Cats are not a lot different to us in that they use their voice and body language to communicate with their family, both human and feline. The challenge is that their owners need to learn to interpret what they are saying, and this takes practice.
Here is Cat Communication 101, a quick guide to working out what your cat might be trying to tell you.
Your Cat’s Voice
If you listen to a cat, you’ll notice quite a variety of sounds and tones. A frequent demanding meow is usually a demand for something, usually food or affection. For the most part, purring indicates contentment, or it is an indication that your feline friend would like some company. Some cats even purr as they meow.
It’s usually obvious when he isn’t happy; he will growl or hiss. A loud wailing or caterwauling often means that your cat is feeling a bit defensive towards other cats or, if a female, is on heat and looking for male companionship.
The Eyes and Ears
You can tell a great deal about what your cat is feeling by looking at the position of his eyes and ears.
Half-closed eyes with slow blinks usually indicate that your furry family member is relaxed and comfortable. On the other hand, dilated pupils suggest he’s feeling anxious and fearful. Under these circumstances, avoid staring at him because a direct stare can be threatening.
An angry hostile cat usually has narrowed eyes, and when this is combined with a growl, he’ll leave you in no doubt as to what he’s trying to tell you – “leave me alone”.
Your cat’s ears are very expressive and can give you quite a good indication of his mood. If he is relaxed, his ears will point slightly forwards and to the side. Should something catch his attention, they’ll become erect and be held forward to pick up as much information as possible.
Twitching ears indicate agitation and uncertainty, and if they are held flat against his head, he is grumpy and you may be in line for a scratch or a bite.
Your Cat’s Tail
A confident cat will carry his tail high, often with a bend in the tip. If it is held low between his hind legs, he’s feeling insecure and uncertain. You may be familiar with the back and forth swish, which means he is ready to attack prey. If that prey is likely to be you, then leave him alone until he is more relaxed.
It’s important to look at your whole cat when trying to work out how he is feeling or what he is trying to tell you, rather than focus on just one part of his body. There are other influences on his body language, for example a cat in dim light will have dilated pupils so he can see better, even if he is not angry. On the other hand, if his pupils are dilated and his ears are held flat against his head, he’s feeling hostile. Add to this a tail that is moving sidewards and you’d be well advised to take a step backwards and leave him alone for a while.
If you take some time to watch your cat and listen to his different sounds, it won’t be long before you’re able to work out how he’s feeling and what he wants from you. This is a great way to build a rapport and improve your relationship.