Body Talk: What Your Cat's Body Language Is Telling You

happy cat sleeping
Cats have a reputation for being aloof and hard to read, but thanks to their expressive body language, they're actually pretty upfront with their emotions--if you know what to look for. That's why we've compiled a few tell-tale signs you can observe to check whether your cat wants to play, sleep, or just take a nap. Keep reading to learn what your furry friend is trying to tell you, such as . . .

"I want to play!"

cat playing with toy
You might be able to predict the next bout of play before Fluffy starts charging through the house. If her ears are pointed forward slightly, this usually indicates she's feeling playful and curious about something, whether it's her favorite toy or that shoestring across the room that's suddenly grabbed her attention. Her eyes will probably be wide open with dilated pupils as she focuses her attention on whatever she's about to go pounce on. The tip of her tail might twitch or flick, a sure sign that playtime is about to commence.
Perhaps the most well-known sign of a playful cat is the infamous butt wiggle, which is when a cat's rear end begins to sway back and forth just before they spring into action. No one knows for certain what causes the wiggle, though theories range from cats preparing their back legs and muscles for strong leaps, testing their footing and the ground beneath them, and simply displaying excitement. Whatever the cause, the butt wiggle is possibly the surest sign that kitty is about to pounce, so you might want to make sure you get out of his way!

"I'm scared!"

scared cat
Your cat's ears tend to move certain ways depending on mood. If Fluffy's ears are flattened backwards or to the sides, he's putting out a very clear signal that he's feeling out of sorts. He might be a little nervous, scared, or irritated, so it's probably best to leave this cat alone until he calms down.
If your cat's tail is swishing violently from side to side, you'll want to give him some space. He's obviously frustrated about something, and he's liable to take it out on you if you try to touch him, even if you aren't actually the source of that frustration. Hey, we all have our bad days, right?
Other tail hallmarks include when it's puffed out and the fur is standing on end. This is the sign of a very unhappy kitty and one that is either angry, threatened, scared, or all of the above. Finally, whether they're scared or angry, cats who feel threatened will usually arch their backs, pin their whiskers back, and growl or hiss.
If your cat is doing any of these, try to coax him into a less stressful setting. Don't pick him up unless absolutely necessary, though, as you might end up with a lot of scratches for your trouble.

"I love you!"

happy cat
Is there anything better than a friendly cat curling up against you to join you for a lazy afternoon nap? This is just one way your feline friend will show their affection.
Another very common act is when Fluffy rolls over to expose her tummy. This is a very vulnerable position for most animals, and while cats will sometimes do this to show submission to another cat to avoid a fight, they will also do it to show trust around their human family and even other cats in the home. Some cats enjoy a quick belly rub, but others hate it. That varies from cat to cat, just like most personality traits, so you'll have to learn your own cat's preferences there.
As always, a cat's tail is a good barometer of their mood. A tail that's straight up usually means a happy cat who's glad to see you--and if the tail is quivering a little, that probably means you're her favorite human and she's really glad to see you!
Like many animals, cats often consider eye contact a sign of aggression. However, if your cat stares at you and blinks slowly before casually looking away, this indicates that she feels safe and happy in your company. If her eyelids are droopy, this can also mean that she feels so safe and content that she's about to doze off.
Ever had a cat "make biscuits" on you by kneading your lap, chest, back, or wherever they're perched atop you? That's a high compliment your kitty is paying! This is a holdover from kittenhood, when your baby kitty would let his mom know he was hungry and ready for milk. When your cat kneads you, it's not really because he's hungry; he just remembers the safe, happy feeling he got while kneading as a baby, and now he wants to share that with you. If your cat does this to you, you should feel honored and know that your kitty is head over heels for you.
Does your cat like belly rubs? Does she have a unique way of telling you how she feels? Let us know in the comments!


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Christine Whitt
Christine Whitt


5 Responses

Stephanie Jane Young
Stephanie Jane Young

January 08, 2019

All my cats are rescues and the latest kitten likes to crawl on to my chest when I’m laying down and flop right under my chin and stretch out. I get a face full of kitty hair but she is putting and content.


December 22, 2018

My girl loves to show me her fluffy tummy! … with her little paws turned under!


December 07, 2018

When my 9 month old kitten, Jake, wants to play and he has been doing this since a baby, he will nip me with his teeth or put a hand on my arm.


December 07, 2018

PrettyLitter did it’s job! Our younger kitten, a beautiful little muted tortisshell, Rover, had a viral infection we caught pretty early thanks to PrettyLitter. She’s still being treated, but is responding well.
Thank you.


December 07, 2018

Our calico girl, Rex, loves to lie across my chest when we’re falling asleep, purring and sucking her paw. She makes sure to include a bit of my jammy top and a hank of my hair. It’s loud, but so loving and trusting my heart melts.

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