Cats are subtle and complicated in the way they communicate but taking time to learn their body language can help to strengthen the relationship with your cat. Learning the signs that they are happy, or when they just want to be left alone, can be a big help to you both.
Unlike dogs, cats haven’t evolved to have lots of facial muscles, which means their faces aren’t as expressive as dogs. This is why it’s important to recognise even the smallest signs and changes in their body language because although they seem small, they say an awful lot.
There are a few things you might’ve seen your cat do to let you know if they’re happy, upset or stressed. You can see more about body language in cats in our video:
There’s nothing better than seeing a happy cat! There are a few clear signs that your cat is happy. These include:
There are lots of things that can make our cats worried or stressed – from other cats to unfamiliar sounds such as a new washing machine. Some common signs to look out for include:
Anxious or stressed cats may prefer to hide rather than seek out your attention. It’s important that you give them space, otherwise you could make the problem worse.
You may have heard cats fighting over territory, but their body language also completely changes when they feel very threatened. Look out for:
Very scared cats also tend to hiss or even take a swipe at whatever is making them unhappy. Don’t get close to them and instead (if you can) work out what’s making them unhappy.
Understanding what your cat is telling you with their body can help you to communicate with them. The most important thing to remember is not to stare at your cat. They can see this as a threat which can be scary for them and won’t respond in a friendly way!
If your cat is telling you (through their body language) that they feel comfortable and relaxed around you, you can tell them the same. Slowly blink at them and move your head slightly to the side. If you’re lucky, your cat will do the same back.
Saying ’puss puss‘ or making any noises at your cat with a strong ’ss‘ noise will put them off. This sounds like hissing to them, so they’ll think you’re being unfriendly.
We often think that our cats are happy when they purr. This is only true if their body language is relaxed. They can also purr to get your attention and fuss.
Sometimes cats can purr in stressful situations, such as going to the vet. Sadly, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy at the vet! They can also sometimes purr if they are in pain. It’s important to watch your cat’s body language as well as looking at the context as this is a better indicator of whether they are happy and comfortable.