~Charlotte GrayIndeed, cats are complex creations of nature. If there is one animal that can easily give us humans an inferiority complex just by a look on its face or its body language, none qualifies better than the cat. However, due to this very reason of not comprehending the meaning of various behavioral quirks in cats, most people feel more comfortable with dogs – their unflinching loyalty and unconditional devotion makes you feel better about yourself. Well, this is the normal case with the majority of us who pander for approval and take affection for granted. This is not the case with cat lovers who find it flattering every time their feline companion pays them any attention – the sense of achievement that is there when you earn a feline’s affections can hardly be compared with the complacency of a canine owner’s assured attention and affection from his pet. Being around cats is like being around your superiors – you have to work hard to be in their good graces. Well, I could go on an on about cats and their intriguing ways. Therefore, without any more ado, let’s proceed towards decoding cat behavior to understand what those purrs and hisses mean.
Interpreting Feline Behavior
Not everyone has the patience or capability of understanding the meaning of various feline behavior patterns. Whether you have a tabby cat, calico cat, Persian cat or any cat breed or type for that matter, there must have been times when you knew exactly what your beloved kitty was up to while at times you felt completely lost as to certain behavioral aspects and traits of your cat. As I had mentioned earlier, cats are complex creatures and they have complex personalities that are very individualistic and independent of the quirks of their owner. Unlike a dog, whose entire life revolves around its owners, occasional petting sessions and feeding times, a cat comes across as an intricate tangle of varying expressions which manifest as a wide spectrum of cat body language. Also, there are quite some areas where the behavior of a tom differs from that of a molly.
To ease your efforts in decoding your cat’s body language and vocal expressions, here is a list of cat behavior related facts that would help you to decipher a significant spectrum of cat behavior meaning.
Arched Back: This is usually also accompanied by raised fur. This hair-raising phenomenon may indicate two different forms of excitement – if a kitten arches its back, it is usually a sign that it wants to play but if an adult cat displays this body language, it is probably in an irritable mood and is asking to be left alone or it is seriously spooked. If accompanied by a low, throaty growl, then the cat seriously wants some alone time and you would be wise to just walk away and let it be.
Pricked Ears: If your cat becomes suddenly still with its ears pointed up, slightly forward or rotated towards a certain direction, it has probably picked up some very fine auditory signal and is concentrating hard to locate its source.
Ears Turned Back: This is equivalent of you scratching your head when in a tight spot! When a cat has its ears turned back, it is probably unsure of what to do next and is mentally scrutinizing the current situation and planning its subsequent move accordingly.
Rolling On its Back, Tummy Upwards: This is an all defenses down gesture which means that the cat is completely comfortable in its surroundings and it completely trusts the person in whose presence it is rolling on its back, showing its tummy.
Sitting Still and Staring: When your cat sits or lies still, not moving a muscle, staring in one direction, it is probably about to pounce on something. If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that the cat’s pupils have dilated while staring. This is a sure shot sign that it is contemplating an attack.
Rubbing Against Your Leg or Furniture: This is the cat’s way of marking its territory, unlike dogs who do so by urinating (in this sense, I absolutely agree with the French proverb which goes, “The dog may be wonderful prose, but only the cat is poetry.”, alluding to the sophisticated and refined ways of cats! ). Rubbing against furniture, walls or fence marks those areas with pheromones the odor of which is comforting to cats and makes them feel at home. Also, rubbing against your leg means that the cat wants your attention and it regards you as your friend. This is also a show of affection if the rubbing is accompanied by soft purrs.
Slow Crawling With Tummy Against the Ground: This behavior is reminiscent of the cat’s predatory ancestry as well as a reminder of its wild relatives. When a cat shows such behavior, it is probably tailing a prospective prey such as a mouse or a bird.
Tail Between Legs: Your cat is scared big time if it tucks its tail between its hind legs. This gesture is often accompanied by ears flattened against the skull. Leave a cat alone when it is scared as trying to pick it up or comfort it such a time may cause it to panic further and scratch you. Cat’s have sensitive nerves and can get very jittery in tense situations. It’s best to let them alone and get over the situation themselves. They prefer it that way.
Tail Twitching Tensely: The cat has either spied another animals which it wants to hunt or it is getting ready to get into a fight with another feline. Whatever the case, twitching tail in a cat is a sign of contained excitement that precedes aggressive cat behavior.
Tail Upright: If the rest of the body of the cat is not tensed, an upright tail means that all’s well with your cat and it is enjoying yet another period of feline normalcy.
Coughing with Head Close to the Ground: The cat is probably coughing up a hairball. Don’t bother it at this time and let it get rid of the discomfort itself.
Scratching or Tearing at Furniture or Tapestry: “I am being ignored and it sucks!” is what your cat is trying to tell you by such action. Cats love clawing at paper and they do so as a way to ascertain new prospects for their litter box. They may also playfully tear at paper to amuse themselves. If your cat is neglected or ignored for a long time, this habit may develop into a cat behavior problem.
Hissing: A cat hisses when it is cornered and this gesture is a sure shot sign that it will attack. Therefore, cat hissing is an aggressive defensive sign. This trait is common for both domestic and feral cats.
These are some of the most prominent aspects of a cat’s behavior and would suffice for understanding the moods and humor of your cat on a daily basis. A cat may show other body language signals such as kneading with its front paws which may make you ask ‘why do cats knead?’. When a cat kneads, it shows that it is comfortable and content at present. Yowling may indicate that the cat is feeling lonely and this is making it restless. Other seemingly strange feline behavior such as nocturnal escapades are common in cats. If your cat likes to sprawl upon certain articles such as books, newspaper, study table, etc., more than any other place, it is trying to show that it likes these places and considers itself in control of these things/ places. Having some knowledge of the meaning of various gestures and vocalizations of cats helps in their training, care and in detecting health issues. Also, most cute cat names, like Diva, Jazzy, Wimpy, Styles, etc., are mostly inspired from the peculiar behavioral traits of individual cats! On a parting note, I would like to quote Paul Gray on his take on why Nature created cats: