Cat Language and Its Signals
With enough practice, you'll soon be an expert in cat language, and you might even be able to respond!
Vocalizing With Meows, Purrs, and More
Cats express their emotions through vocalizations. Meowing, purring, hisses, growls, and other sounds are part of the feline repertoire, each with a different meaning depending on the context. Adult cats do not normally meow at each other, but domesticated cats have learned to meow at humans. According to some scientists, cats use this manipulative behavior to get what they want from their owners.
Cats use their ears to express emotion as well as intent. Forward-facing ears indicate interest. In general, the more a cat's ears swivel sideways and backward, the more arousal or distress the cat is experiencing. Backward ears and a hiss or swipe are clear indications that your cat feels threatened or dislikes what you're doing.
Cats communicate through their eyelids—how open or closed they are—as well as pupil dilation (black portion of the eye). A sudden dilation (enlargement) of the pupil is caused by arousal, which can be caused by fear, interest, or any other strong emotion. Wide-open eyes indicate trust, whereas slitted eyes indicate fear or aggression. If your cat has droopy, sleepy-looking eyelids, it means he or she is relaxed and trusting. Try a slow blink to see if your cat responds with a "kitty kiss" of affection. However, staring at another cat without blinking is a sign of dominance or aggression.
The cat tail shows interest, affection, arousal, and other emotions. The height of the tail, as well as its motion, have significance. When cats want to be approached, they raise their tails, indicating that they are open to interaction. A flailing or thumping tail usually indicates that you should keep your distance. A swishing back-and-forth tail could indicate play or frustration in the cat. The bristling fur on the tail indicates defensiveness. The cat is ready to fight when its head is held high and bristled. The cat is terrified when tucked between its legs.
The fur of a healthy, calm cat rests smoothly against the body. Cats are self-grooming animals, so the condition of their fur can reveal a lot about the animal's health. Unkempt fur can indicate illness and should not be ignored, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms like lethargy or vomiting. A suddenly fluffed coat, including a "bottle brush" tail, on the other hand, indicates fear or aggression. It is best to avoid a cat that is displaying this type of behavior.
Smell and Scent
Humans are not always able to detect or interpret the scent cues used by cats to communicate. Cats, on the other hand, use strong urine and feces marking, bunting (body rubbing), and clawing to leave scented messages that other cats read. Cats are territorial, and the scents they leave behind are clearly intended to send the message that "this territory is mine" to would-be intruders. Their sense of smell is so strong that even newborn kittens use scent before they can see clearly.
The total body posture of the cat can indicate anything from confidence to fear or submission. To fully comprehend the message, the body language must be read alongside what the eyes, ears, tail, fur, and vocalizations express.
A relaxed and happy cat will have ears that are slightly forward, eyes that are relaxed, and whiskers that are also forward. The more you pay attention to your cat, the easier it will be to read its body language and understand what it is trying to communicate.