Some days, we think we know exactly what our feline friend is thinking but other days it’s more like “What?!?!” The truth is our cats communicate with us all the time, we just need to listen. And not with our ears but with our eyes! Cats are constantly communicating with us through their body signals. I always tell our staff at Oakview, “Read the whole cat, not just one body signal. And Respect what they are telling you!”
Here are some clues:
When your cat has a nice steady gaze, constricted pupils, and soft, slow blinks she’s pretty content. When her pupils are large (and it’s not dark out!), this could mean they are feeling playful or defensive. Be mindful of this focused stare from our cats, most cat owners know what I’m talking about! This means they are up for a challenge. You may see this between family cats right before a fight breaks out.
Sometimes just looking at the tail can be confusing, so remember to look at your cat’s WHOLE body to help determine how your cat is feeling. A tail that is straight up can mean he is happy or interested. Down or tucked underneath can mean he is scared or nervous. The fast twitching tail means your kitty is not happy. A nice, slow moving loose tail usually means they are content. And we’ve all seen that puffed up tail–Back away as this cat is warning you to stay away.
Your cat’s body posture is one more way to see what she is telling you. When she is agitated her body appears tense or she may suddenly freeze. She may walk slow and stiff. A frightened cat will usually slink low to the ground and move very slow (she may also do this if she is ready to pounce on something). A relaxed cat usually has a comfortable body position, and breathing is slow and deep. A stressed cat will have a fast and shallow breathing pattern. Some medical conditions such as asthma and heart problems can affect breathing so it is important to monitor your cat’s breathing when she is relaxed and content at home.
The “Rub my Belly” Posture
Watch for the kitty who ever so cutely rolls over to show her belly. While she may be doing this to trust you, it can also mean she is becoming defensive or wants to play! We all know the cat who seems to say “Rub my belly!” then bites when you do! Assess the whole situation before deciding to love up on that kitty!
by Emily Karpinski, CVT
Emily earned her Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology at Madison Area Technical College and joined us as a CVT in 2004. She shares her home with her husband Jaime, daughters Violet and Abigail, a black lab called “Clyde”, “Chloe” the cat, and a quarter horse.
She has a strong interest in animal behavior and animal massage. Emily is certified in Fear Free handling and experienced in low stress techniques.