Cat talk and cat language puzzles us. Cats have been regarded for centuries as mysterious, solitary, unpredictable creatures because we can’t understand what they're saying. But savvy cat owners can decipher cat language. While people rely primarily on speech to communicate, “felinese” is predominately a silent language. Cats speak by using complex combinations of sign language, vocalization and scent cues. Learn how to recognize cat language basics, and figure out the most common combinations, to understand what your cat is saying to you, and to the other fur-kids.
1. Meows, Purrs and More
2. Ear Talk
Cats also express emotion with their ears, as well as intent. Generally speaking, the more a cat’s ears swivel sideways and backwards, the greater the cat’s arousal.
3. Eye Talk
Cats communicate with their eyelids—how open or closed they are—as well as with the dilation of the iris (black portion of the eye). A sudden dilation (enlarging) of the iris results from sudden arousal which could be due to fear, interest or any other strong emotion.
4. Tail Talk
5. Fur Talk
A healthy, calm cat’s fur rests smoothly against the body. Unkempt fur can indicate ill health. But sudden fluffed hair, including a “bottle brush” tail, suggests fear or aggression.
We can’t detect the scent cues cats use for communication. Among scent tools, cats employ urine and feces, bunting (body rubbing) behavior, and clawing to leave scented Post-It messages that other cats read.
7. Body Talk
The cat’s body posture indicates everything from confidence to fear or submission. To understand the full message, the body talk must be read in conjunction with what the eyes, ears, tail, fur, and vocalizations express.