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Some stereotypical impressions of cats are that they are laidback, carefree and demanding. They may even feel like nonchalant “masters" who love themselves more than they can possibly love a “slave” like you.
But if you can understand cat language, you may be able to see how much it actually cares about you. This International Cat Day (8 August), let’s take some time to appreciate this often misunderstood creature.
One of the easiest ways to tell if a cat is friendly is by the sound it makes. Adult cats don’t normally meow at each other. They have learned to meow at humans as a form of communication, akin to saying, “Hello!” or “I missed you!”
If they decide to sit on your lap and start their “engine”, you’re in luck! Purring is the ultimate sign of affection you can get from a cat. Cats are known to purr when they feel comfortable and relaxed. But they may also purr to soothe themselves when they are in a stressful environment.
If a cat is growling at you, it may be feeling threatened. Unless you want to get clawed and hissed at, it’s best that you move away and give it some space.
Cats express interest with forward-facing ears. They may be feeling curious or playful. Straight and upright ears show that something has caught its attention and it may be honing its hearing for potential prey or predator. When their ears are flat and backwards, they may be furious or frightened.
Have you seen videos of cats whose pupils become dilated? This means they are excited, especially when they are playing with toys. It may also mean that they are scared if combined with aggressive gestures and sounds. Pupil dilation or constriction may be due to changes in the light source as well.
One of the most fascinating ways a cat shows its affection is through slow blinking. If you slowly blink at a cat and it blinks back, you’ve been blessed with a “kitty kiss”. But intense staring without blinking is a sign of dominance or aggression, and you should be careful not to overstep its boundary.
The most dramatic body part of a cat is none other than its tail. If a cat approaches you with its tail high up and curved like a question mark, it is happy to see you. When a cat curls its tail onto you, such as your leg, it is its way of giving you a hug.
A twitching tail, usually the tip of its tail, indicates that the cat is in a playful mood. When it flicks its tail, it is a signal to keep your distance as it is getting frustrated. If it tucks its tail between the legs, it is a sign of anxiety, fearfulness and submission. This happens when the cat is nervous, especially when it is exposed to a new environment or new people.
When a cat puffs up its tail and holds it high, and the fur on its body seems bristled, it is extremely terrified and may be ready to attack.
While looking at the individual parts of a cat may give you hints about what it’s feeling, it is also important to look at its body language. Exposing their belly to you and kneading show that they are comfortable and happy with you. Licking you shows their affection, while rubbing their cheeks against you is their way of “claiming ownership” of you.
With the help of environmental cues and the above explanations, you may be a step closer to understanding cats better.