How to Speak to Your Cat

Updated on January 30, 2020
cherylone profile image

I have owned cats for over 60 years. Between them and their vets, I have learned a great deal about how they tick.

How to Speak to Your Cat
How to Speak to Your Cat | Source

Cats Don't Understand "Human"

Cats cannot understand the words we use to communicate the things we want them to know. They don't even know what the word "no" means, even though they seem to respond to it. The truth is that they are not responding to the words, they are responding to your tone of your voice and your body language.

Cats hear the anger, joy, sweetness, dislike, or whatever else you show when you are speaking to them. They see how you move and they see what you have in your hands. They can smell anger and fear and they can also smell food if you have it in your hands. When you speak, a cat watches and listens for clues about what you might be saying. They do not, however, understand what you are saying.


Feral cats may be aggressive and can carry viruses like rabies and diseases that can be transmitted to your pets. It would be best if you did not touch them.

How to Show Cats What You Mean

Showing a cat what you mean is difficult because cats use tail movements, eye movements, and lip-licking to communicate with each other. That is how they understand things. Speaking to them requires that type of communication.

What to do:

  • Speak softly if you are trying to comfort the cat and loudly if you are angry.
  • Move slowly to attract a cat and fast if you wish to shoo them away.
  • Offer your open empty hand for the cat to smell if you want them to get to know you, and keep your hand away from them if you don't want them to get to know you.
  • Raising your hand as if to strike something will cause the cat to run from you or get aggressive because they believe you are angry.
  • Having equipment in your hands like walkers, canes, and purses could frighten the cat because they are often hit with these things by people who don't want them near.
  • Moving as if to kick a cat will cause them to run to avoid being kicked.

Patience is a winning virtue.


How to Avoid Scratches and Bites

Some cats are aggressive by nature. Watch for signs such as crouching, hiding, hissing, and swatting. These are signs your cat is afraid.

  1. This cat will scratch or bite if you continue to approach them because they are frightened.
  2. Expect to get hurt if you push them.
  3. Don't be angry at them, however, since they did warn you.

To calm them or approach them in these cases:

  1. Stay calm and offer them a treat or food they like.
  2. Place the food close but not close enough for the cat to scratch.
  3. Don't approach, let them come to you.
  4. Give your cat time; patience is a winning virtue.
  5. Give them treats and gentle pets when they do respond.

Even kittens can scratch and bite. Be careful.


How to Deal With Injured Cats

Injured cats will bite and scratch because they are hurt and are afraid. These animals, whether they are your own or an unknown animal, can be dangerous. This is the only protection they have now because of their injuries. If the cat is yours:

  • Try to carefully pick them up using a towel or blanket.
  • Get them to a vet as soon as possible.
  • Speak softly and do your best to comfort them.
  • If the cat warns you not to touch, do your best not to touch that area.
  • Blood is always a sign of injury, but some injuries do not bleed. There will be other signs such as limping, not eating, inactivity, and so on. Treat them as above.
  • Do not offer food to an injured cat unless it is your only option. Food can bring the cat to you even when they are injured, but they should not eat until seen by a vet.

If the cat is not yours:

  • It is best not to approach a cat you do not know, even if they are injured.
  • Feral cats may have medical issues such as feline leukemia or rabies, which can infect humans and other cats if handled.
  • You may have to call animal control to get assistance when collecting a cat to take them to a vet.
  • If you touch a feral cat, immediately and thoroughly wash your hands.


A Summary of Cat Communication

  • Cats respond to tones and actions, not words.
  • Soft tones and gentle movements get better responses.
  • Cats will warn you of their intentions, so heed their warnings.
  • Approach a feral cat with extreme caution or not at all.
  • Feral cats may have rabies or other illnesses.
  • Approach an injured cat with care and understanding because they might bite or scratch.
  • Call Animal Control if there is an injured cat that you cannot approach safely.
  • Remember that items in your hands can be, and will be, considered weapons by a cat you are approaching.
  • Cats need patience.

A Note About Declawing

Never get cats declawed. This causes chronic pain and arthritis in their paws and leaves them defenseless if they should get outside. Declawed cats cannot climb and often become aggressive with their teeth, which becomes their only defense.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Cheryl Simonds

Tell me what you think, please.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 days ago from Houston, Texas

      We have always enjoyed our cats. Your advice about approaching feral or injured ones is excellent.

    • cherylone profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Simonds 

      4 months ago from Connecticut

      I can't argue with you on that point.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 

      4 months ago from Ireland

      Good tips for newbie cat owner here. I've had a pet cat since childhood and they are the best pets ever.

    • cherylone profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Simonds 

      6 months ago from Connecticut

      Thank you so much Pamela, I was hoping that it would help people understand how cats hear us. Thank you for your comment.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I have had several cats over the years and I loved them all. I think your advice is excellent in this article.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)