Why Is My Cat So Affectionate? Understanding a Cat's Body Language
How to Communicate With Your Cat
Almost since the beginning of recorded time, cats and humans have had a long history together. In exchange for food and shelter, cats do many things for us. They catch vermin, they allow us to pet them, and they prettify and enrich our lives.
Although we have a long history of close cohabitation, we humans still have not accumulated much understanding about our feline companions' emotional lives. This is a mistake. Cats are very intelligent animals that have a eloquent body language that they use to communicate their needs. As any cat lover might agree, close observation of the cat will reveal rich levels of cat speak.
The following list is intended to help those who wish to have a closer and happier relationship with their pet cat by understanding their body language.
Why Is My Cat Suddenly So Affectionate?
Generally speaking, healthy cats are a bit stand-offish, some more so than others. If you wake up to find your cat staring at your face every morning when this never happened before, or if your cat suddenly starts jumping into your lap or cuddling up to you and this new behavior is accompanied by other behavioral changes such as change in appetite, change in litter box habits, lethargy or withdrawal, restlessness, chronic vomiting (hairballs included)—be concerned. This could indicate emotional distress or physical illness. On the other hand sometimes, as a cat gets older, they simply develop new emotional needs. Take stock of your cat and bring it to the vet if necessary.
Though you might enjoy the sudden attention, it could indicate a problem. They may need extra warmth, care, and attention for a medical reason. Distress can often make them realize that you are the one who loves them the most and can help them. So take heart, take stock, and have the vet check them out.
My Cat Is Blinking: What Does It Mean?
If your cat makes eye contact with you then slowly closes both eyes at once, you should consider yourself lucky, as you have just been kitty kissed! The slow blink is a sign that your cat feels comfortable and secure in your presence. If translated, it might say say something like "I love you so much I close my eyes and trust that you'll still be here when I open them again." You can return the feeling by catching your cat's eyes and blinking slowly and deliberately. One blink is sufficient, although you may try two.
If your kitty returns the blink, then you have just completed a loving conversation in cat speak! Don't get upset if it doesn't blink at you right away, because you might have surprised them with so much warmth and affection. But don't worry, your pet will be blinking back soon enough!
The Slow Blink = "I Love You"
Did My Cat Really Just Kiss Me?
Another version of the kitty kiss is when your cat gently puts its nose against yours. Your cat may also choose to put its nose on your forehead, once or several times. A kitty kiss on the forehead is also a kitty blessing! If your cat kisses you often, it either misses you greatly or is feeling some anxiety about your love. Either way, know that your kitty loves you a lot!
Why Does My Cat Bite Me?
Yes, of course a bite sometimes means that the cat is angry, scared, or defending itself. However, not all cat bites are bad. Some are gentle and playful "love bites." When they're in a playful mood and you're petting them, they might sink their little teeth into your hand—not enough to leave a mark, but just enough pressure to let you know they care. To learn more about why cats bite, read Why Does My Cat Bite Me?
Why Does My Cat Keep Showing Me Its Butt?
A cat has so many adorable parts. So why does she keep showing you her butt, of all things? Although here are several different theories as to why cats do this, everyone agrees that it is a friendly gesture (even though it might seem a little rude to a human).
- One theory has it that since devoted and loving mama cats regularly lick their kittens clean from head to toe, your cat might be giving you the same opportunity because they consider you as a maternal figure.
- Another theory is that smelling each other is one ways cats say hello and get to know each other, so the offering of the butt is similar to offering a hand for a handshake.
- Cats that keep their tails down are likely feeling intimidated, shy, or in no mood to say hello.
In any case, you should rejoice at the sight of your cat's butt and take it as a compliment.
A List of Ways a Cat Can Say "I Love You"
Is My Cat's Tail Trying to Tell Me Something?
Cats don't wag their tails like dogs do, but still you can tell a lot about how a cat is feeling by looking at their tail. For example, you might wonder sometimes why your cat stalks you, demands a proper petting, and then plops its tail on your leg or your arm. In the cat world, this can sometimes be a sign of dominance or ownership. This is why some cats get a bit miffed if another cat puts its tail on them.
