots, and it’ll only reveal its stomach if it feels comfortable and unthreatened. Just be careful about rubbing that belly!
Keep Their Tail Upright
Another way that cats might express a friendly disposition is by raising their tail while looking at you. A raised tail (often with a slightly droopy tip) indicated familiarity, interest, and friendliness. In fact, cats communicate quite a few emotions by using their tail.
Purr During Petting
Though cats can also purr when they’re in pain or scared, a kitty that’s loudly purring while you pet it is likely enjoying the attention. The precise reason cats purr isn’t entirely known, though it has been linked to familial communication, physical healing, and low-energy states.
Consequently, a purring cat may be trying to let you know that they consider you family and that they trust you to protect them.
Bring You Toys
Did you know that cats can play fetch? Particularly playful or attention-seeking cats love to bring their pet parents toys and stuffed animals. This is often an invitation to play, but it could also be a token of affection.
A cat’s natural hunting instinct helps drive much of its playful behavior. So when a house cat brings you one of its favorite toys, it might be trying to provide for you and show that it cares.
Mark You as Property
Has a cat ever rubbed itself against your legs? If so, then you’ve been marked as that feline’s personal property!
While this might seem silly, this behavior is indicative of a high level of trust and dependence. When cats rub against you, they’re trying to ensure that no other kitties steal their beloved human.
How To Help Cats Feel More Comfortable
Building a relationship with a house cat can take time, patience, and consistency. Additionally, some households simply aren’t cat-friendly, especially when housing older or more sensitive kitties.
Taking steps to help your furry feline become more comfortable could make a significant difference in their behavior and body language.
If your cat isn’t displaying any of the typical signs of trust and relaxation, you may want to:
- Provide private spaces
- Reduce household noise
- Be patient and affectionate
- Offer rewards regularly
Each of these actions can reduce a cat’s stress levels, allowing them to feel more comfortable and secure when they’re around you. So, let’s walk you through each one so that you can better understand the types of environments house cats most enjoy.
Provide Private Spaces
When a cat is scared, it typically first attempts to flee from the perceived threat. As such, many first-time cat owners might feel upset when they notice their newly adopted kitten scrambling beneath the sofa upon arriving home.
But this behavior is normal and should never be punished. Offering your cat the chance to explore their environment and have secure hiding places can help them feel comfortable enough to venture out and get to know you. Never pursue or chase a cat that’s trying to hide, as it’ll only cause distrust and stress.
Reduce Household Noise
The average cat prefers a quiet, tidy home over a loud and messy one. If you’re blasting loud music throughout your home at all hours of the day, your cat may find an out-of-reach or hidden place to hide and enjoy some quiet.
Reducing overall household noise is a fantastic way to lower your four-legged family member’s stress levels and encourage a sense of trust. Naturally, it’s not always possible to run a low-noise household.
Still, making the attempt to keep things generally peaceful can significantly impact your cat’s mood and behavior.
Be Patient and Affectionate
While a puppy might approach you easily, tail wagging and tongue lolling out, cats tend to be pickier about making friends. As such, gaining a cat’s trust often takes time. Remaining patient and showing affection whenever possible is an excellent way to encourage friendliness.
Offer Rewards Regularly
Positive reinforcement is the best way to encourage desirable behaviors while also discouraging unwanted ones. Both cats and dogs respond well to this type of training. For example, offering cat treats or toys is a fantastic way to stimulate a cat’s mind, keep them active, and show them that you care.
As with humans and many other animals, house cats display specific types of body language to express themselves. For example, cats typically cross their front paws when feeling safe, relaxed, and comfortable.
But this is just one of several familiar nonverbal cues. Other common signs of trust and friendliness. Include following you around the house, bringing you toys, and rubbing against you. It’s crucial to provide cats with private, quiet spaces and plenty of reward and affection to encourage this behavior.
- Boston University | BU Today: POV: Declawing Cats Is a Drastic Measure. So Why Do People Do It?
- Hill’s Pet Nutrition: The Tales Your Cat’s Tail Tells
- NewScientist: Why do cats purr?
- YouTube: Cat Body Language Explained by Jaw-Dropping Facts
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.