Cat Body Language

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Learning About Your Cat's Body Language

cat yawning

You've got a kitty, as nuzzling and proud as they come - but cats can be quite confusing from time to time. They are highly intelligent and capable, able to make over 100 sounds compared to about 10 sounds that dogs are able to make. 

While they can make all the sounds in the world, their mews and pews are only one form of communication to tune into. Felines have an array of body language cues that give complex and meaningful insight into what he may be thinking. It is important to understand your kitty, because a thousand mews and tail shakes don't mean a thing if you're not pickin' up what they're puttin' down!

Cat Bathroom Body Language

cat body language with kitty litter

In the wild, Meowser poops and pees wherever he may please! In his comfy high-rise condo, he's gotta think twice before he lets out the leftovers from last night's dinner. 

Training a cat to use the litter box is incredibly easy, many cats adopted from shelters are able to seamlessly find the proper sandy spot and use the bathroom. 

When your kitty is not using the brown box, it is easy to assume that your cat has some domesticated resentment toward humanity and is taking it out on you - and, by consequence, your shag carpet. 

I know we don't like to hear it, but not everything is about us. Cats using the bathroom outside of the litter box is almost always for biological issues. If you notice pee in strange places, it may be time to ask the question, "Does my cat have a UTI?"

Urinary tract infections in cats are nothing to mess with and can get dangerous quickly. These infections mostly affect male felines, but females can get them too! An infected urinary tract can form painful urethra crystals, and can even form a urethra plug - making it somewhere between difficult and impossible to use the bathroom.

If your cat is prone to these infections, put him on a urinary tract support supplement. If he currently has an issue, take him to your local vet and have him looked at immediately.

If kitty keeps his streak of peeing on the furniture going and his urinary tract is as healthy as ever, it very well could be behavioral. Cats are big on texture and not all kinds of kitty-litter are up to snuff for Snuggles. 

Experiment with different kinds of kitty-litter and try placing the litter box in places of comfort, so he views using the bathroom in a paw-sitive light.

Your Cat's Ears

A tabby cats ear

We mostly think of dogs as the ones with roving satellite ears, but cats also have incredibly dynamic hearing equipment. With a feline's senses constantly on the prowl, the ears are a wellspring of cat body language information.

When the ears are flat or pinned back against their head, Fluffy is feeling either defensive or aggressive - either way, he may be ready to pounce, so tread lightly.

Ears bent forward mean your cat is at ease and may feel compelled to play with his cat momma.

Ears facing backwards or sideways is an odd thing to see, their ears are in-fact not stuck like that, but they are likely feeling annoyed, nervous or aggressive.

Ears straight up at attention mean exactly that, he is on high-alert, looking to investigate the hubbub. 

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Your Cat's Tail

a cats tail lying down on pavement

Your cat's tail is connected to her body and controlled by her feline brain, although we wouldn't get down on you for thinking otherwise. Their tails appear as though they have a mind of their own - gently swaying through the breeze only to become stiff like a suspicious cobra. 

Fortunately for cat owners everywhere, feline experts have studied their tails idiosyncrasies and largely understand what they mean.

When pensive and unsure, your kitty will move his furry appendage slowly back and forth as he is likely sizing up the situation, trying his best to figure out how he feels.

We all know the common image of the black halloween cat with his curved tail, but do kitties actually do this? You bet! He does this to appear bigger than he actually is, to scare off intimidators.

A cat with his tail arching above his body to the sky is a happy and approachable meowser. If your cat has had the gato grumps lately and you catch him was an upright tail, go in for a pet - it's the best shot you have!

If your cat's tail has succumbed to the desires of gravity and is down toward the ground, he may feel afraid or threatened - it is best to ensure your furball is not in danger and to give him some old-fashioned space.

If you've got a cat wagging his tail, your first instinct may be to congratulate him for his charismatic dog-like charade. In this situation, your cat is not happy or being inviting - quite the opposite, really. He is likely feeling aggravated and should be given space.

Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?

You may have a cat as chill as can be, but there are many felines out there that would be wise to borrow some dog calming aid from their canine buddy. 
A cat chasing his tail is funny, entertaining, and typically completely natural.
Taxonomically, cats are under the order Carnivora. As obligate carnivores, they are natural hunters. Not all hunters are born FeLions. Kitties need training and will use every resource available. Kittens in the wild will hunt flies, slow-roving beetles, and injured small game as ways to hone their hunting mastery and build confidence for an actual hunt once they're older.
When a cat is domesticated, his urge to hunt is just as strong, only his tools are extremely limited in terms of hunting education. One thing that they did not leave in the tall grass is their bushy, enigmatic tail!
Your cat will very likely spend a comedic amount of time hunting the prey attached to his bottom, at least when the red laser is not beaming across the room.
When your cat is in its developmental stage, it is wise to provide him with toys to chase and maul, his tail will thank you for it!

While the tail-chase is normal and quite explainable, a cat who is obsessive with his tail-induced romp may be signs of hyperesthesia. Hyperesthesia can be looked at as OCD mixed with bi-polar disorder. It is known for obsessive behavior, including manic and aggressive episodes. 

If you notice your cat is exhibiting this kind of behavior, have him checked out by your local veterinarian.

Your Cat's Eyes

a gray cat with blue eyes

Attempting to gauge the eyes is one of the trickiest aspects of understanding cat body language. It is still important to understand, though, as communication is in the eye of both the beholder and beholden.

If you happen upon your kitty and notice his eyes are partly closed and slowly blinking, he is likely communcating relaxation and trust - a relaxed kitty is a happy kitty!

When a cat's pupils seem larger than normal, they are dilated. Dilated feline eyes signal fear or surprise. When your cat's pupils are impossibly small, they are considered constricted. Constricted pupils may communicate feelings of stress or agitation. Your cat may even be ready to hack up a hairball and be in need of a hairball aid!

Have a cat with interesting body language? Let us know in the comments!

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