But when a cat drapes its tail on a human being, it takes on a whole new meaning. It can mean that they feel connected to you. If they are bonded with you, they hug you with their tail. This is called "affiliative behavior." In larger feline species, such as the tiger and lion, cats tend to drape their tails on their families. It really is a sign of affection. They think you are family!
What Your Cat's Tail Is Telling You
what the tail does. . .
what the tail says. . .
swishing or wiggling
I feel playful. I might pounce!
slashing or whipping
I'm angry and ready to attack!
slow swish or twitch
I'm watching something and feeling mildly excited.
I'm alert and curious.
straight up, held high
I'm feeling friendly and saying "hi."
curled around its feet or body
I'm having a pleasant moment by myself.
tucked down between the legs
I'm feeling scared and powerless.
puffed-up and bristly
Look out! I'm extremely upset and alarmed!
wrapped around someone or something
This is mine. I love it!
Why Do My Cat's Ears Twitch?
Those twitch ears could mean one of two things: Either she's miffed about something or her ears are bothering her. Cat ears can become overwhelmed with bacteria or parasites that make them itchy and irritated (think skin allergies, excessive yeast, or ear mite infestations). Take a close look at her ears to see if you can see the cause... if not, maybe she's just mad at you (and even madder now, since you're fiddling with her ears!).
What Your Cat's Ears Are Trying to Tell You
what the ear does. . .
what the ear is telling you. . .
turned sideways or back
I'm getting angry or scared!
ears pressed flat against the head
one ear turned
I think I heard something over there...
Why Does My Cat Groom Me?
When a cat starts licking you with that sandpapery tongue, you might wonder why. Am I dirty? Do I smell bad? Do I taste like tuna? Although all of these things might be true, it's not the only reason why your cat does this. Just as they lick themselves, just as their mama cat taught them, licking is a friendly, loving way for them to mark you as theirs. Cats lick each other as a sign of familiarity and affection and might extend that favor to you, if you're lucky.
Why Is My Independent Cat Suddenly So Cuddly and Loving?
It's weird when a cat's personality changes overnight, and you're right to be concerned. Sudden mood swings might be a sign that your cat is getting older. Some cats get cuddlier, clingier, needier, and lonelier when they get old. Or it might indicate an illness of some sort—your pet is not feeling well, so they're turning to you for help. On the other hand, maybe your cat is simply (finally!) showing you some love.
Why Is My Cat Tearing Around the House?
If your cat is running laps all over the place like a maniac for hours every day, your cat has the cat crazies! The cat crazies are a surge of energy which enters the cat's body for a short period. It often happens at night, since cats are nocturnal.
Do not be distressed when your cat starts knocking over your CD collection or brushing things off of counters. These things are to be expected. Your cat might even decide to trip you as you're going to the fridge for a little midnight snack. Always expect the worst. It's the cat crazies! If the crazies start to drive you crazy, don't worry: the 22 hour nap will start soon.
Why Does My Cat Keep Dropping Things in the Water Bowl?
This behavior can be a little gross, since you end up finding old Q-tips, store receipts, and little pieces of plastic your cat fished out of the garbage in the water bowl or other locations. Actually, your cat is communicating with you at a very high level. If you find a Q-tip in the water bowl, this means the water is not fresh or that it needs to be refilled.
If you start finding a collection of little bits of trash accumulate near a closed door, this may be because the kitty wants you to open it! There are many other examples and interpretations, but in general, if your cat starts using bits of trash for communication, you should thoughtfully examine what the cat is trying to tell you.
How to Interpret Your Cat's Meows
Soft meows indicate a hello. Medium meows indicate a hello and some level of demand. Big meows mean business, buster.
Meows Interpreted: What Your Cat's Vocalizations Mean
what the meow sounds like
what it means
one short meow or mew
"Hi." "What's up?" or "Okay."
many meows or mews
Hi hi hi hi! Great to see you! Can we eat now?
I'm starving for either food or attention.
long, low mrrrrroow
I have a complaint.
high, loud RRROW!
Anger or pain. Ouch! Noooo!
I caught a mouse/bird! (Also the sound of an unspayed cat in heat.)
a chirpy, rattly purr
I love you. (The sound a mother cat makes to her kittens.)
growl or hiss
Get outta here now!
chittering, chirping, twittery noises
I see prey, and I want to bite it!
Does Purring Always Mean a Cat Is Happy?
