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  • Writer's pictureLeisa Davidson

Feline Body Language: Understanding the Signs and Signals

Updated: Feb 15

Feline body language is a very complex form of communication that cats use to express their emotions, intentions, and needs. By understanding the different ways that cats use their bodies to communicate, we can better understand their behaviour and build stronger relationships with them.


Here are some of the basic signs of common feline body language

  1. Ears: Cats’ ears are very expressive, and they can be used to convey a wide range of emotions. For example, a cat with ears that are held back and flattened against its head is feeling threatened or scared. A cat with ears that are held up and pointed forward is feeling alert or curious.

  2. Tail: A cat’s tail is another important part of its body language. A cat with a tail that is held high and straight is feeling confident or playful. A cat with a tail that is held low and tucked between its legs is feeling submissive or fearful.

  3. Eyes: Cats’ eyes are also very expressive. A cat with dilated pupils is feeling excited or aroused. A cat with constricted pupils is feeling threatened or scared.

  4. Mouth: A cat’s mouth can also be used to communicate. A cat that is licking its lips is feeling anxious or stressed. A cat that is showing its teeth is feeling aggressive or defensive.

  5. Body posture: A cat’s body posture can also give us clues about its mood. A cat that is standing tall with its fur fluffed up is feeling threatened or scared. A cat that is lying down with its belly exposed is feeling relaxed and content.


Signs your cat is happy


  1. A relaxed body posture. A happy cat will typically have a relaxed body posture, with its ears up and its tail held in a neutral position.

  2. A slow, blinking gaze. When a cat is happy, it will often blink slowly at you. This is a sign of trust and affection.

  3. Purring. Purring is a classic sign of contentment and happiness in cats.

  4. Head bumps. Head bumps are another way that cats show affection. When a cat head bumps you, it is essentially rubbing its scent on you to mark you as its territory.

  5. Basking in the sun. Cats love to soak up the sun, and they will often do this when they are feeling happy and content.

  6. Playing. Cats are naturally playful creatures, and they will often play when they are happy.

  7. Grooming themselves. Grooming is a way for cats to show that they are feeling relaxed and content.

  8. Meowing. Meowing can be a sign of happiness, but it can also mean other things, such as hunger or boredom. It is important to pay attention to the context in which the cat is meowing to determine its meaning.


Playful cat


  1. Ears up and forward. When a cat is feeling playful, its ears will be up and forward. This is a sign that the cat is alert and interested in its surroundings.

  2. Tail up and flicking. A cat’s tail is another important indicator of its mood. When a cat is feeling playful, its tail will be up and flicking. This is a sign that the cat is excited and ready to play.

  3. Eyes dilated. When a cat is feeling playful, its pupils will be dilated. This is a sign that the cat is aroused and alert.

  4. Body language relaxed. A cat that is feeling playful will typically have a relaxed body language. This means that the cat is not feeling threatened or scared.

  5. Meowing or chirping. Cats will often meow or chirp when they are feeling playful. This is a way for the cat to communicate its excitement and desire to play.

  6. Bouncing around. Cats that are feeling playful may start to bounce around or chase their tails. This is a sign that the cat is ready to play.

  7. Blinking slowly. When a cat is feeling playful, it may start to blink slowly at you. This is a sign of trust and affection.

  8. Headbumps. Cats will often headbump their owners when they are feeling playful. This is a way for the cat to show affection and to rub its scent on you.

  9. Grooming you. Cats will often groom their owners when they are feeling playful. This is a way for the cat to show affection and to bond with you.


Submissive cat


  1. Ears back. When a cat’s ears are back, it is a sign that the cat is feeling submissive or fearful.

  2. Tail tucked between legs. A cat that is feeling submissive will often tuck its tail between its legs. This is a sign that the cat is feeling vulnerable and afraid.

  3. Body low to the ground. A cat that is feeling submissive will often keep its body low to the ground. This is a sign that the cat is not a threat and is trying to avoid conflict.

  4. Slow blinking. When a cat slowly blinks at you, it is a sign of trust and submission.

  5. Head down. A cat that is feeling submissive will often lower its head. This is a sign that the cat is not a threat and is showing respect.

  6. Approach with body sideways. A cat that is feeling submissive will often approach you with its body sideways. This is a sign that the cat is not a threat and is trying to avoid conflict.

