The cat’s meow Understanding the feline language and cat behavior

Updated on June 4, 2022

Cute kitten raising her paw

In spite of their lack of facial expression and their tendency to be a little quieter, it doesn’t mean that the mysteries of the feline are impossible to decipher. As a dog owner, you may better understand your pet by paying attention to their voice and body language as well as their daily routines and habits. Your cat’s personality and habits will become so familiar to you over time that you may be able to detect tiny changes in their mood and even notice health concerns before they manifest in the physical world.

Vocalizing

When you can decipher your cat’s extensive chirps and meows, you’ll get a wealth of knowledge. For example, they’ll be more than happy to let you know if they’re hungry, or if they’re feeling amorous or threatened, or in pain.

In contrast to the quieter cats, others will not allow you to speak until you’ve had your say. Cats that are frequently and highly socialised may become more noisy adults, and some breeds, like Siamese and Abyssinians, are already known for their rambling natures.

Cats’ vocalisations can also increase with age. Both dementia associated with old age as well as failing vision can account for this. Meowing may be a cat’s way of seeking reassurance if it is feeling nervous or unsure. Due to their inability to gauge their own level, cats with hearing loss may also yell out louder than usual. Any noticeable change in your cat’s behaviour should prompt an appointment with the veterinarian to ensure that your pet is not ill or in discomfort.

Your cat’s “meow” may be used as a greeting, an order, a disagreement, or an announcement, depending on the context. Some individuals have noticed their cats meowing as they roam the home.
Mother cats direct their kittens to follow them with chirps and trills. It’s likely your cat is beckoning you to follow them, most likely to their food bowl. It’s not uncommon to hear your cats talking to one another in this manner if you have multiple cats.
Cats purr when they’re happy. When a cat is happy, it will purr, and this can happen even while the cat is eating. When a cat is nervous or ill, they may purr in order to soothe themselves, like a toddler sucking their thumb, like a cat.
A cat that is displeased, scared, angry, or aggressive will hiss or spit. Do not disturb this kitty.
In the event that you hear a loud, drawn-out meow or wail from your cat, it means that the animal is in some type of discomfort, such as being trapped in a closet, searching for you or in pain. If your cat is making this noise, locate them. Unaltered cats, on the other hand, make these sounds as part of their mating rituals. You may hear your cat wail because they’re confused, especially if they’ve been diagnosed with dementia.
Birdwatching at the window is when your cat makes noises like chatter, chittering, or twittering. It’s normally a sign of eagerness, but it could also mean they’re thinking about their next snack.

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Body language

It is common for cats to arch their backs to meet your hand as you pet them. This tells you that they’re having a good time being around you. Is it possible for them to vanish with the least provocation? When they’re ready, they’ll be all over you.

The eyes, ears, body, and tail of your cat are all communicating with you. Here are a few fundamental (and at times contradicting) hints:

Ears

  • Forward: Alert, interested or happy
  • Backward, sideways, flat (“airplane ears”): Irritable, angry or frightened
  • Swiveling: Attentive and listening to every little sound

Eyes

  • Pupils constricted: Offensively aggressive, but possibly content
  • Pupils dilated (large): Nervous or submissive (if somewhat dilated), defensively aggressive (if fully dilated), but possibly playful

Tail

  • Erect, fur flat: Alert, inquisitive or happy
  • Fur standing up: Angry or frightened
  • Held very low or tucked between legs: Insecure or anxious
  • Thrashing back and forth: Agitated; the faster the tail, the angrier the cat
  • Straight up, quivering: Excited, really happy or, if your cat hasn’t been neutered or spayed, they could be getting ready to spray something

 

Body

  • Back arched, fur standing up: Frightened or angry
  • Back arched, fur flat: Welcoming your touch
  • Lying on back, purring: Very relaxed
  • Lying on back, growling: Upset and ready to strike

Rubbing

Your cat is showing you how much it loves you by rubbing its chin and body against your skin, right? “Well, sort of.” They’re merely delineating their boundaries. Every surface they come into contact with is rubbed, from chairs to doorknobs to their favourite toys. Everyone, including you, is being told that this is their property.

Kneading

This is sometimes referred to as “making biscuits” since the cat uses their paws to knead bread dough on a soft surface. As children, they used to massage their mother’s teats in order to encourage her to produce milk. During joyous times, your cat will do this.

The Flehmen response

Occasionally, your cat raises their head, squints his or her eyes and opens its mouth slightly while sniffing your shoe. Has this ever occurred to you? Your shoes may smell bad, but that’s not what they’re trying to tell you.

This extra olfactory organ, the Jacobson’s organ, is so vital to your cat’s sense of smell that it is only found in cats. It’s positioned on the roof of their mouth behind their front teeth, and it’s connected to their nose.

Cats open their mouths and inhale to allow the scent molecules to travel over Jacobson’s organ when they detect something interesting. The odour is amplified and more details about the object being sniffed are gleaned.

A key to your cat’s moods

Want to know whether your cat is content, meditating, or just plain miserable? Here are a few pointers:

A contented cat will often knead on a soft surface, with its eyes closed, its ears forward, and its tail tucked under its body.
Playful: Playing is hunting behaviour, and your cat may stalk their prey (a toy, a housemate, or you) before crouching down with their rear end slightly lifted, erecting their ears and whiskers. Once the butt is wiggled, pounce! With their hind feet, your cat will fight and kick their prey to the ground.
As a warning to stop, your cat may growl or put their teeth on you with their tail wagging or twitching if they are annoyed or overstimulated. It’s possible for intense play to swiftly escalate into overstimulation for some felines, resulting in biting and scratching as a result.
When your cat is feeling nervous or frightened, you may notice his or her ears pointing backwards or backwards, pupils dilating, and tail lowered or tucked between his or her legs. They may choose to close their eyes and stare at the wall in an attempt to block out the outside world.
Ears back and flat against their head, whiskers back, back arched, fur standing on end, and tail upright or low—think Halloween cat. It is possible for them to growl, hiss, and spit.
When a cat is in a defensive stance, they may meow, growl, hiss, and spit noisily, with their ears pinned back, whiskers tucked behind their ears, and tails curled around their bodies.
Ears back, pupils constricting, and fur standing on edge, an aggressive cat stares at another cat and growls or yowls until the other cat backs down, allowing the aggressive cat to get away. Cats love standoffs, but if one of the cats refuses to back down, this might lead to a fight.