Cats communicate a variety of messages using cat body language.
Examples include arching their backs as a signal of fear or aggression, and slowly blinking to signal relaxation. As is the case with dogs, the tail is often used as a signaling mechanism. A twitch can indicate minor irritation, and a tail held high suggests confidence. A cat who chooses to lie with its stomach and chest exposed conveys happiness, trust, and comfort (this is also typical of overweight cats, as it is more comfortable for them); however, a cat may also roll on its side/back to be able to defend itself with all four sets of claws. Usually other signs (like ears and whiskers folded backwards) give an indication of the cat's overall humor. A cat with tail held high and twitching shows excitement, but this is often mistaken for anger. Flattened ears mean that the cat feels threatened, and may attack. Mouth open and no teeth exposed suggests a feeling of playfulness.
Understanding cat body language Edit
Many people fail to understand the silent body language of cats. In particular, 'dog people' who are accustomed to the outward signs of dog 'language' seem slow in detecting what a cat is telling them in its body language, which creates the false impression that cats are cold-hearted, unemotional, or unintelligent. To understand cats, one must observe a feline closely and learn what its body signals tell them. It is important to keep in mind that each cat may display its emotions with different body language. The flattened ears, teeth showing, baring belly for submission are easily 'read' by humans. Some characteristic signals, however, are often misunderstood. For instance, a cat rubbing its body along an arm or leg of its human is not only a way in which to attract attention and, perhaps, a morsel of food; it is also a way of 'marking' its human as its own. Using scent glands located around its mouth and elsewhere, it subtly 'marks' its human as part of its cat territory. Most cats prefer gentle rubs behind the ears. To inform their humans they need petting or attention, a cat may push its entire body weight up against the human as the cat snuggles next to his/her favorite person.
Some common interpretations of cats' actionsEdit
- Disgust - Lifting and subsequent shaking of a paw or paws. The more paws, the stronger a feeling is indicated; this can sometimes be a four paw affair with each paw being lifted and shaken in turn. This is possibly related to the identical action that's displayed after stepping in water.
- Agitation or Aggression- The swishing or sweeping of the tail in a wide swath, mid-air or against a person. And if the message isn't getting through, the cat may simply leave the room.
- Contentedness - Kneading with the paws on a person or, for example, a favorite blanket or sleeping spot. Young kittens knead their mother's nipples to stimulate the feeding reflex in her so that her milk flows for the kittens to suckle on. Cats may knead for a short or extended period of time, the extended period sometimes interpreted by people as a sign of discomfort or restlessness, but it is more likely the cat is happy. Most cats will demonstrate this for about ten minutes at the longest.
- Relaxation - Sprawling on the side or back and, possibly, rolling about; this may be seen, for example, when a person enters the room or stirs from his seat. The cat may display this at the same time as the person's movement.
- Greeting - A particular sort of vocalization, such as a low meow or chirp, possibly with simultaneous purring.
- Affection - A pressing of the face or top of the head against a person's body, leaving a scent as a marking of territory.
- Submission - Upon being approached, it will fall down on its side, indicating it is not seeking attention but is unwilling to put up a fight.