Language our Feline Friends speak


Dr. Ashwani Kumar Singh
A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not. — Ernest Hemingway
Cats are known for their emotional opaqueness and standoffishness; they even may seem mysterious to some. They use special noises like growls, howls, chirps, meows, hisses and some other ways like eyes movements, position of the ears and motion of tail to convey their emotions – happiness, sorrow, anger, and hunger. Your feline friend talks to you all the time. Paying attention to your cat’s sounds and signals deepens and strengthens the bond between you and your feline friend. These clues will help you to figure out the feeling and intention of your lovely furry feline friend.
Tail – Many hidden secrets!
A cat’s tail is amazing and the most eloquent of all when it comes to feline body language. Her tail can help you gauge an array of feelings. Anywhere from relaxed and
comfortable to frightened and agitated.

  • Tail in the Air – When your cat holds her tail high in the air as she moves about her territory, she’s expressing confidence and contentment. A tail that sticks straight up signals happiness and a willingness to be friendly. And watch the tip of an erect tail. A little twitch can mean a particularly happy moment.
  •  A Question Mark (?) – A cat who approaches you with an erect tail with a tiny hook like a question mark at the end is saying, “I’m friendly and I’m also just a
    tiny bit tentative and curious. May I come to you?” This tail position often signals a playful mood and a cat who’s ready to share some fun with you
  • Straight Downward – A tail positioned straight down can signal aggression. A lower tail is an indication of serious mood. However, certain breeds, such as Persians, tend to carry their tails low for no particular reason.
  • Hunting Tail – When cats are stalking rodents or their favourite interactive toys, they hunker down with their tails stretched out behind them. The very endof their tails twitch just the tiniest bit, as if it’s the only way they have to discharge some of the adrenalin coursing through their bodies.
  • Wrapping – A tail wrapped around another cat is like you putting your arm around another person. It conveys friendship.
  • Swishing – A tail that sways slowly from side to side usually means your cat is focused on an object. You might see this tail position right before your cat pounceson a toy or her food.

Ears – Not just for listening!
A cat’s ears are rather remarkable. More than two dozen muscles are dedicated to moving the ears; they can rotate 180 degrees; they can even move independently.
It shouldn’t be a shock that your cat’s super mobile ears are also one major way that they communicate to one another and to us

  • I’m Relaxed – When your feline friend is relaxed, her ears will face forward and slightly tilted back to the side.
  • I’m Alert – An alert cat’s ears will stand straight up and forward. Watch for these ears the next time you walk in the door, or if your cat is looking out the window
    at a bird.
  •  I’m Nervous, Anxious, or Fearful – Anxious or fearful cats will turn their ears back and flatten them down. The more anxious or fearful the cat is, the flatter the ears will. A nervous cat’s ears may twitch.
  • I’m Angry – Fearful or angry cats flatten ears tight to the head. This keeps the ears out of range of claws and teeth, in the preparation for either fight or flight. Cats with slicked-back ears will attack if you ignore the warning.

Eyes – Window to their soul!
Cats talk with their eyes. Look into your cat’s eyes and you can tell a lot about her state of mind. The direction of your cat’s gaze will direct you to the subject of attention. But
gazes vary. Some are intense and focused while others are haphazard. Although a fixed gaze and rigid body posture might mean hostility, the same look might be soliciting
petting or some other form of attention in a relaxed, purring cat.

  •  I’m Aroused – Any strong emotional arousal like fear, anger, pleasure, can result in the sudden contraction of your kitty’s pupil into a slit. You may see
    kitty’s pupil contract when presented with a full bowl of favourite food, and sometimes, her eyes might do this when surprised by the introduction of a
    new friend.
  •  I Trust You – Your feline friend would open her eyes wide when she is alert. Exposing wide open eyes to potential injury can be a sign of great trust.
  • It’s My Territory – Kitty’s eyes that stare unblinkingly from a distance can be a sign of dominance, or even aggression. Simply by using this unblinking stare, a single cat can warn off and keep other felines from approaching an “owned” pathway to food bowls, litter box, or another important territory.

Some Special Clues

  •  Rubbing – When your kitty rubs her body, cheeks or chin against you, you think she is telling you that she loves you, right? Well, sort of. What she really
    doing is marking her territory with subtle biological scents. You may also notice that she rubs couch, toys also. She is trying to tell everyone that this is her
    stuff, including you.
  • Furniture scratching – Furniture scratching is not the cat’s way of sharpening her claws but is a form of visual and scent marking. Your cat’s paws are equipped with scent glandsto facilitate this function. Territorial concerns will increase furniture scratching/marking and should be addressed if furniture scratching becomes a problem.
  • Anal sac secretions – Your cat may sometimes discharge anal sac secretions in situations of extreme fear. These secretions are thought to contain a fear pheromone that serves to remind the cat not to pass that way again.
  • Kneading – This is sometimes called “making biscuits,” because the cat works their paws on a soft surface as if they’re kneading bread dough. It’s a holdover from kittenhood, when a nursing kitten massaged their mother’s teats to make milk flow. Your cat does this when they are really happy.

By knowing what your kitty is trying to say, you’ll be able to predict her mood, intentions, and needs in a better way. Whether she is hungry, sick, happy, or in playful mood, you’ll understand and be better equipped to give her what she needs. So, next time you are alone with your cat and don’t have anything to do, try reading your cat’s mind. You’ll probably learn something you didn’t know before. (Dr Ashwani Kumar Singh, BVSc & AH, is a veterinary physician & surgeon based in Kanpur)