Cats make fascinating pets. They have a distinctly Jekyll and Hyde quality to them, the deadly predator one minute then sleeping sweetly the next. Also just like us they have different personalities, they may be bold or anxious, sociable or more self-contained. Have you ever wondered they do certain things? There are so many facts about cats that the more you understand the reasons for cat behaviour the better you get to really know and love your cat. We may not speak the same language but we can still communicate with our cat, especially if we tune in to their body language and voice sounds. If you take time to learn these signals you’ll get an idea of what’s on your cat’s mind.
How do cats communicate?
Vocalising is one way your cat communicates in meows, chirps and hisses. Your cat may use “meow” as a greeting like “Hello” or to ask for something like “Open the door” or “Can I have some food?”
If your cat does a little “chirrup” or “trill” they often want you to follow them. You often hear cats talking to each other in this way.
Why do cats purr? The classic “purr” sound usually means they are content but it may signify anxiety or even pain as a cat giving birth will often purr, experts believe it may be a way of self-soothing. A “growl” or “hiss” comes from an angry, scared or seriously irritated cat.
A “howl” may indicate pain or severe stress or it may be heard in unneutered cats as part of mating behaviour. Your cat may ”chatter” between their teeth when watching birds or squirrels.
Cat body language
You can pick up a lot about how your cat feels by looking at their body language.
Cats eyes and ears
Their eyes and ears can give you pointers. Half-closed eyes with slow blinks usually indicate that your cat is relaxed and comfortable. On the other hand, big, dilated pupils suggest anxiety and fear. Under these circumstances, avoid staring at them because a direct stare can be threatening.
An angry hostile cat usually has narrowed eyes, and when this is combined with a growl or hiss that means “leave me alone”.
Your cat’s ears are very expressive and can give you quite a good indication of their mood. If the cat is relaxed, their ears will point slightly forwards and to the side. Should something catch their attention, they’ll become erect and be held forward to pick up as much information as possible.
Twitching ears indicate agitation and uncertainty, and if they are held flat against his head, they are grumpy and you are in the firing line for a scratch or a bite.
Cat’s tail and body
A confident cat will carry their tail high, often with a bend in the tip. If it is held low between the back legs that’s a sign of insecurity and uncertainty. The back and forth tail swish means they’re ready to attack, either prey or a cat toy! When they make their tail all bushy and big they are feeling threatened and want to create the biggest silhouette they can to scare off whatever it is that’s frightened them.
When your cat’s back is arched and its fur is standing on end, it’s scared or angry. When its fur is flat and its back is arched they are happy and would like a stroke.
Why do cats knead?
Cats kneading is a sign they feel content. When your cat kneads your lap by extending and retracting its claws before eventually settling down it means they feel safe and happy.
When your cat was a kitten it would have kneaded its mother to make her milk flow. So when your cat does this to you they feel like you are the surrogate parent.
Why do cats scratch?
Cats sharpen their claws by ripping off the old cover of the claw to reveal a new one underneath. Unfortunately your furniture is ideal for this so encourage the use of a scratching post, impregnated with Catnip.
What is Catnip?
Many cats go wild over Catnip plant. It’s a minty lemony herb called Nepeta Cataria.
Not all cats react to it but if yours does it only takes a few sniffs and they are blissed out. It makes some cats mellow and calm, others seriously mad and playful.
Their ”high” lasts for about quarter of an hour. The good news is it’s not addictive and very safe for your cat.
It’s often used in toys or to train cats to do certain things like scratch in the right place.
Why do cats like running water?
Some cats ignore their water bowl and prefer to drink water from the kitchen or bathroom tap. It may be because the water is fresher and tastes better or it may be an evolutionary throwback to when they were wild and didn’t have water put out for them.
You can actually buy cat water fountains, or just let the cat drink from the tap!
Once you understand your cat’s behaviour and body language you’ll be able to pick up on problems.
Stress and anxiety can lead to unusual behaviours such as going to the toilet outside the litter tray or cat spraying.
No-one knows your cat as well as you so you’ll be able to identify their unique signals and pick up on any potential problem behaviour and how to deal with it.
By watching and listening to your cat you’re able to work out how he’s feeling and what he wants from you and deepen the pet and owner bond.