Regardless if you are a cat owner, or think about getting a cat, or neither, understanding cats and their communication is an interesting and mysterious task. Cats are complex creatures, but once you show interest in their language, movements, communicating, they become intelligent and adorable at the same time.
Many factors have to be taken into consideration when speaking of cats; their meowing sounds, cat tail movements, chirping, cat behavior in general, cat communication ways, laying on their backs and whether or not they understand us, i.e., our words and language.
1. Meow sounds of cats
Several factors play a role here, starting from loneliness, stress, age, mating or playful needs, there is always some meaning. When they seek attention, they are either bored, or need cuddles.
Approach the cat when the mood is calm and if she responds negatively, simply have distance. If the cat has some illness, it uses sounds or tail moves again.
By nature, they hide any health discomfort, so pay attention if she refuses her toys or favorite foods. A hungry cat will make sure to intensify her sounds when she needs food and you should make sure she is followed to the spot she needs to show it you.
A cat under stress responds like this when you make changes in the home, bring guests the cat is unfamiliar with, bring a new pet and so on. Disliking the change will show through anger and stress. The cats that are old and confused manifest disorientations and even frustrations.
These cats will unsurprisingly bump into objects due to bad eyesight, so help them out and clear the pathways they use the most. What about mating needs? It is not unusual that female cats are more loud and vocal than male cats in mating seasons.
This is done for attention from the males and showing attraction. The loud noises of males are ONLY in the presence of a female cat nearby. If you noticed meow sounds when you enter the home or room, the cat greets you! It is their own simple way of saying Hello and showing their love for you.
Further readings you may be interested in: Why Do Cats Meow
2. Cat tail movements say a lot too
Unlike the happy tail wagging dogs do, cats’ tail moves are more complicated and with more meanings.
A tail held high signifies owning a territory that the cat walks on, now the cat is confident and friendly, especially if the tail is delicately twitched. A curved tail is even more friendliness or need for engaging in fun activities and playing games, so at this point, try to approach the cat without fear and have fun with her too.
If the tail of the cat is somewhat tucked away, the cat feels incredibly insecure, nervous, under tension or is irritated by something. A good thing to consider is staying away at this time and let the cat relax on her own.
You probably also have seen a tail that looks puffed, like a duster cleaner. Well, the bad news is that your cat is really frightened and stressed, feels threatened and scared. Why is she puffed like that? Simply to look bigger and appear more dangerous in her opponent’s eyes, intimidate him or threaten him when she feels insecure.
Engage with the cat in some mutual attention to something, only if you see the cat swishing her tail from one side to another. She is paying attention to something or some object or living being, perhaps her toys, or object ready to pounce on, even the cat food bowl.
Best way to understand this is by getting her toys and move them rapidly in front of her – the tail will swish instantly. It is similar with the twitching tail, it signifies focus and concentration to something.
Wrapped tail around some other cat is like people hugging – friendship, love, affections. A tail that is arched and fluffy is mostly seen when you introduce another pet near the cat and she feels in danger.
Does the cat flick the tail back and forth? Well, just know she is not feeling good and is discontent. On the other hand, vertically quivering tail is greeting you when you enter a room. If the cat wants to explore objects and greet new people, she will have the tail raised and angled at the back.
Further readings you may be interested in: Cat Tail Meaning
3. Cats’ chirping is a unique talk
Many theories clash here, but it is all coming down to either frustration from having prey far from the cat, mimicking the prey’s species to lure it better or simply being extremely excited. And the last one is probably more dominant. Chirping might be heard if the cat is far from her prey and she feels trapped in her spot, unable to catch what she wants.
Mimicking sounds even better, whatever prey she targets, she the cat would mimic its sounds and be extremely happy about it. in outdoor setting, the cat spotted rodent or bird, but for indoor setting there is probably a bug nearby. This sound however mimics neck bite of a prey.
Further readings you may be interested in: Why Do Cats Chirp.
4. Generally seeing the cat behavior overall
Never, not even once, the behavior of the cat is random and pointless. Believe it or not, cats can bite their nails, so humans are not the only ones with this anxiety habit.
Apparently, the cat needs to be more relaxed and accepted in your home. You must also wonder why the cat sometimes randomly runs and sprints? Here the explanation is funny and positive – cats do their own workouts this way, just as we need to move around and get in shape.
After a tiring session of cat exercise, the cat could end up sitting like a tomboy, now she feels content, happy, comfortable at home and trusts you. This can be followed by the cat rubbing up against you, or some objects. Be proud to wear her scent from the rubbing, now you are owned by her!
Something unpleasant is when a cat exposed her feces and uncovers them in front of you. She feels like telling you she is dominant and is equal to you in your own home. Same goes for hissing, not a good mood for sure. It is clear anger and backing off warning. When a cat asks approval to bond with you and explore you, she will sniff your face. But, if she feels anxious, her ears would go back and forth with a twitch.
On the other hand, pointy ears are some alert and attention. When you notice the cat laying on objects you own,the cat tells you she needs your mutual closeness and thus she leaves her scent on your objects. But, the cutest of all moves is kneading paws which represents happiness and warmth. This is done by kittens when they are nursed by their mothers, so the habits stay instinctive.
Further readings you may be interested in: Cat Behavior Meaning.
Communication by cats is never isolated sounds or just body language, instead is a combination of all important segments which cannot be excluded separately. When a cat says something, this is a well-blended mix of sounds, markings, scent, paw movements, body movements and more. In general communication ways are vocal, through body language and with scents and marks.
With vocal communication, cats manifest some meaning through speed, volume, intensity, pitch variations and so on. If the sounds are prolonged and loud, your cat probably feels fearful and anxious, whereas quieter sound is stable mood and calmness, same as purring – the sound we all know.
