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How cats communicate

Cats language is largely made of body language, physical contact, sounds, and scents, like most animals. Without words, cats still manage to show affection, tell you what they want, and warn off whoever annoys them.

So, how do cats communicate with humans? How do cats communicate with other cats? Mostly, the way cats communicate with each other and the way cats communicate with humans is similar.

Physical contact

Felines show affection by licking and rubbing heads together, and sometimes cats bite playfully because their mother groomed them when they were kittens, so in their minds, grooming is associated with affection.

Using touch to show affection is a common feline behavior, like sitting on a human’s lap and sleeping very close to another cat, for example. Or shoving their muzzles into your hand or leg.

Body language

Relaxation: Cats knead when they’re relaxed and content. They also blink slowly. Some cats may roll on their backs, exposing their vulnerable belly. Their tails move lazily sideways.

Tension: A frightened cat’s ears flatter, its body tenses, and fur may stand on edge. When a cat is very stressed, they may drool.

Aggression: nails unfolded and visible, ready to attack. The cat arches its back to appear larger. The paw may be raised, ready for attack, nails unfolded and visible.

Happiness and confidence: Tail up. Sometimes, the tail may be held high and stiff but trembling as a sign of love and happiness. It means, ‘I’m crazy about you!’

indecision: The tip of the tail swinging slightly from side to side

Playfulness, excitement: Tip of tail flipping sideways faster. With kittens, sometimes the hairs on the tail are raised.

You can learn a lot by a cat’s stare. You can see anger or love and happiness just by looking in their eyes. Cats have very expressive eyes.

In my mind, I see only you, me, and a can of tuna. Slowly and gracefully, your fingers tighten around the can opener that shines a tantalizing silver in the moonlight. (A bit of feline poetry never hurt anyone).

How do cats communicate with their tails?

Playfulness: a curved or twitching tail.

Anger: the tails slaps sideways fast.

Fear: tail tucked between the hind legs.

Happiness: tail up high and straight.

I’m crazy about you: tail up, stiff and slightly trembling.

Cats communicate through sounds

Anger and fear: Cats hiss and growl when feeling threatened. There’s also the famous feline battle mew that sounds like a scream, and the angry moaning, snarling, and spitting.

Stalking prey: Cats chirp when watching birds.

You can get electrocuted on this cable. As a concerned citizen, I find it my duty to inform you your behavior is irresponsible and alarming. Suppose you come over so we can talk about this in a civilized manner?

Calm and content: Cats purr when calm, but they also purr sometimes in painful situation, maybe in order to calm themselves.

Cats mew in order to receive attention, get food or a cuddle, welcome their beloved human servant home, or complain.

Cats communicate through scent

Cats rub themselves against objects and their favorite humans in order to leave their scent and let other creatures know this is their personal property. You cat rubbing against you is claiming you as his own.

Cats also mark their territory by spraying.

Final words

Cats language is easy on the words, high on expression, body language, physical contact, and scents.

Cats language is more honest than human language, because humans can lie, but most cats don’t control their body language well enough to pretend. Although this can happen, it’s not as usual as lying among humans.

Cats language is somehow limited. It can’t tell a story or location. But to make up for the missing details, feline communication is high on emotions. You can see what they’re feeling. Feline language is short and direct.

If you liked this post – share it! Sharing is greatly appreciated. It’s equals purring.

To keep your cat from scratching your furniture, kept him entertained, and turn him into a computer nerd, get this cardboard laptop scratching mat, with a toy mouse. Click to learn more.

More cats toys here.


8 thoughts on “How cats communicate

  1. I used to love how Chloe would initiate play, but if it ever got too rough, she’d slap you or smack her tail back and forth. Every time, I read your blog, I miss my kitty. We are holding off getting a new one right now but hanging on to those memories. When she went, she was just lying there and when she heard my voice she perked up and I could feel her body relax. I knew she was glad we were there. Thanks for the memories.


    1. This is so sad. Reminds me of my Angel and Milky that I lost years ago, but it still hurts. Losing a pet is such an awful, devastating experience. It was a nightmare for me.

      All I can say is, it gets better with time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know it does but that’s a big reason we haven’t gotten a new pet. Our cats live a long time and I’m in my mid 70’s and if another lived as long as Chloe, (our previous one was 23) it would miss us as well. We tried adopting an older cat once who’d lost her owner and she was inconsolable. We thought she was going to be okay, but then she staked out a territory and would attack anyone who tried to pass by. I’d never seen anything like it and we’re cat people. She just wouldn’t take to anyone. I think the husband probably eventually put her down. She wouldn’t even accept him. I don’t want that for any of my pets. In her old age, Chloe did the same thing and hissed and snapped at my mom in law, who she knew since she’d been a kitten. We were the only ones she liked. It was weird.


      2. Cats are weird.

        My Princessa had leapt in through the window with her four kittens years ago, and she’d settled in the cardboard box I’d kept for Hazelnut in the laundry room. She put the kittens in there, and had hissed at me every time I went in to do my laundry. She’d mock-charge me. She’s fixed now, and the kittens had grown up and left.

        I just couldn’t take care of them as well as then three other cats, it would’ve been seven cats, and I work for minimum wage. I did buy them some kitten food, though.

        Liked by 1 person

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