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Understanding Your Cat’s Gestures

One of the biggest mysteries in the world is the fact that we humans have beasts inside our homes in the shape of cats. We don’t understand them but we still care and love them like a family member. Their moans, grunts, screeches, and even non-verbal ways of communication such as pawing and even scratching is enough for us to connect with them.

Photo by Humberto Arrelano on Unsplash

But yet again, cats are still animals, and most of their gestures cannot easily be understood by many owners. What does it mean when a cat wags its tail rapidly? Is it happy or angry upon seeing you? If you have a cat that does a particular gesture that you don’t seem to get the meaning, here are information about cat gestures that should improve communication with your feline friend!

Common and uncommon cat gestures

Like other domesticated animals, cats use their entire bodies to communicate with humans. However, the major body parts they use are:

  •     Eyes
  •     Ears
  •     Tails
  •     Paws
  •     Whiskers

On a normal day, when a cat is feeling relaxed, it will be usually lying around with its tail either slowly swaying, curled into a ball, or just resting straightly. Its eyes will be droopy as if it’s sleepy, and its ears will be horizontal with its whiskers on its normal state.

And perhaps, one of the most common cat gestures that many people, even non-owners, can note seeing from a cat is how they rub themselves on our ankles. This goes beyond the notion that cats are showing their love for you. More about this below!

When they need something from you

Anyone who owns a cat knows how quiet cats can get. Most of them are lurkers that can suddenly spring to action if they are hungry, distressed, or threatened. When a cat starts meowing or screeching, it means they need something from you, and it all boils down to the frequency and pitch of their voices to know how intense their need is. 

If your cat goes to you on soft tones, it maybe is just glad to see you and needs your affection through petting. This goes as well to a cat with a low purr, and it must be emitting these sounds to try to get a food or asking you to open a door or a window so it could come out of the house. A frustrated cat could go all day with this, and they’ll even put on an annoyed face just to obtain what they want.

 Photo by Makhmutova Dina on Unsplash

On the other hand, a boisterous shriek from a cat could mean it has an extreme need – your tabby must be thoroughly famished or is in pain or threatened by other cats or strangers. When you see your cat producing deep but ear-piercing growls directly at you, it must be best to stay back as they could pounce at any moment.

When they are guarded

Cats have ultra-keen senses, and they can be quickly apprehensive and fearful of things that are new to them. A guarded cat, whether through anxiety of being in a new place or meeting a new person, could have the following:

  •     Low head
  •     Dilated pupils
  •     Tail slowly rocking
  •     Pulled back

Cats are very guarded about their survival and if anything threatens it, their anxious state could escalate to fear and then anger. A fearful cat will show these certain body gestures:

  •     Flat ears
  •     Dilated pupils
  •     Tail tucked between its legs
  •     Exposed fangs
  •     Bared claws
  •     Arched back so it could appear bigger
  •     Whiskers can go from flattened to forward

An angry cat will display similar gestures above, albeit on a more intense level. They could start growling with a stiffer body, a wagging tail, and an even more enraged facial expression.

Cats who are exhibiting this behavior could be dangerous as they could strike any moment. Know that they cannot be simply consoled with hushed voices or by touching them. It’s better to let them be until they calm down.

When they are showing their love

As much as dogs, cats are very loving towards the people around them, especially if they are treated well. While cats cannot express their love through words, they show it through the body parts that we’ve already mentioned.

A cat will push their heads on you to show how much they adore you, complete with an arched back and a curved tail. And remember the rub-on-your-ankles gesture we’ve mentioned above? And how we’ve said it is more than showing a cat’s love to you? This type of motion is actually your feline buddy rubbing their scent on you as a way of claiming their possession.

Oh, yes! 

Your cat owns you! And they are simply marking their territory. How sweet is that?

Photo by Ramiz Dedaković on Unsplash

This could also be coupled with kneading (cats don’t do this often and you must be very special to receive this) or them just being cuddly with you. This is not a standard to every cat, though. Some cats can express their love to you differently such as play-biting or giving you eyes that are gradually blinking (strange as it sounds, this means your cat actually fancies you)! 

Communicating with your cat through gestures

We really hope we had shed some light to the gestures your cat is exhibiting. There are still a lot of gestures we haven’t covered, but this doesn’t mean you should be afraid to respond to strange gestures your cat is giving you. You just need time to understand them. Nonetheless, the very tip we could bestow you now is this: love your cats dearly.

True, cats can be unpredictable and they might seem to get angry at their owners without a reason but a loved cat should show more affection to the owner than frustration. And as it with other pets, you and your cat could learn to understand each other through the tone of your voice, your gestures to each other, and by treating them right as an owner.

In closing

Cats are often stereotyped as emotionless pets, but this is not true at all! While cats are not as giddy as dogs, they offer a much more complex language system that should be a fun challenge for anyone who is willing to decode them. 

We would love to hear stories about your cat’s gestures and what you found out about them. Leave something on the comments below!


About the Author:

Charles is a certified pet-lover who writes for RestoraPet. He, together with his wife, enjoys doing volunteer work in various animal shelters at his city.

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