Here Are the 5 Most Important Cat Body Language Tips (from a Cat Behaviorist)

At tuft + paw, we spend a ton of time researching cats in order to design innovative cat products. We have both a cat behaviorist and a veterinarian on our team, so we have a lot of insight into why cats behave a certain way. Here are our top 5 tips.

1. Context Comes First

There are many physical cues of a cat's mood, but their meaning can vary depending on the context. For example, one of the most reliable signs of a confident cat is a tail that’s lifted vertically, high in the air. However, in certain contexts – a high tail can also indicate a willingness to attack.

2. Posture/Body Position: Open or Closed?

When scared, cats are likely to try and protect their body as much as possible by scrunching up into a small, less exposed shape.

When a cat stretches out, they’re voluntarily exposing themselves – this shows that they don’t feel threatened.

3. Body Orientation

Cats forecast their intentions and next moves by pointing their body in the direction they are likely to go. If a cat is standing sideways to you, they might be feeling shy and considering escape. If a cat is pointing their body and head toward you, they may be interested in you and receptive to your advances.

4. The Tail: A Barometer of Confidence

A cat’s tail is one of the first places to look for signs of their mood. As mentioned earlier, a high, vertical tail indicates a cat that’s feeling confident, comfortable, happy, and friendly, and a low tail indicates a cat that’s feeling fearful or anxious.

5. Eyes: The Windows to the Mood

A cat’s pupils are another good way to tell how relaxed or stimulated it is. Relaxed eyes usually belong on a cat that’s feeling comfortable. When a cat’s pupils are large and dilated, that means it’s stimulated

BONUS: Vocalizations

When a cat wants you to understand that they’re feeling threatened, they may go through a series of vocalizations, increasing in intensity as their discomfort increases. First comes the growl, warning you to back off. Next is the hiss which indicates that a cat is feeling threatened. The yowl usually comes after the hiss. Finally, a cat that’s shrieking feels that they’re out of options

Read our full cat body language guide here or take our cat body language quiz to see how much you know