Decoding the mysterious Language of Cats

Cats are like a book of secrets. One moment they are purring, kneading the pillow and rubbing up against you, the next moment they just want to be left alone.

Language of Cats

It is difficult for some cat parents to understand what their cats actually want. But, if you pay a little attention, you would be amazed to know that your cat has an extensive vocabulary of her own and each sound has a different meaning.

In this article we will try to decode the secret language of cats and discuss just how unique and mysterious our feline friends are.

Common Cat Sounds

Language of Cats


You will mostly hear kittens meowing to their mothers, but as they grow up, they normally don’t use “meow” sound to communicate with other cats. You may hear adult domestic cats doing so but only in the presence of humans. Sometimes indoor rabbit does the same. Cats meow for various reasons. They use “meow” as a greeting, a command, an objection, or an announcement.


Shrilling sound and wailing is generally the sound of a cat in heat.


Chirrup is how a mother cat tells her kittens to follow her. If your cat chirrups in your presence, it probably means your cat wants you to follow her.


Purring is usually a sign of happiness and contentment but cats may also purr when they’re anxious or sick. They do it to comfort themselves.


Growling sounds as we all know are meant to warn someone.


Hissing is often a cat’s response to fear and can be directed at cats, other animals, as well as humans. When a cat is hissing, it’s best to leave her alone.

Understanding Cat Body Language

Language of Cats

We can understand our cats’ moods better if we understand their body language. Here’s a quick rundown on what your cat may be trying to communicate with the various parts of her body:

Tail-up Positions

When a cat approaches you or another animal while holding its tail straight up, it means that the cat is happy to meet you or the other animal. A quivering tail means that your cat is excited to see you. If a straight up tail has a hook at the end, it means that your cat is confused.

A bristling cat with a straight up tail means that it is very agitated, angry, or afraid. A cat puffing up its tail is an instinctual attempt to appear bigger if it feels cornered or threatened.

Tail-Down Positions

A tail-down position indicates that the cat is feeling defensive or submissive. A tail tucked under the belly means they are feeling submissive.

Tail Wags and Twitches

If the tail is twitching back and forth at the end, it indicates that the cat is feeling alert or interested in something that is happening.


If the ears are forward, it indicates that the cat is interested, happy or curious. Backward, sideways or flat ears mean that your cat is angry, irritable or frightened


If your cat’s pupils are constricted, it can mean two things, either it is aggressive or content. Slightly dilated pupils indicate nervous or submissive cat but if the pupils are fully dilated, it means defensively aggressive or possibly playful cat.

Language of Cats


If a cat rubs its chin and body against you, it means he/she likes you. They mark their territory like this. Cats do this to everything they like; it could be her favourite chair, her toys, and even you.


If a cat works its paws on a soft surface, it called kneading. It appears as if they’re kneading bread dough. A cat does this when it is really happy.

The Flehmen Response

When a cat sniffs something, it will lift its head, open its mouth slightly, curl back its lips and squint its eyes. Have you ever wondered why cats do so?

Cats’ sense of smell is very essential to them. They have an extra olfactory (organ used for smelling) organ, known as the Jacobson’s organ, which is located on the roof of their mouth behind their front teeth. This organ is connected to the nasal cavity.

When a cat is intrigued by something, it opens its mouth and inhales so that the scent molecules flow over the Jacobson’s organ. This helps them gather more information about the object they’re sniffing.

Cats’ various Moods explained

Content and happy Cat

When a cat is content, it will exhibit the following signs:
Sit or lie down with eyes half-closed, pupils narrowed, ears forward, purring with its tail mostly still.

Language of Cats

Playful Cat

A playful cat normally exhibits the following signs:
Ears forward, whiskers forward, tail up and pupils somewhat dilated. When a cat is really happy, it will start kneading on a soft surface.

Language of Cats

Irritated Cat

You will know when your cat is irritated, if you notice the following signs:
Ears turned back, pupils dilated and tail twitching or waving. When a cat is very irritated, it may growl or put its teeth on you as a warning. An over-stimulated cat may also start biting and scratching.

Nervous or anxious Cat

A nervous cat would generally want to be left alone. Here are some signs to look for:
Pupils dilated, ears sideways or back and tail low or tucked between legs. A super nervous cat may also turn its face to the wall to shut the world out.

Frightened/ startled or defensive Cat

A frightened cat will turn its ears and whiskers back. Its back would be arched; fur standing on end, pupils will be dilated and tail would be erect. Growling, hissing and spitting are commonly seen in frightened cats.

Language of Cats

Angry/ aggressive Cat

It’s always good to leave an aggressive cat alone. Here are some warning signs to look for:
Pupils will be very constricted, ears will be pulled back and their tail may be up or down with the fur standing on end. An aggressive cat will stare at you and growl until you leave her alone.

Wrap up

Understanding your cat’s language can have powerful benefits in your relationship with your cat. Understanding what they despise, love and fear will enable you to understand them better and keep them happy.
Author: Anoop Nain

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