basic cat body language 101

Cats communicate through their body language, and learning this was one of the first things I picked up when I first kept Slinky as my pet cat.

We all know about cats rubbing their head against you, or purring in response to stroking. Here are some other basic cat-language cues:

  • When your cat walks to you tail straight up, she wants something – food or attention – from you.
  • When your cat blinks at you, and then looks away, it means she likes you. It does not mean she is being rude, on the contrary, she is being friendly.
  • When your cat nibbles on you (like a bite only gentler) it means she is either worried about you, or wants your attention. Slinky did that to me the first time she saw me cry. Sayang does that to me when I haven’t hugged her for the whole day and finally pick her up for a cuddle. Some kittens also suckle on your fingers to mimic drinking milk, which is also a sign of affection (or that they really want their milk bottle).
  • Cats that rub against you are marking you as their territory. It can be seen as a sign of affection, or a demand for something like food or attention.
  • When your cat wags her tail, it usually means she is irritated. If there are younger kittens around, it means that she is teaching the kitten how to play with a moving object mimicking prey.
  • When your cat nose kisses you, it is a sign of affection.
  • When your cat licks you, it is the ultimate sign of affection as she is treating you as part of her family and engaging in mutual grooming.

Consequently, apart from understanding your cat more, it also helps in training and obedience. For example, when you scold your cat for something, stare straight at him and not look away in anger, because that will be misinterpreted as praise. Cats don’t actually understand scolding and punishment too well, so that will help some.

As for me, when I actually use human language to talk to my cats, they sometimes respond to me back with a meow. I also encourage them to meow when they need something instead of sitting there still and waiting for me to realise. And they all have different sounding meows just as they have different bells on their collars so I know who is who even without looking – that’s like our very own Meow-lingual!

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