We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we believe in. Pricing and availability are subject to change.

Understanding cat language: 5 tips to get to know your cat better

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Updated ·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Living with a cat. (Photo: Getty)
Living with a cat. (Photo: Getty)

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.

1. Vocalisation

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.

Instinct Original Chicken Dry Cat Food, 5 lb. Bag

S$45.31 S$53.90 at Amazon

INSTINCT Original Chicken Dry Cat Food, 5 lb. Bag. (Photo: Amazon SG)
INSTINCT Original Chicken Dry Cat Food, 5 lb. Bag. (Photo: Amazon SG)

Whiskas Cat Food, Ocean Fish, 1.2 kilogs

S$6.85 S$7.70 at Amazon

Whiskas Cat Food, Ocean Fish, 1.2 kilogs. (Photo: Amazon SG)
Whiskas Cat Food, Ocean Fish, 1.2 kilogs. (Photo: Amazon SG)

2. Ears

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.

Junspow Cat Hammock Bed

S$26.99 S$29.99 at Amazon

JUNSPOW Cat Bed Dog Bed Pet Hammock Bed Free-Standing Cat Sleeping Cat Bed Cat Supplies Pet Supplies Whole Wash Stable Structure Detachable Excellent Breathability Easy Assembly Indoors Outdoors. (Photo: Amazon SG)
JUNSPOW Cat Bed Dog Bed Pet Hammock Bed Free-Standing Cat Sleeping Cat Bed Cat Supplies Pet Supplies Whole Wash Stable Structure Detachable Excellent Breathability Easy Assembly Indoors Outdoors. (Photo: Amazon SG)

K&H Pet Products EZ Mount Window Kitty Sill

S$79.97 at Amazon

K&H Pet Products EZ Mount Window Kitty Sill, Cat Window Perch, Double Stack Gray 12 X 23 Inches. (Photo: Amazon SG)
K&H Pet Products EZ Mount Window Kitty Sill, Cat Window Perch, Double Stack Gray 12 X 23 Inches. (Photo: Amazon SG)

3. Eyes

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.

SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Cat Toy Concealed Motion Toy

S$28.02 at Amazon

SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Cat Toy Concealed Motion Toy. (Photo: Amazon SG)
SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Cat Toy Concealed Motion Toy. (Photo: Amazon SG)

Zenes Cat Toys - Funny Exercise Electric Flutter Rotating Kitten Toys

S$35.99 at Amazon

Zenes Cat Toys - Funny Exercise Electric Flutter Rotating Kitten Toys, Cat Teaser with Butterfly Replacement. (Photo: Amazon SG)
Zenes Cat Toys - Funny Exercise Electric Flutter Rotating Kitten Toys, Cat Teaser with Butterfly Replacement. (Photo: Amazon SG)

4. Tail

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.

Wellness Kittles Grain-Free Chicken & Cranberries Recipe Crunchy Cat Treats, 2 Ounce Bag

S$8 at Amazon

Wellness Kittles Grain-Free Chicken & Cranberries Recipe Crunchy Cat Treats, 2 Ounce Bag. (Photo: Amazon SG)
Wellness Kittles Grain-Free Chicken & Cranberries Recipe Crunchy Cat Treats, 2 Ounce Bag. (Photo: Amazon SG)

Temptations Chicken, 85g

S$4 S$3.92 at Amazon

Temptations Chicken, 85g,FBA_194456. (Photo: Amazon SG)
Temptations Chicken, 85g. (Photo: Amazon SG)

5. Body

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.

Cat Water Fountain Stainless Steel, 81oz/2.4L

S$48.99 S$55.99 at Amazon

Cat Water Fountain Stainless Steel, 81oz/2.4L Cat Fountain with Smart Pump and LED Indicator for Water Shortage Alert, Cat and Dog Fountain with 3 Filters, 1 Mat and 2 Cleaning Brushes. (Photo: Amazon SG)
Cat Water Fountain Stainless Steel, 81oz/2.4L Cat Fountain with Smart Pump and LED Indicator for Water Shortage Alert, Cat and Dog Fountain with 3 Filters, 1 Mat and 2 Cleaning Brushes. (Photo: Amazon SG)

Vitakraft Pet Care VK14035 Magic Clean Classic Cat Litter, 5L

S$9 at Amazon

Vitakraft Pet Care VK14035 Magic Clean Classic Cat Litter, 5L. (Photo: Amazon SG)
Vitakraft Pet Care VK14035 Magic Clean Classic Cat Litter, 5L. (Photo: Amazon SG)
Originally published
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting