Cats have some peculiar ways of communicating with their humans, and every one of them behaves in a unique way that is all their own.
Cats whip their tail around quickly to show excitement or irritation. When a cat is lying down, their tail will usually thump on the floor or whatever surface they’re on, and it usually indicates that you may be a little too close to their sensitive areas.
While our furry friends each have their own personality, certain commonalities exist in how they communicate, and it is up to their owners to take the time to learn. In this article, we will go over some behaviors that cats exhibit and what they are trying to say to you.
Meowing is the sound that most people associate with cats. However, it is worth noting that cats only meow at humans and not at each other, so if your cat is meowing, it is most likely trying to get your attention. The easiest way to differentiate these sounds is by recognizing the various meanings that most cats intend.
- Requesting Something – While they are in their infancy, kittens will make a long, high-pitched sound to get the attention of their mothers. Since adult cats often treat humans as maternal figures, they will often keep this up throughout their lives when they need food, water, or attention.
- Greeting – Usually, short, higher-pitched meows indicate a hello. If your cat doesn’t stop meowing, they have probably really missed you.
- Frustration – If your cat is making lower-pitched meows, it is usually to show annoyance or irritation. They like to make these noises to scold their owners, though it is generally for something trivial, as they will show genuine unhappiness in other ways.
Anyone with a cat has probably heard them howling or yowling at some point. It is most often characterized by being drawn-out, very loud, and unlike meowing, it is a form of communication between cats as well as humans. Howling or yowling can indicate various needs, most of which require some attention from their humans.
- Worries – Cats often make these sounds when they are concerned about something; they don’t feel well, or they just want to complain. Some felines howl more than others, so this behavior varies from animal to animal. Still, if your cat doesn’t usually make this sound, it might be worth speaking with a veterinarian.
- Territorial – Yowling can often indicate that your cat is not happy with someone new in their territory, which happens when new pets get introduced to a home. These new additions may also howl before they get used to their new environment.
- Mating Calls – If you have not spayed or neutered your cat, long and loud yowling can be a sign they are attempting to attract a potential mate.
- Boredom – Cats are not immune to boredom, and these sounds can indicate that they need more attention or entertainment.
- Cognitive Issues – If you have a more senior cat who suddenly begins and persists in yowling, it can be a sign of dementia or other mental concerns.
The most apparent noise of displeasure that most cats make is hissing. In general, hissing is a sign of either fear or anger, and your cat most likely wants you to back off immediately. As with other indicators, if your cat is hissing suddenly and frequently without adding new cats or elements to their environment, it is worth checking in with a veterinarian to ensure that they are okay.
Feline Body Language
In addition to sounds, cats have a wide variety of body language that they use to communicate. Most indicators come from three main points on your cat’s body, the eyes, the ears, and the tail. The following are some examples of what your cat might be trying to say to you.
- Slow Blinking – Slow blinking is usually a sign of adoration. If you notice that your cat is just blinking at you slowly from across the room, they are just pleased to see you.
- Dilated Pupils – This is always a sign of excitement in some form. It can vary as they may be playing or preparing to attack a toy but pay attention to their other behaviors. If it is combined with aggressive gestures or sounds, it can mean that your cat is scared.
- Slitted Pupils – This is most often a look of annoyance. It can be as simple as missing food in their bowl or treats. As with other signs, keep an eye on other signals that might indicate something is wrong.
- Fully Upright – This is another sign of attention. Cats have excellent hearing, and if their ears are standing straight up, it means that something has alerted them.
- Forward Facing – This is usually a sign that your cat is feeling curious and most likely playful as well. If you recently gave them a new toy or something else to occupy their attention, you might see this sign a lot.
- Flat, Pinned Back – This gesture indicates that your cat is furious or terrified and usually has hissing or growling sounds to accompany it.
More than anything else, your cat’s tail will showcase exactly what they are feeling. There are a lot of ways for them to communicate their feelings with their tails. Let’s examine some of the more common expressions below.
- Whipping Tail – If your cat’s entire tail is whipping back and forth, it indicates that they are frustrated. This motion often happens when they are tired of petting and want to get some space.
- Curved tail – When a cat shapes their tail into a curve, they are often feeling exploratory. This movement can signal a perfect time to introduce your cat to a new toy.
- Tail Tip Twitching – This almost always indicates a playful mood. If only the tip of their tail is twitching or they are chasing the end of their tail, they almost certainly want to play.
- Tucked Away – If your cat tucks its tail between its legs, it is most often a sign of nervousness. They might be anxious about newcomers in their environment or other factors.
- Puffed Tail – Though this may look adorable, it is not a good sign at all. This signal means that your cat is either completely terrified or is preparing to attack if they are hissing at the same time.
- Wrapped Tail – If your cat wraps their tail around themselves, it is a sign that they are happy and comfortable. This movement is also something that cats will do with each other as a sort of feline hug!
As with all animals, cats are capable of complicated feelings. Since they can’t speak, their owners’ responsibility is to understand them and make them comfortable. These are only a handful of the ways to read your cat’s behavior, and it is crucial to remember that every cat will vary in the way they communicate.
Above all, take the time to observe your cat and watch for its particular behaviors. Not every one of these factors will apply to every single cat, and it is imperative to note sudden changes in behavior as that can be an early sign of health concerns. The ways your cat will communicate with you will be through their ears, eyes, tail, and sounds, so if you pay attention to these signs, you will be well on your way to understanding your feline friend.