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Cat Body Language

We all know when a cat is happy, purring and rubbing against us or luxuriating in the warmth of a lap. Equally, we recognise when they’re not happy - ears flat, mouth open and hissing, back arched up. We also know a happy meeow from an angry or fearful yowl. But there’s a lot more to their interaction with the world than this. It’s relatively hard to ‘read’ a cat. Not being pack animals, they have not evolved the more complex body language of dogs. But as an owner you will quickly come to understand the basics of your pet’s mood and wants.


A purring cat
A purring cat - always a good sign

You can tell a lot about your pet's mood and intentions by learning the basic body language of the domestic cat:

  • Sitting or lying down, purring - she's calm, probably happy, possibly calming down after a shock, but definitely chilled!
  • Tail erect, ears facing forward – this means she’s happy and saying hello. She’ll often walk towards you in this posture.
  • Rubbing against your legs – a friendly greeting (and she’s surreptitiously marking her territory too!)
  • Rolling on back to expose belly – a friendly and submissive gesture. Unless you know the cat really well, avoid rubbing her belly, as this game will involve claws and teeth!
  • Lying on side, stretched out – relaxed, drowsing, best not to disturb.
  • Crouched with tail tucked under, with restless eyes and ears – anxious and alert, on the verge of making a quick escape. Best not to get in the way.
  • Arched back, fur standing on end, ears flattened, probably hissing – the cat is scared rather than aggressive, and will only lash out if you try to approach too close
  • Alert, focused, moving forward low and slow – stalking mode: mice beware!
  • Rolling on the ground luxuriously, crazily, almost drunkenly - she’s found some catnip!
  • Eyes narrowed, slowly turning away from you - she’s showing you that she’s not aggressive. You can calm a cat by doing the same narrow-eyes routine yourself!

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