Whenever our cats meow at us, we can’t help but put words in their mouth. “Feed me, hooman”, my cat would say. Other times, it’s “I love you, hooman”. To understand their subtle language of cats, we need to think like cats and walk in their paws.

1. Vocal:

There is an interesting theory on cats’ meow.

Cats can make different types of meows (up to 16 types, if you are wondering) – nothing new there. But there’s a theory that domestic cats (aka your cat and my cat) establish specific meow to a purpose with their owner (aka us). When my cat meows at me, I know whether he wants food, access to the outside or affection because he asks for it differently. But not necessarily if you heard my cat meow – you wouldn’t know if it’s food he’s after or something else. Same thing if I heard your cat meow.

This is really interesting because we used to think cats were poor at communication. Unlike dogs and humans that evolved to live in a group, their art of communication is not as elaborate. But turns out, that we just need to “listen” to understand them.

Also, cats truly are training humans, not the other way around. *wink


2. Body language

Cats use a wide variety of postures and movements to communicate with us – in fact, too much to cover in this blog. So we’ll give you an overlook. Cats use their entire body to communicate with you but for us, key places to look out for are: ears, whiskers, eyes, body posture and the tail.

Relaxed body language:

For example, a cat lying on their back with belly exposed with a big stretch of the limbs shows trust and comfort. Don’t mistake it for a cat asking for a belly rub. Return the favour by politely scratching their head or giving a stroke under their chin.

Cat walking towards with you with their tail straight up in the air is likely to be greeting you as a kitten would to their moms.

Cat also shows affection and trust by “slow blink”. If you are observant, you may notice your cat slowly blinking at you when eye contacts are made. This is a cat language of “I love you, friend”. You can return this by slowing blinking back at them.

Stress body language:

If you’ve seen my cat come across a boisterous dog, you’ve seen an angry cat. Arched back, fluffed up tail vertically held up high along with nice hissing and growling song. More subtle stress body language in cats include: lip/nose licking, purring, flattened ears and body posture and avoidance of eye contact.

We’re all ears!

3. Touch:

You would be surprised to find out that cats often communicate with us through a sense of touch! Licking, kneading, head bonking, cheek rubbing and biting can all mean different things and some may also have an olfactory component.  Licking us may indicate affection, as cats often groom and lick each other to bond. Gentle biting, which may be accompanied with kneading and purring can signal playfulness or affection, but firmer bites along with hissing or growling usually means they are very upset!

Cheek rub!

4. Olfactory:

Cats communicate through smell using their urine, faeces and scent glands. Cats will deposit their pheromones on people and your furniture by cheek rubbing, head bonking and kneading. They may also do this by urine marking. See this video for tips on dealing with urine marking in your cat.

Final Words…

Cat language is subtle yet complicated, way more than we can cover in this blog. I hope this has helped you to understand your precious kitty cat a little better. Now get slow blinking back!

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