Cats, like human-beings, reveal their inner states through their body language. At Tuft and Paw, we spend a ton of time researching cats in order to design our cat furniture. 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.
For this guide, we sat down with Feline Behavior Expert Marci Koski to figure out exactly how to tell the difference between a cat that’s anxious, fearful, or angry and one that’s friendly and comfortable. We’ll also share some fun stories that will help you understand some common cat body language quirks.
The first step in reading a cat’s body language is understanding the context.
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. Most of the time, this tail position indicates that the cat feels comfortable and open to interaction. However, in certain contexts – like warding off a strange cat in his own territory – a high tail can also indicate a willingness to attack.
The high tail can represent a confident cat or a potentially aggressive cat depending on the scenario.
So, when it comes to reading cat body language, the key is to pay attention not only to physical cues, but also the situation in which they take place, which is the approach we’ll be following in this guide.
When considering context, it’s important to try to see things from your cat’s perspective. People often approach cats with good intentions, get scratched or bitten, and then blame the cat for being mean-tempered. What’s missing is an assessment of how the cat might have perceived the gesture.