cat behaviour

What’s Your Cat Telling You?

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You might be wondering why Joyful DOGS has a blog on Cats?! Well, many of our dog behaviour clients also have felines in the household and would like help improving the relationship between the two! So here’s an intro to Cat Behaviour Basics…

Cats are excellent at giving subtle but clear signals to say how they are feeling. They have a variety of ways to say, “more please” and “I’d prefer, if you stopped that”. Humans (and dogs) just need to learn how to ‘read’ those signals! This article is your ticket to becoming a fantastic feline communicator!

Facial Expressions

Cats use their ears, whiskers, eyes and mouth to signal how they are feeling. Below are a few ways that cats will use these body parts to show that there are either getting worried or showing aggression:

Fearful/Worried

  • Ears flattening or pulled slightly back
  • Pupils dilating so that the colour of the eyes are barely visible
  • Whiskers pulled back if a little worried or fully forward if extremely worried
  • Lip licking, tongue flicking out
  • Slow blinking exaggerated
  • Hissing/spitting

Below are some examples of worried and fearful body language.

Anger /Aggression

  • Ears upright, facing forward and alert
  • Fixed stare with pupils narrowed to tiny slits
  • No lip licking or slow blinks present
  • Growling/Yowling
Body Language

In addition to facial expressions, cats signal with the rest of their body too. Those of us with dogs might make the mistake of applying dog behaviour to cat behaviour e.g. a wagging tail = happy cat. Wrong! It’s the opposite with cats! Below is a chart to hep you identify what your cat may be trying to tell you. (Picture by Lili Chin. Her books are excellent – go buy!)

Important Things To Notice

  • The position of the tail and whether it is flat or bushy
  • Is your cat tucked up, protecting its body or open and relaxed?
  • Slow relaxed blinks are a sign of a contented cat!
  • A contented cat will happily tuck their legs when sleeping whilst a worried cat will have them facing forward, ready to spring up and run!
  • A cat showing it’s belly is showing you they trust you, NOT asking for a belly rub – touching it’s belly will be directly breaking that trust.

So, next time you see a cat, you’ll know if Felix is asking for that chin scratch… or if he’d rather laze in the sun without it! For more advice regarding your cat’s behaviour, please contact the Joyful Dogs team.

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