You may think that your cat plays because it is displaying infantile behavior and not…
Do you ever get the idea your cat is trying to tell you something that you can’t quite understand? You can learn a lot about your feline friends’ opinions by watching their body language. Most people know that if the tail swishes back and forth, the cat is upset. And laid back ears mean it’s not just upset, it may be ready to attack. But tail, eyes, and ears are even more expressive than that.
Let’s start with tails. When a cat’s tail stands straight up, it means your little pal is very happy. A straight tail can also mean it’s interested in something. A bit of curl at the tip indicates slight puzzlement, and the need for the cat to explore further. A “bristling” tail shows fear, if your cat is startled or perhaps meets a dog unexpectedly. Sometimes the “bristle” carries right along the back, with the fur on the spine standing up as well.
One of the most fun positions is the “chase me” tail, where the bottom half goes up, as though it’s going into “happy tail” mode, but then bends almost at a right angle away from its rear. If your cat holds its tail like this and starts trotting away, it may want to play.
Another means of expression, as for most other animals, is the eyes. If a relaxed cat looks at you with open eyes, then gradually closes them before opening them again, that’s like a “kitty kiss.” Even with standoffish cats, you can share loving moments across the room with this gesture. Look at your cat’s eyes, then slowly close your own and open them again. Kitty will probably follow suit. And you’ve just expressed your affection to one another, even if you can’t touch.
Cats also convey irritation as we do, by sort of “lowering their brows” or making their eyes look a bit pinched together. One look at this expression and you know kitty is royally put out with you.
Watching the slit in the middle of the eyes gives other emotional clues. A narrow slit means the cat is peaceful and content. But if the kitty senses a need to be alert, those slits will widen until the pupils become big round black holes, to let in as much light as possible. If your cat’s pupils suddenly go big and round, look for whatever has gotten its attention. It may not be a dog or an enemy either – it might be fresh food in its dish! And watch for that little glint of mischief in a cat’s eyes that tell you it’s about to go bouncing off the walls, or really wants to play.
The ears are equally expressive. Even when relaxed, they’ll remain alert, moving around to detect interesting sounds. Ears that suddenly perk up and turn forward mean that kitty is really paying attention. If they stay that way for long, the cat could be feeling aggressive. Ears flattened and pressed back on the head indicate aggression and anger; the cat is protecting its ears as it prepares to attack or defend itself.
An entertaining habit many cats display is when they seem to ignore you as you talk. But if they’re just pretending, and are actually listening, their ears always betray them: one or both will turn slightly back in your direction. So don’t let your cat fool you.
Watch your kitty friend carefully, and you’ll start to see what its tails, eyes, and ears tell you about its mood. This can help you decide when it’s safe to pick up the cat, when it’s feeling cuddly, or when it just wants to be left alone. By responding accurately to a cat’s moods, you can develop a much closer relationship with it.