Cat Behavior

Understanding Your Cat

Understanding Your Cat

If you own a cat, you understand exactly how strange a cat can act. They will sometimes meow for your attention and you won’t ever be able to figure out exactly what they want from you.

They’ll get into, and sometimes stuck, in areas you didn’t even think the cat could reach, like the top of a shelf that’s in the middle of the room.

Because of how cats act, it can be difficult understanding what a cat wants and knowing how to interact with a cat.

The easiest way to begin understanding what they want is to look into what their body language means.

Cats have an entirely different set of social norms and habits from humans that can be difficult to understand if you don’t read up on why a cat has certain mannerisms.

Meowing/Vocalizing

This is the easiest one to start off with because it is the way we understand if a cat is happy with us or not, as well as the way we have our attention drawn to them.

The most important thing about a meow is that it is typically only used with humans. When adult cats are interacting with one another, you will rarely hear them meow or do so as loudly as they do with you.

This is because cats communicate at a sound level that we can’t hear. They basically had to create a whole new sound or sublanguage in order to even get our attention.

With one another, they’ll use more chirps and trills, especially the adult cats to kittens. A chirp or a trilling noise also often means that your cat wants to be followed.

Purring is also a very common noise. It usually means that they are happy. But they can purr if they are sick or trying to comfort themselves.

The sound level they purr at has been found to actually help them to heal injuries. So if your animal is purring a lot or for a long period of time, look them over and see if they are hurt.

cat Scratching

Scratching

Scratching is another common occurrence around cats. How many times have you seen someone show up to work or school with scratches from a cat? It happens pretty often, even if the cat isn’t necessarily angry. Sometimes a scratch just happens because the cat needs its claws filed down.

It isn’t uncommon for a cat to scratch at someone to show that they don’t like being held or petted right then. They might also scratch at you because they are feeling playful.

Try and grab a toy for them to play with so that you don’t get even more scratched up. Sometimes a cat will scratch you because it feels uncomfortable or upset due to a health problem like arthritis.

Cats also scratch at furniture and other items around the home. They do this because:

  • It relieves anxiety
  • It releases energy
  • It’s an easy way to mark territory
  • It sharpens their claws

These are pretty basic needs a cat should have met if they are living with you. This is why it is a good idea to get a scratching post for your cat to use instead of the furniture or, every now and again, you.

Affection

The way cats show affection can be confusing compared to humans. Humans like to make direct eye contact or be in physical contact with one another to show affection.

Cats, on the other hand, take direct eye contact as a challenge or threat. If you ever have a cat sit somewhere so that you are in the corner of each other’s eyesight, that’s the cat showing that they trust you.

They do bump heads with you if they are showing affection. At the same time, they are marking their territory.

Cats have a scent gland on their heads, so rubbing their head all over the floor, furniture, or you is a way of claiming those things.

It is still a way of showing they care about you, sometimes to a very high degree when you think about how humans defend their territory or care for it.

Cats can also show affection by kneading.

cat Kneading

Kneading

Kneading is when a cat paws at a soft surface that seems like it is kneading bread dough. When the cat was just a kitten, it would knead the area around the mother’s teats to help stimulate milk flow.

It is a leftover habit from being young that it really only does this when it is very happy. So when they are doing that to you, it can be a sign of affection.

But try and keep a blanket or pillow between you and the cat so you don’t get scratched up by the cat’s claws!

Body Language

The body language of a cat can say a lot about what your cat is feeling. You just have to know how to pick up on the signs.

There are specific signs for the ears, eyes, tail, and body that can help tell you what your little friend is feeling at that moment.

For a cat’s ears:

  • If its ears are facing forward, it is either being alert or interested or happy about the situation it is in.
  • If its ears are facing backwards, sideways, or flattened, it is either very irritable and angry or frightened.
  • If its ears are swiveling around, then the cat is being very attentive and listening to every sound.

For their eyes:

  • Constricted pupils mean that they are offensively aggressive, but it could also be content.
  • Slightly dilated pupils mean that it is nervous or submissive.
  • Fully dilated pupils mean that it is being defensively aggressive, although this could be in a very playful manner.

