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7 Cat Body Language You Must Know


Whether you’re a first time cat owner or have a long term furfriend, there will be times where you might wonder why your cat’s behaviors are so different from your dog’s.

Learning how to read feline body language is one of the best ways to understand your cat. Even though cats express themselves vocally, they primarily use their face, tail and body to communicate with each other and with the humans in their lives.

 1. Relaxed

This is a vital part of cat language – relaxed in their familiar environment. Cats love watching how is everything works. That’s their hunting nature. 

  • If your cat is lying down, it could be stretched out, curled up into a ball, or lying on their front with paws neatly tucked underneath them.
  • Cat’s eyes might be blinking softly, or half closed.
  • Cat’s ears will be relaxed, held casually upright and forward.
  • The whiskers will be relaxed, away from the sides of their face, and they may almost appear to smile!
  • Their body is relaxed, with no tension to take any action.

2. Happy

A happy cat is very easy to recognize. This is the state you’ll want you cat to be in as much as possible, as it’s the perfect state for quality time between you and your cat.

  • When sitting, your cat will be relaxed and upright, with ears pointed up and forward, sometimes turning around gently towards familiar sounds like your voices.
  • When lying down, your cat may have their paws tucked neatly underneath them, or be lying stretched out on their side or even on their back, with legs spread outwards, which shows they are very happy! That’s why cats love our rainbow cat bed. The raised rim and doughnut design make them feel comfy and safe.
  • They may snooze with their eyes closed or half open, or look heavy-lidded – almost like they are daydreaming at times! If they blink very slowly, try blinking slowly back to show you’re relaxed too – this mimicking behavior is a great way to bond with your cat.

3. Focused

Your cat may look cute and fluffy, but your cat is born to be an excellent hunter – they can stalk and catch prey with ease, and are capable of focusing 100% on their target. If your cat is concentrating on a small, moving object, or on something new in their immediate area, you’ll notice that their body language will change as they try to work out how to best respond to it. You can get this body language from our best selling cat toy the Chirping Ball™.

  • Their eyes will be open with pupils narrowed.
  • Their ears and whiskers will be pricked forward, with their body angled towards the focus of their attention. This is the look when cat is playing our best selling toy-floppy fish.
  • Their body might be low to the ground as they stalk, with hind legs coiled under their body.

4. Anxious

Your cats can be very sensitive to unexpected change. It can take some time for cats to settle, so learning to read the signs of anxious cat behavior can make you help your cat back to a relaxed state. The sooner you recognize this in your cat’s body language, the sooner you can offer a reassuring stroke when they approach you for reassurance, and some attention. 

  • Your cat's eyes will be open and not blinking, with pupils dilated into an oval or circle. Their ears might move from their relaxed forward position to scan for more information, turning around independently from each other.
  • Their head will begin to lower, with whiskers pulled back to the side to appear small and non-threatening – or even be swept forward on alert.
  • As anxiety increases, your cat might start to cower, or their back might arch to prepare to run.

5. Frightened

Your cat body language is telling you that they’re frightened, and it will only return to normal when they feel safe. Try not to move quickly to comfort them, as you could be seen as another threat. Instead, remove anything that could be causing their fear if you can, and wait for them to calm down.

  • Your cat’s ears are flattened back against their head, which might be lowered with gaze angled upwards.
  • They may run away, or stand or crouch very still if this isn’t possible.
  • Their eyes will be open very wide, with pupils fully dilated and whiskers flattened or bristling.
  • They may hiss or spit at close threats, growl or strike with claws out.
  • Some cats will straighten their front legs to make themselves look taller, or arch their backs and fluff themselves up to look bigger.
  • Their tail may be held under their body, or be slashing vigorously from side to side.

6. Angry

If your cat displays angry behavior, you’ll need to take care of it very carefully. Always avoid provoking an angry cat - don't stare or shout at them, or make sudden movements, and avoid trying to touch or comfort them as they may interpret this as an added threat and lash out. Instead, retreat slowly and give your cat time and space to calm down.

  • An angry cat will be rigid, with tail held out stiff and straight or curled around and under their body.
  • They will act very differently from usual – they could be silent, hissing, spitting or growling.
  • They will try to look large and threatening, with fur erect, stiff front legs, or crouching in a threatening manner.
  • Their ears will be tense, and flat back against their head, and whiskers will be stiff away from their face.
  • Their eyes will be hard and focused. Their pupils may be narrowed, although some cats might have round, unblinking eyes.

7. Relieved

When an angry, scared or frustrated cat feels reassured that the perceived threat has gone, they will likely start to act relieved. Just as it’s important that you recognize when they are feeling angry or frightened, learning to tell when your cat is relieved is key to helping them feel like their normal state again.

  • A cat’s whole body can show relief – some cats even make a full-body stretch to release tension!
  • Their eyes, ears, head, body and tail will all visibly relax.
  • Whiskers will return to a calm, position away from the face, and their head will lower.
  • Some may yawn, turn away and half-close their eyes, or even have a good wash.