Cat talk and cat language sometimes puzzles us. Cats have been regarded for centuries as mysterious, solitary, unpredictable creatures, because we can’t understand what they're saying. But savvy cat owners can decipher cat language. While people rely primarily on speech to communicate, “felinese” is predominately a silent language. Cats speak by using complex combinations of sign language, vocalization and scent cues. Learn how to recognize cat language basics, and figure out the most common... combinations, to understand what your cat is saying to you, and to the other fur-kids.
With practice, you will soon be an expert at cat language, to the extent that you may even be able to answer back, in some instances.
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Cats also express emotion with their ears, as well as intent. Generally speaking, the more a cat’s ears swivel sideways and backwards, the greater the cat’s arousal.
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Cats communicate with their eyelids—how open or closed they are—as well as with the dilation of the iris (black portion of the eye). A sudden dilation (enlarging) of the iris results from sudden arousal which could be due to fear, interest or any other strong emotion.
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The cat tail signals interest, affection, arousal, and more. The height of the tail, as well as the motion, has meaning. A flailing or thumping tail usually is a signal to keep your distance.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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A healthy, calm cat’s fur rests smoothly against the body. Unkempt fur can indicate ill health, and should not be ignored, especially when accompanied by other symptoms, such as lethargy, or vomiting. But sudden fluffed coat, including a “bottle brush” tail, suggests fear or aggression.
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We can’t always detect or interpret the scent cues cats use for communication. However, among scent tools, cats employ strong urine marking and feces, bunting (body rubbing) behavior, and clawing to leave scented Post-It messages that other cats read. Cats are selfish about their territory, and the scents they leave behind are clearly designed to send the message that "this territory is MINE" to would-be interlopers.
Cats' sense of scent is so powerful that even very young kittens... utilize scent before they can see clearly. This tiny kitten pictured here was hissing at the foreign scent of my finger that was pointed at him. (I later adopted him and he no longer hisses at me.)
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The cat’s total body posture indicates everything from confidence to fear or submission. To understand the full message, the body talk must be read in conjunction with what the eyes, ears, tail, fur, and vocalizations express.
The cat in this photo appears to be relaxed and happy with his young woman companion. I can tell so because of the visual clues: His ears point slightly forward, his eyes are relaxed, and his whiskers are also pointed forward.