Learn HOW to Understand Your Cat’s Language!

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Tiny Kitty in a Green Field with Daisy Flowers

Your feline expresses itself through more than just
purring or meowing.
Keep reading to learn how to understand your cat!

Cat speak involves vocalizations, body postures (including tail and ear signals) and scent signals. Some cats even love and reciprocate “cat smiles” from their humans! But cat vocalizations or sounds (with feral and domestic felines) can be harder to decipher.

But what do they all mean?

Cat Language: Vocalizations

Chartreux Cat Looking at the Camera
A Large Chartreux Cat with Golden Eyes

Our feline friends love to express themselves through well-known meows and purrs. But not all cats are vocal. For example, the Blue Chartreux and Persian breeds tend to be more quiet than vocal. On the other paw, Siamese cats are known to be very vocal!

So, what are they trying to say?

Excessive meowing may be:

  • Attention-seeking demands like “play with me” or “feed me!” Be careful giving into these demands! If you do, your cat has effectively trained YOU!
  • Due to pain, disease or health issues.
  • Expressed by a deaf cat.
  • Vocalized by an old cat suffering from feline dementia.
  • From stressed cats with separation anxiety (yowls or whining).
  • Territorial or signaling conflict.
  • A genetic characteristic in some breeds.

Some cat vocalizations can be so subtle at a higher frequency that only other cats can hear them!

An angry and crouched low cat hissing
Hissing Cat Crouched Low

It’s also important to understand your cat’s body language to effectively translate all the cues your cat is displaying and help prevent potential problems!

Cat Body Language

Just like their canine friends, felines have a sophisticated system of communication through body language cues. Next, let’s take a closer look at how felines communicate through tail signals.

Refer to Lili Chin’s Cat Language Poster to Learn More!

Cat Language with Tail Signals

Even if you understand a dog’s tail language, cats communicate in a very different way with their tails.

Tabby Cat with Tail High in the Air
A High Cat Tail Indicates Friendliness and Interest

Kitty tail language includes:

  • A tail held straight up is the kitty’s way of saying “hello!” (The opposite with a dog.)
    • They are welcoming attention (the higher the tail the better) and interaction (with the end of the tail tipped over).
    • WARNING: If the tail has bristled and is upright or straight behind the cat, watch out for a potentially aggressive attack!
  • A cat’s tail curved down and back up in a gentle U-shape indicates a relaxed feline.
  • A “wagging” feline tail is signaling to back off (again, the opposite of a wagging dog tail).
  • When the cat’s tip of the tail flicks back and forth, it should be perceived as frustration or heightened excitement, fear or aggression. If ignored, the cat will escalate to:
    • Thumping the ground with her tail or lashing the tail. Kitty is getting ready to attack!
A Hissing Cat with lowered ears
Hissing Cat with Ears Pinned Back

Finally, when a cat tucks their tail between its legs it is from a high level of fear (this is similar to a dog). It will usually be accompanied by lots of hissing, growling and the ears pinned back against the head. If the cat suddenly turns onto her back, do NOT mistake this for “submission;” cats don’t “do” submission. They are getting ready to attack with all paws engaged!

As we mentioned, cats also communicate with their ear and scent signals. These two forms of feline communication will be covered in our next blog, so be sure to subscribe to our bi-monthly blog posts!

Tabby Cat Peeking Around the Corner
A Curious Tabby Cat Peeking around the corner
Black and White Ragdoll cat getting brushed
Brushing a Ragdoll Cat with an EquiGroomer

Does Your Cat Excessively Meow?

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