Cat Behavior 101: What You Need to Know


At first glance, cats are mysterious creatures. They can’t express themselves like humans do so it can be confusing for people to understand their cat friends and how they are feeling, what they need, etc. Furthermore, it can be hard for us to understand how to communicate with our cats so they understand how we feel. How do I tell my cat I love him? How cats say I love you? Perhaps you have witnessed some strange cat behaviors from your pet. Are there cat behaviors to worry about? What is cat behavior after neutering supposed to look like? In this article, we aim to have some cat behaviors explained so you and your pet can have a better understanding of one another.

How to Understand Your Cat’s Behavior

While every cat has a unique personality, they all communicate the same way. Cats vocalize using different sounds, meows, growls, hisses, chittering, yowling and chirps. Another key to understanding cat behavior is to pay attention to their bodies. Cats, not unlike dogs, communicate with their bodies, including their tails, head and ears.

While there are physical indicators for your cat’s mood, one thing to also consider is the context of when you are observing these behaviors and body positionings.

What Your Cat’s Tail Position Signals

You can tell a cat moods by tail. Every cat tail gestures can mean different things in different situations. A tail that is raised high can mean a cat is happy, confident and comfortable interacting with another person or animal. However, that same tail being raised could also mean the cat is agitated and preparing for attack. A puffed out tail is usually an indicator of aggression or anxiety. It’s important to consider the environment your cat is in and who is around in order to distinguish how the cat might be feeling. Typically, a cat will be more anxious in tight situations so trying to interact with a cat in a corner with a raised tail is not a good idea. Cat tail flicking behavior indicates that your cat is feeling irritated or overstimulated. Have you ever had your cat on your lap,
receivig pets, purring away, then suddenly the purring stops and you get a bite on the hand or a swipe of the paw? While these cat mood swings seem to come out of nowhere, your cat was probably sending you signals this whole time with their twitching tail. Perhaps the petting had become too much for them and the irritation was building, so next time you should stop before your cat tells you to stop with their teeth.

Understanding Your Cat’s Ear Placement

Cats also express themselves using their ears. But how can you differentiate the different cat ear moods? The position and motion of the ears are both indicators of how your cat is feeling. Ears that are pinned back flat against the cat’s head show the cat in a bad mood. This is usually accompanied by a low growl and maybe even a hiss. Ears that are twitching nack and forth can also show aggravation. Ears perked straight up and facing outwards shows that your cat is on alert. Cats have excellent hearing and are positioned in the ears to learn more about the sounds. Ears facing forward shows an inquisitive kitty, probably engaging in play.

What Your Cat’s Body Posture Means

The body shape of a cat is another important cue for how a cat is feeling. If the cat is facing you directly with a relaxed posture, then the cat is comfortable. A cat that has an arched back, facing sideways, is likely feeling threatened and is trying to make themselves look imposing. A scared cat will likely be crouched low, ready to leap away from any dangerous situation.

What Your Cats Eyes Mean

Cats also communicate with their eyes. Slow blinks show that a cat is feeling loving. Dilated pupils show a cat that is very stimulated, fearful, angry or very aggitated. The meaning depends on the contexts. Cat’s eyes dilate when hunting, which would be the case during playtime. They also dilate when afraid, which can happen if your cat is meeting a visitor or new housemate.

Sometimes, our cats can do some seemingly bizarre things. But the seemingly weird cat behaviors aren’t so weird to them! For instance, when a cat rubs their body against you or other objects, they are doing so to mark their territory. This includes you! When a cat is super happy, they will do a kneading motion with their paws. This act is also called “making biscuits” and stems from kittenhood when they would knead their mother for milk when feeding. Have you ever wondered why your cat plops themselves on top of the book you are reading or the laptop you are clacking away on? That’s because your cat is seeking your attention and some affection. This is also a way to put their scent on your belongings, showing that you belong to them. As for that pesky glass of water or plant on a shelf that your cat must knock off? This is not a cause for concern. Just another way your cat is trying to stimulate themselves due to boredom or plain curiosity. Some extra playtime and toys can help curb this behavior.

One way a cat shows affection is by bestowing gifts to their owner in the form of toys or even dead animals that they have caught. While this might be unsettling for some, this is just one way your cat is showing that they are thinking of you by sharing their kill. Just another quirky cat social behavior!

Another strange cat behaviors that is also among the most common cat behaviors is finding cats sitting in seemingly small and tight spaces, like a shoe box or small shelf. Most cats live by the motto “If I fits, I sits”. While this may seem strange, it is nothing to worry about! Cats feel comfortable and safe in these spaces so let them curl up in that new amazon box (at least until recycling day).

Other Cat Behaviors

There are some cat behaviors to worry about. For instance, if your cat is constantly chewing or eating inedible items, like plants or plastic, this can be a sign of health issues. It could be a sign that your cat has Pica. It could also be a sign that your cat has anemia or a mineral deficiency. Sometimes this behavior is a cat stress response or a symptom of boredom. You should seek a consultation with a vet to make sure there are no underlying health issues. Another anxious cat behavior is overgrooming. Failing to use the litter box properly can be either a behavioral issue, due to stress or anxiety, or health related, due to a bladder infection or some other illness. Cat spraying may seem like an abnormal cat behavior, but is actually a normal part of cat life. Cats, similarly to dogs, use urine to leave their scent and mark territory. Cats might start spraying in the home if there are changes, such as a move to a new home, bringing home a new baby, having a visitor in the home, etc. Having your cat spayed or neutered usually curbs this behavior completely.

Perhaps you have a multicat household and the kitties keep fighting with one another, destroying the furniture, failing to use the litter box correctly and so on. There are a few solutions on how to stop bad cat behavior. For one thing, you need to create an environment for your cats that is conducive to their needs. Cats are territorial and need lots of space. One way to avoid conflict is by creating vertical spaces for your cats to explore. This can be achieved with cat towers, hammocks or floating shelves. Having one litter box per cat and establishing different feeding areas minimizes the chances of disputes over resources. There should also be ample toys for all cats to enjoy. You, too, should spend time with your cats engaging in active play with them so the cats feel stimulated and also get quality time with you.

Hopefully this article will help your understanding cat behaviors!