How To Read Cat Body Language – Complete Guide

With the countless cat videos on Youtube and celebrity cats on social media with millions of followers, they prove to be a great entertainment source. Despite this popularity, if you’ve encountered one yourself, you probably know that it is not always easy to understand their language and communicate with them.

Cats can come to seek love and affection from their owners and then, without any warning, give them a big paw kick. How to read cat body language?

Although the cat’s body language can help us decode a full range of expressions, most people are not good at that in positive or negative situations. Studies have shown that women are better at understanding feline expressions than men. It is not surprising given that research has found that women are generally more skilled at interpreting non-verbal emotional cues, as seen with human babies and dogs.

Understanding cats’ expressions improve the bond between them and their owners and ensures that they receive proper love, care, and affection.

How to read cat body language?

Experts believe that the language of cats has more than 25 different visual cues in 16 combinations. We don’t necessarily need to interpret all of them; we can learn to understand the basics. 


  • Rubbing against the legs of people he loves and trusts (it can also be a way of asking for food)
  • Lick his owner
  • Rollover on his back
  • Curl up against a family member
  • Lay his head or rub his nose on the neck or forehead of his owner
  • Nibble without hurting

Happy and content

Face: Ears forward, vibrissae relaxed, and eyes half-open. He can also blink slowly. 

Posture: Sitting or lying down while extending the body or folding the front legs under the chest.


Face: Straight ears that turn to follow noises, or flattened ears. Large eyes with dilated pupils. Vibrissae are pointing downwards and to the back. 

Posture: Curl up. It can pull its tail to the back between the legs or wiggle on both sides.


Face: Pupils fully dilated, eyes wide open that do not blink. He will flatten his ears against his head.

Posture: Tail pulled back between its legs, or wiggling vigorously to the sides with an arched back. The hairs on the back and tail will be bristling, and its front legs outstretched while the back legs will be bent and lowered. The tail will look bigger than usual. He can attack with his paws if he has nowhere to run away from what scares him. 


Face: Mouth open showing the teeth. Eyes are wide open, no blinking with fine-slits pupils. He will flatten his ears against his tilted back head.

Posture: Rises to full height, with the coat bristling to appear bigger, or flattens to the ground ready to pounce. 

Tail signals

Wriggles on the sides: A sign that your cat is starting to get irritated.

Striking the tail against the ground: A warning sign. Your cat is telling you that he wants to be left alone.

Tail following a large arc: A sign of aggression, your cat, is about to pounce.

Spiky hairs on tail and back: Your cat feels threatened, this is a sign of fear and anxiety.

Tail tucked in between the legs: A sign of submission.

Tail relaxed, at a slight downward angle: A relaxed and content cat.

Tail erected, with or without a curve at the end: A typical welcoming posture, your cat is feeling happy and wants to interact with you.

Tail erect, quivering or trembling: Your cat is about to mark his territory, or is very excited. 


While some cats are known to be talkative (like the Siamese), others are more discreet. However, all of them have learned to meow to make themselves understood. 

– Purr sound: It is still partly mysterious but often interpreted as a sign of well-being; This happens when you pet him or eats something he loves. Purring can also signal distress. In this case, the cat purrs for reassurance.

– Meow sound: Meowing is a vocal expression that cats only use with human beings. The cat’s meowing should not be confused with chirping, a series of small cries used when the cat observes something that he wants but cannot reach (a bird for example). 

– Grunting/whistle: Both sounds indicate aggression or danger. They allow the cat to intimidate its attacker and are part of its self-defense mechanism. 

If your cat regularly hisses and growls over, tries to scratch you, or bite you when you touch it, this may indicate discomfort or injury. Likewise, if you notice that your cat is “walking on eggshells” or that it is isolated and curled up, then consult your vet as soon a possible. 


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