Cat Communication: A Guide to Feline Body Language
by Danielle Cookish
Cats have been sharing their lives with humans for a long time. In fact, some scientists believe the domestication of cats began over 10,000 years ago! In the United States alone, over 95 million cats live with humans. These numbers tell us one thing – we love cats! As cat parents, we feel like we’ve got great relationships with our feline companions. We know what their meows mean, they know our schedules, and we all love a good playtime. But, how well are we really communicating with our cat companions? Let’s look at some common body language.
THE TRUTH ABOUT TAILS
When we look at a perfectly content, happy dog, that signature tail wag makes us smile because we know that dog is as happy as a clam! Tail wagging in cats means something entirely different. Sometimes referred to as “swishing”, swift movements of a cat’s tail often indicate agitation or frustration and could be a precursor to a bite or scratch. Cats use their tails to expel energy and tell us a great deal about how they’re feeling. If a cat is approaching you with a straight-up tail with a little cane hook on the end (pictured), this kitty is friendly and excited to say hello. A cat with a low tail, swishing back and forth says, “Not now, human!”
THE SLOW BLINK
Have you ever noticed when you offer a very slow blink to a relaxed cat, they often return the gesture? This isn’t a game of copy-cat, but a distinct piece of communication! Cats are predators by nature and remain vigilant to their surroundings almost constantly. The slow closing of their eyes while looking at you is a clear offering of trust and comfort. They are letting you know that they are comfortable around you and trust you so much that they’ll close their eyes to prove it. Try it out!
THE CAT HUG
This behavior takes another page from the dog’s book. When a dog rolls over to show you their tummy, they’re typically asking for belly rubs! You happily oblige their request and everyone is having a great time. When a cat puts their tummy on display, it’s not always an invitation! While some kitties love a good tummy rub, most cats perform this behavior to display trust on an even higher level than the slow blink. A cat choosing to expose the most vulnerable part of their body to you says a lot about you as a cat parent! They fully trust you and are so comfortable with their environment, they’re willing to take a break from being on-guard.
Every cat is unique in their likes and dislikes, but these are some basic body language behaviors to get to know your cat companion on an even deeper level. Happy slow blinking!