Understand your cat body language
To understand your cat body language, you should know the cats are generally solitary animals. Highly independent, they have developed subtle and complex ways of behaving and communicating that often send confusing messages to their owners. Cats do, however, have a range of other signals that you can learn to interpret.
To understand your cat body language, you should know more about these below items.
1. Cat behavior
The first thing to understand your cat body language is knowing more about cat behavior. Domestic cats evolved from a small, solitary, and territorial predator that rarely met others of its kind.
This feline ancestor did not need to develop a complex visual communication system like that of more naturally social species, such as dogs and humans, so our pet cats today do not have a particularly sophisticated body language.
Their solitary past also means that cats are more independent than most other pet species and although many enjoy cuddles, they still appreciate their own space.
Cats are supreme hunters and because their prey is more active at dawn and dusk, this is when cats are most active. Motivation to hunt at these times might cause an indoor cat to have a “mad half- hour,” dashing about energetically.
Because their eyesight evolved primarily to detect movement in poor light, cats do not see patterns or colors with the same clarity as humans do. Their eyes are not sensitive to colors at the red end of the spectrum and, as a result, they may have difficulty picking out red toys against a pink carpet. On the other hand, they are extremely quick to respond to a trailing string.
The sense of smell is very important to cats. They head-rub to deposit scent in areas where they feel relaxed and spray urine where they feel threatened. Cats also use scent to orient themselves in their environment, following “scent maps” created from scent glands in the feet and flanks.
Any upheaval in the home—such as redecorating or moving—can disrupt this mapping system, causing a cat to feel displaced and bewildered.
Although a cat’s body language is quite subtle, it is important to learn to recognize when your pet does and does not want attention. A cat will greet you by approaching with his tail up, and may rub against your legs.
Rubbing deposits scent, making you smell more familiar after you have been outside or in the shower. Purring and kneading with the paws in response to owner attention are behaviors retained from kitten hood, when they were associated with suckling. Although purring usually indicates contentment, it can sometimes indicate pain.
When a cat’s ears are flattened, his whiskers bunched forward, he is licking his lips, and his weight is shifted onto his back feet, you should leave him alone because these are signs of fear.
Cats in company
- Cats can happily live together in social groups, but only under specific circumstances. Groups largely consist of related females that hunt independently and do not compete for food and territory.
- They show friendly behaviors to each other, reserving aggression for “outsiders” that represent a threat to resources. Even though their owners provide food, cats will still protect their territory from others that are not part of their social group. If you have more than one cat, watch them to determine whether they are friends or not.
- Friends rub and groom each other and sleep together with bodies touching. If you do not see at least one of these behaviors, then it is likely that your cats feel stressed by each other.
- When conflict arises, cats cannot use body language to defuse the situation. This is why fights can break out just as easily between members of the same household as between rivals from opposite sides of the garden fence.
2. Facial expressions and body language
The 2nd thing to understand your cat body language is reading the cat facial expressions. Your cat will give you signals using his ears, tail, whiskers, and eyes. Ears and whiskers usually work together.
Normally, the ears are erect and facing forward and the whiskers are to the front or sides, showing that your cat is alert and interested. When his ears are rotated back and flat and his whiskers are forward, he is feeling aggressive. Ears out to the sides and whiskers flat against the cheeks mean that your cat is scared.
Cats do not like eye contact, which is why your cat will often make for anyone in the room who ignores him: this is interpreted as friendly behavior. Once your cat is used to those around him, he will find eye contact less threatening. Dilated pupils can mean he is interested and excited or fearful and aggressive, so look for other signals to read his behavior.
3. Body Posture
The 3rd thing to understand your cat body language is observing body posture of your cat. Your cat’s posture tells you one of two things: “go away” or “come closer.” Lying down, sitting in a relaxed manner, or coming toward you indicates that he is approachable.
A cat on his back exposing his belly is not being submissive like a dog: this is usually a fight posture that allows him to wield all his claws and teeth.
If he is also rolling from side to side, you can assume that he is in a playful mood, but avoid touching his belly too much or you may get scratched or bitten. Wiggling the rump is another sign that he is up for a play.
When your cat is crouching—either looking sideways or with his tail wrapped around his body—he is
looking for a chance to escape, pounce, or go on the offensive.
4. Smell And Touch
The 4th thing to understand your cat body language is knowing more about cat smell feature. Cats have a superb sense of smell and use urine and scent to mark territory and leave messages for other cats.
They head-rub to deposit scent in areas where they feel relaxed and spray urine where they feel threatened. A cat that is not neutered will spray to warn other cats of his presence, threaten any rivals, and announce that he is ready to mate.
If a neutered cat still sprays, he is probably feeling anxious so investigate what is triggering this behavior. Cats also spread scent from glands on their cheeks, paws, and tail by rubbing them on surfaces or other cats. These scents mark territory and help cats to form social bonds.
Cats that live together will rub each other along the flanks or the head, creating a group scent that alerts them to the presence of strangers. Your cat will also rub the members of your family to mark you all as part of his “gang.” Cats sniff nose-to-nose when they meet; unfamiliar cats end the encounter there, but friendly cats progress to rubbing heads or licking each other’s face or ears. Scratching is another way of leaving scent, as well as being a visual signal of a cat’s presence.
5. Cat Vocalizations
The 5th thing to understand your cat body language is knowing more about the cat vocalizations. Wild cats are solitary, predatory animals that patrol a territory they regard as theirs. Consequently, most cat communications are designed to ward off intruders. Learning what the noises he makes mean will help you understand what he is trying to tell you.
Chief among cat noises are hissing, growling, miaowing, and purring. Hisses and growls—sometimes accompanied by a flash of teeth or show of claws—are warnings to usurpers trespassing on the cat’s territory or to humans who get too close. Meows—rarely used between adult cats—are mainly a way for kittens to signal to their mother.
Domestically, your cat will use meowing to announce his presence. Short and high-pitched chirps and squeaks usually signal excitement or a plea for something, but drawn-out and low-pitched sounds express displeasure or a demand. Rapid, intense, and loud repeated sounds often signify anxiety.
Long, drawn-out cries and shrieks indicate that the cat is in pain or fighting. Mating cats produce long wails known as caterwauls. Purring is usually a sound of contentment, but cats also purr as a way of comforting themselves when they are in pain or anxious.
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