Understanding cat behaviour
Posted on 15 August, 2016
Many people think that dogs are fairly straightforward to understand. After all, they have been living alongside man for centuries and most dog owners can easily understand their body language.
They wag their tails when happy, jump up at us when excited and pleased to see us, and will learn to sit, lie and offer their paw willing – especially if a treat or two is presented.
Cats on the other hand, are much more independent and on the surface less domesticated. One minute they can be affectionate and cuddly, the next they can look irritated and aloof.
Understanding some of the subtle body signals cats use to communicate can make looking after cats a hugely rewarding experience.
Cats are very sensitive to change so if you are looking after a cat for the first time be patient and don’t try and touch the cat if it’s clear they don’t want you to.
We’ve put together some of the most common ways cats interact with humans which will help you understand what a cat may be feeling:
- Holding their tails high – just like dogs, cat’s tails tell us a lot about how they are feeling. If she greets you with her tail held up she is happy to see you. If it’s tucked between her legs or wagging she may not be so happy.
- Relaxed walking – if your cat is walking slowly around the room, ears in a relaxed position and pupils not dilated she is pleased to see you and very happy. Flattened ears, tail down and dilated pupils on the other hand indicate something is up or they are not happy to be near you.
- Crouching and tail tucked into body – if your cat is doing this and their body is held very tight then again they don’t want to be near you. Take some time and just ignore them. They may come round once they relax again.
- Rolling and showing its belly – this kind of behaviour usually indicates a happy and relaxed cat that would be happy for you to stroke it. Be careful though if you don’t know the cat well. They can swipe you very quickly with a sharp claw, even if they are just playing.
- Rubbing their heads against your leg – cats will head-butt people they like with their foreheads and chins as a way of showing affection. This also leaves a scent with is also a form of communication and identification.
- Stretching and yawning – a movement that is used to release tension and relax. Cats may do this after waking up or to show you they are relieved you are home.
- Kneading – cats love working their paws on a soft surface such as your duvet or your lap. It stems from when they were young and they massaged their mother’s teats to get the milk. It means the cat is really happy!
- Meowing – a cat also uses vocal sounds to communicate. A cat may ‘meow’ for many reasons, to say hello, because they want some food or they have bought you a ‘gift’ (a bird or mouse!)
- Purring - is a sign of contentment; growling, hissing and spitting means the cat is annoyed and should be left alone. A howl indicates the cat is in distress or in unneutered and unspayed cats; it can be part of a mating ritual.
So that’s just a few of the ways our feline friends communicate. Next time you spend some time with a cat see how many ways you can notice they are communicating with you.
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