A cat’s tail:

  • When going straight up in the air means they are alert, inquisitive, or happy at the moment.
  • When going straight in the air but quivering means they are really excited. If the cat hasn’t been neutered or spayed, they might be getting ready to spray something.
  • When the fur is standing on end means they are angry or frightened.
  • When tucked between its legs means it feels insecure or anxious.
  • When thrashing back and forth means it is feeling agitated. The faster it moves back and forth, the angrier it is.

If the cat is

  • Arched with its fur standing on end, it is very frightened or angry.
  • Arched with its fur flat, it is content and accepts your touch.
  • Lying on its back and purring, it is very relaxed.
  • Lying on its back and growling or hissing, it is very upset and ready to fight its opponent.

Daytime Activity

During the day, your cat is likely to just want to sleep. This is mainly because cats are nocturnal animals by nature, so they would want to get all of their sleep during the day – all 12-16 hours of it!

But you can adjust your cat to being awake during the day and sleeping at night a few different ways. These will also be good for the cat!

  • Play with your cat. Owners of cats may play with them for short periods at a time, but cats need long hours of play until they feel ready to stop or until they are satisfied. Of course, this varies from cat to cat. But they will often need a lot of exercise close to the end of the day in order to feel tired at night.
  • Go on walks. We all know this doesn’t always go well and they sometimes just lay down and refuse to move. But sometimes this can be a good way for you cat to get exercise and a good time for it to leave the house.
  • Feed them before you go to bed. This can help make them feel more tired at night if they eat when you feed them. Eating a lot of food is what will make them feel tired and want to sleep.

Nighttime Activity

Just as I mentioned in the section before this one, cats are naturally nocturnal animals. So they will spend time awake at night.

Even if you were to do all of the activities listed in the previous section, it is still likely they will get up during the night to play, eat, or take care of themselves.

Keeping toys out where they can easily get them, making sure their bowls are filled before you sleep, and making sure they are able to access a litter box will make sure that if they do wake up, they can go about their life like normal.

Conclusion

Cats have a very different way of expressing themselves and going about their day when compared to humans.

It can make it difficult to understand cats or why they do what they do. But, once you have learned what cats normally act like and what is considered to be normal for them, you can learn a lot more about them.

The most important part of this article is definitely body language. It can tell you if you cat is happy, annoyed with you, or if they are hurt just by a quick glance at their eyes, ears, and tail.

Hopefully this guide has helped to teach you something new about your cat or helped you to understand some of the things your cat does, like scratching or kneading something.

There is always more to learn about your furry feline companion, so take your time to see what your particular cat does.

Each cat is unique and may behave differently from others or have a particular odd habit. But hopefully you have now learned a few basics, you can easily learn more about your cat on your own.

About the author

Simi Afroza

Simi Afroza

Simi is a freelance writer who has already finished her high school and college. Currently living in Melbourne, Australia. Being a self proclaimed fashionista, deep thinker and amazing writer, Simi decided to mingle her love of fashion with her love of writing.

5 Comments

  • Wow! I’ve been wondering why my cat always scratch, but I got to know why from this piece. However, I don’t seem to understand how I can detect when my cat is underweight, could you please explain that a little?

  • I learnt a lot of things about cats from this article especially the body language part. I wasn’t even aware that the meow is communication with humans only.

  • I don’t know about you, but I love it when my aunts cat kneads on my leg or back. It’s like a small little massage. One behavior I find funny is that my aunt’s cat usually will come sleep on your head at night. Does anyone else’s?

  • Go on walks? Like you do a dog!? I had no idea this was possible! I actually learned a few things reading this. I would love to know how to train a cat to walk on a leash though. That would be pretty amazing. I am in no position to get a dog (as a renter) but I would like to be able to have one to go for walks with but if one or both of my cats can do this, I would be thrilled!

  • Another very helpful post for me since I’m a new cat owner! I feel a lot more prepared and know what to expect from my cat. I’m definitely getting some kind of scratching post for my cat because I just thought they scratched when their nails got long. Not because they were relieving anxiety or energy!

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