  7. Mew softly. A cat that is feeling submissive will often meow softly. This is a sign that the cat is trying to be gentle and non-threatening.

  8. Groom you. A cat that is feeling submissive may groom you. This is a way for the cat to show affection and to submit to you.


Signs of an anxious cat



  1. Wide eyes. When a cat is feeling anxious, its eyes will often be wide open. This is a sign that the cat is alert and on guard.

  2. Dilated pupils. When a cat is feeling anxious, its pupils will often be dilated. This is a sign that the cat is aroused and stressed.

  3. Ears back. When a cat is feeling anxious, its ears will often be back. This is a sign that the cat is feeling threatened or scared.

  4. Fur standing on end. When a cat is feeling anxious, its fur may start to stand on end. This is a sign that the cat is feeling threatened or scared.

  5. Yawning. When a cat is feeling anxious, it may start to yawn. This is a sign that the cat is trying to calm itself down.

  6. Licking its lips. When a cat is feeling anxious, it may start to lick its lips. This is a sign that the cat is feeling stressed or uncomfortable.

  7. Meowing excessively. When a cat is feeling anxious, it may start to meow excessively. This is a way for the cat to communicate its anxiety to its owners.

  8. Pacing or restlessness. When a cat is feeling anxious, it may start to pace or become restless. This is a sign that the cat is trying to release its pent-up energy.

  9. Hiding. When a cat is feeling anxious, it may start to hide. This is a way for the cat to escape from the source of its anxiety.


Fearful cat


  1. Ears back. When a cat’s ears are back, it is a sign that the cat is feeling threatened or scared.

  2. Tail tucked between legs. A cat that is feeling fearful will often tuck its tail between its legs. This is a sign that the cat is feeling vulnerable and afraid.

  3. Body low to the ground. A cat that is feeling fearful will often keep its body low to the ground. This is a sign that the cat is not a threat and is trying to avoid conflict.

  4. Wide eyes. When a cat is feeling fearful, its eyes will often be wide open. This is a sign that the cat is alert and on guard.

  5. Dilated pupils. When a cat is feeling fearful, its pupils will often be dilated. This is a sign that the cat is aroused and stressed.

  6. Fur standing on end. When a cat is feeling fearful, its fur may start to stand on end. This is a sign that the cat is feeling threatened or scared.

  7. Yawning. When a cat is feeling fearful, it may start to yawn. This is a sign that the cat is trying to calm itself down.

  8. Licking its lips. When a cat is feeling fearful, it may start to lick its lips. This is a sign that the cat is feeling stressed or uncomfortable.

  9. Meowing excessively. When a cat is feeling fearful, it may start to meow excessively. This is a way for the cat to communicate its fear to its owners.

  10. Pacing or restlessness. When a cat is feeling fearful, it may start to pace or become restless. This is a sign that the cat is trying to release its pent-up energy.

  11. Hiding. When a cat is feeling fearful, it may start to hide. This is a way for the cat to escape from the source of its fear.



fearful cat

Fearful cat

Signs of a dominant cat


  1. Ears held erect and pointed forward.

  2. Tail held high and straight.

  3. Body held in an upright posture.

  4. Slow, deliberate movements.

  5. Direct eye contact.

  6. Hissing or growling.

  7. Blinking slowly.

  8. Head-butting.

  9. Rubbing against objects.

  10. Marking territory with urine or scent glands.


Aggressive cat


  1. Ears back. When a cat’s ears are back, it is a sign that the cat is feeling threatened or scared.

  2. Tail puffed up. A cat that is feeling aggressive will often puff up its tail. This is a sign that the cat is feeling threatened and is trying to make itself look bigger.

  3. Paws held in fists. A cat that is feeling aggressive will often hold its paws in fists. This is a sign that the cat is preparing to attack.

  4. Stiff body posture. A cat that is feeling aggressive will often have a stiff body posture. This is a sign that the cat is ready to fight.

  5. Direct eye contact. When a cat makes direct eye contact with another cat, it is a sign of aggression.

  6. Hissing or growling. Hissing and growling are both signs of aggression. They are ways for cats to communicate that they are feeling threatened and do not want to be approached.

  7. Biting or scratching. Biting and scratching are both forms of aggression. They are ways for cats to defend themselves or to assert their dominance.


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