Purring means contentment. But beware, sometimes it also means distress! If your cat is hurt, sick, or stressed and purring, do not dismiss the signs. Some cats purr on both happy and sad occasions.
What Does Head-Butting Mean?
A cat has scent glands on its forehead, temples, chin, lips, and tail. When she rubs these glands on you, she's marking with her pheromones to show the other cats you belong to her. She's basically marking her territory.
Why Does My Cat Turn Its Back to Me?
Your cat is mad at you. Cats tend to do this also especially if you have gone away and left them alone. They feel they missed you too much and you have put them through an emotional roller coaster. Don't worry. This should end in a day or two. Your cat soon won't be able to resist your lovin'!
Jutting a Paw or Leg Out
This is an indication your cat desires some sort of attention or affection. Even if it does not show any other signs of need, this is often the biggest way for some cats to show they need some serious love.
Why Does My Cat Bring Me Dead Birds and Mice?
Your cat has brought a dead bird or mouse to the door or possibly inside! Bad kitty, you say. Seeing a beautiful bird or sweet innocent mouse laying limp in the hallway floor may offend our sensibilities. Our cute cat has suddenly turned into a monster! Not so fast.
Your cat was trying to give you a present. By bringing in its catch, it is giving you a gift and doing its fair share to support the household. Keep in mind that when some cats are young, their moms teach them to hunt. Your kitty will be surprised when instead of praise, you chastise them for their gift. All your cat wanted to do was impress you. Bear in mind that your cat might have spent the last few hours working on procuring you this special gift. This is possibly the biggest area of miscommunication between human and cat.
Why Is My Cat Pawing or Kneading Me?
Cats might rhythmically alternate pushing their paws in and out against your lap, a soft blanket, or anything that triggers memories of being a kitten. When a cat kneads with its front paws, it is reverting back to the time when it was nursing, drinking milk. You are its mum! It is expressing love and feelings of comfort when it paws at you.
Licking of Lips or Chewing Air
If your cat licks its lips or chews the air, it is most likely hungry or thirsty! Offer it some fresh water or a snack. On the other hand, continuous lip-licking is also a sign that something might be wrong medically. Pytalism (excessive salivation) and xerostomia (dry mouth) may trigger lip-licking behavior, as do dental or ulcer problems, underlying neurological problems, and stomach, pancreas, or liver issues. So if you also notice issues with appetite, nausea, or vomiting, or if you notice that your cat's gums are extremely dry, contact your vet.
Your Cat's Body Language Interpreted
what your cat does
what it means
walks towards you with tail held high
Welcome! Give me a pet!
rubs her cheek on you, your leg, or some other object
You smell strange. Here, let me help by rubbing my scent glands on you.
falls on the floor and shows you her tummy
I am putty in your hands. Please pet me.
This could mean she's happy. . . but it could also mean she's in pain.
butts her head against you
Give me a pet! You're MY human!
pawing or kneading
I feel like a kitten and want some comfort.
ignores you, turns her back
I'm mad at you.
Cats Talk With Their Eyes: What Your Cat's Eyes Are Telling You
what the eyes do
what the eyes are telling you
big, dilated pupils
I might be scared, surprised, or excited. Or maybe it's just dark in here!
small, narrow pupils
I'm aroused... I might even pounce. . . or maybe the sun is shining in my eyes!
staring at you
I dare you.
I'm feeling comfortable and loved.
I might fall asleep.
pupils are different shapes
I might have anisocoria, and I need to be taken to the vet.
How to Talk to a Cat
So now that you have a better idea about what your cat is trying to tell you, your next question might be, "So how can I talk back to my cat?"
The answer is simple: Listen to your cat and respond to what she tells you. If your cat says something to you, say something back. Say, "hi," call her name, or just say "meow" right back. If she gives you a slow blink, return it. If she head-butts your hand, give her a pet. Engage in the conversation, even if it may seem a little foolish at first. Don't worry, you'll establish a rapport and figure out how to talk to each other soon enough if you both keep trying!
I hope this is helpful to other cat lovers out there. Remember that even though cats are stand-offish by nature, they have a great need for love, just like people. If your cat is not very affectionate, just try to let it know that you are there for it. If you let your cat be natural, it will feel safe and eventually it may open up to you. Many blessings to all cat lovers out there and their furry friends.