Learn Your Cat's Language

Many people assume that cats communicate via meowing, purring, or hissing.

1. Ear Position

Cats have very sensitive hearing to be able to hunt small rodents. But their ears are also used for communication. Cats can swivel their ears and point them in the direction of things they are interested in or relax them in a slightly backwards direction if they are calm. Pulling their ears downwards, straight to the side, or flat back against their heads all suggest fear, aggression or defensiveness.

2. Scratching

Did you know that cats aren’t just sharpening their claws when they scratch? They are also releasing pheromones into the environment. These chemical signals help cats communicate territory and mark safe areas. Providing your cat with opportunities for scratching is important not only for the health of their claws, but also to help them feel safe and confident in their home.

3. Vocalizations

Cats don’t just meow. They make a variety of different sounds, and each can mean different things. Purring has long been a sign of a relaxed and contented cat. However, in certain situations, cats can also purr when they are anxious or nervous. Cats hiss, spit, growl or shriek when they are fearful, in pain or showing aggression. Of course, cats also meow! Meowing is generally done in greeting, as an invitation to interact.

4. Tails Talk

A tail held out and behind suggests a cat is relaxed and friendly. A tail held up with a slight curl can indicate an outgoing and alert cat. However, when a tail is held downward, either with a fast flick or between the legs, the cat is agitated or fearful.

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2018 Pet Obesity Survey Results. Data from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP; 2018)
 
Canadian Animal Health Institute. "Incidence of Dog and Cat Medicalization." Canadian Pet Ownership Study, 2020.
 
Overall, K. 1997. Normal Feline Behaviour. In: Clinical Behavioural Medicine for Small Animals. Mosby.
 
Panaman R. (1981) Behaviour and Ecology of Free-ranging Female Farm Cats (Felis catus L.). Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie. 56(1) 59-73