Beware of strained or long sounds, a hissing and anger will most certainly follow, or even screams or growling. This is not uncommon during mating season or when the cat is previously teased.
For body language, pay attention to every single move and body part and consider it as a whole. You will get the whole picture if you focus at the same time on the eyes, tail, ears and body curving. Cheer up if you see the cat has ears pointed toward you, you can freely approach her.
But, if the ears are flattened and appear as if they are way behind the forehead, the cat tells you to leave her alone, and also, she will show teeth and wide dilated pupils. With these in mind, expect also to see the cat appearing bigger with a curved back, as if puffed above her normal height.
For sensitivity and moments of love exchange and showing affections, cat do the sweet thing of batting lashes. One cat gets near another cat, so close that in fact it can touch the other cat’s lashes, or in cat language, give a kiss.
The tail needs your focus too, even more than usual. A tail that is tucked and low between her legs, do not be so harsh and leave the cat alone, since at this time she feels submissive and vulnerable as if insulted.
If a cat wants a challenge with you, by staring and not blinking, accept this game invitation and stare back too, cats love this because it is a form of meditation or communicating by ‘doing nothing’.
Whiskers say many things too; pointed whiskers forward are focus, mild tension, wondering, observing and alertness. Spread and directly outward are relaxed mood.
And ears are observed too, just know that pivoting ears mean your cat has full attention near you.
Did you ever see cats grooming each other? This process is reconciliation between two cats who managed to suppress their previous anger and avoid bigger conflict. If there is further need for social involving and bonding, cats would use each other as pillows to lay on each other partially.
With scents and marks, cats leave room to be known for their possessions and territory. Every cat has glands in her face that leave scent, stating the cat’s age, health, reproduction state and personal facts. When in mating season, male cats even spray their urine in some areas to show other male cats not to enter the ‘marked’ territory.
Further readings you may be interested in: How Do Cats Communicate.
6. Back laying conveys something too
One thing is firmly certain when a cat lays on her back – she is in no way angered or raging, but on the contrary. With this position, cats expose their inner, protected body part or the tummy. When she willingly does this, it means her tummy is exposed on purpose, giving you full freedom and trust. When the belly is exposed, be sure the cat is happy, friendly, cute, serene and incredibly relaxed.
But on her back, she may also tell you she is vulnerable and fragile. Basically, this submission shows when the cat made something wrong and knows this, or when she simply is overly affectionate toward you. With this again, trust is expressed since the cat does not expect you to harm her now.
Why is an exposed belly a fragility sign? Since, no cat or animal for that purpose, could predict an attacker or predator with body center turned around and not ready for fast moving. Rarely, this back laying is practiced in mating seasons mostly by female cats. This is next to the playful mood when your cat tells you she has energy and a vibrant day!
Pet your cat and fetch her toys to see her skipping with joy. And last, but not least of this segment is the vocal messages during this position. This is an interesting invitation for you to see something. Lying on the back accompanied with a growl is a forthcoming jump with attack. Be especially careful here, where you hear sounds and at the same time the cat lies on the back – the next moment she could be all over you with anger.
Further readings you may be interested in: Why Do Cats Lay On Their Back.
7. Do cats understand our languages and words?
It is known by now that dogs are easily trained to listen to us and understand almost everything we say. But, for cats this is different. Probably no one has ever seen a cat that willingly and with utmost joy jumps around the owner like a dog would. Cat’s joy or talking to the owner is a whole new level of affection and speaking. By statistics, dogs are estimated to understand 100 of words we use daily with them and cats merely 30 or 40 words at most. Why does this falsely labels cats as less intelligent and obedient than dogs? While cats know less words, they are superior to dogs as far as different vocalizations go. A dog would answer the owner in a few ways only, but a cat would talk to you through a plethora of sounds. An interesting fact is that a cat would not use so much sounds or ‘words’ if it is not surrounded by humans. We surely have this privilege!
Various examples exist to show the talking of cats and their understanding of our talking. Form of words and phrases is not crucial for cats, they rely seriously on your VOICE, TONE, MOOD heard in voice and so on.
Words you use all the time will be understood and if you talk to your cat in a calm manner, your cat will respond to you happily. But, if she is being reprimanded, she will not respond, just be at distance from you.
Remember, whatever tone of voice you choose, the cat will reply to you in the exact, same tone (whether is baby sounds, anger, joy, silence…). Imagine as if you speak to the cat with emotions, she perceives and feels them, and gives them back to you as a response. can cats ignore us purposely even with well understood words?
By nature, cats are aloof, but not slow at all! Just by hearing human voices, and without looking at humans, a cat can recognize her owner’s voice and will respond with moving her head. A cat that turns the head curiously and has dilated pupils, recognized her owner’s voice and responds with alertness.
What about us using English, do cats are predetermined to learn the owner’s language? As it is mentioned above, cats learn words, even though less than dogs do. The difference is that if you repeat certain phrases and do not reward the cat for following you by the phrase, that cat would not follow your commands anymore until it is given a treat.
By this, she tells you that something has to be in for her, since she heard you and followed your voice. A dog would follow the owner endlessly, but a cat would intelligently stop when she sees no benefit!
If a word or phrase is not associated to tangible things (for example, tummy rubs, food, games), the cat would not understand those words. To simplify this, cats do not understand phrases and words that have nothing to do with them and this is a smart thing every cat has as instinct.
Further readings you may be interested in: Do Cats Understand Words.
As you see cats’ language is a complex philosophy involving visuals, sounds, marking and many other details. Talking to a cat seems impossible, but can be incredibly easy!