Cat Tips

Cat Body Language

Cats are the most unpredictable pets out there. Or are they? We have always known cats as being aloof but that doesn’t mean that they do not understand or communicate anything. All animals, just like humans, use their bodies to communicate different things. When it comes to cats, they can be quite subtle and complicated. But learning the way they communicate can really help you strengthen your bond. You’ve already taken the first step by searching for this, now let us help you with the rest. 

Let’s start with the happy feelings first. 

Body Language of a Happy Cat 

A few signs that indicate that your cat is happy are – (1)

  • Limbs and tail stretched out away from the body while lying down.

  • Upright ears facing forward

  • Upright tail, sometimes curved at the tip.

  • Half-closed eyes as against wide and alert. 

  • Slow blinking, as a sign of trust and love.

  • Showing their tummy as a sign of greeting and trust.

  • A small hop when they see you. 

When Your Cat Wants to Play

The hunter’s spirits in them get charged up when they want to play. You can be assertive of a playful mood if your cat is showing the following signs – (1)

  • Big eyes with dilated pupils. (this is also the same for humans bdw when they get excited by something)

  • Up and forward-facing ears.

  • Wagging their tail while checking the surroundings for something that interests them.

Note that just because your cat is showing its tummy to you doesn’t mean it’s inviting a belly rub. And now that you’ve gotten an idea of how to identify a happy cat, here are some signs to tell you that your cat is not in a great mood.

Body Language of a Stressed or Anxious Cat 

Many things can get your cat stressed or anxious. Schedule changes, new environment, other cats, illness, pain, separation from you or your family, loud noises, etc. are some of the reasons. If our feline babies could talk, it would be much easier to know what exactly are they feeling. However, they do communicate these feelings with us with their body. This is how you can identify a stressed cat – (3)

  • Their bodies are the exact opposite of when they are happy – stiff and held low to the ground.

  • Defecation or urination outside the litter box

  • Whiskers held further than normal

  • Ears rotated to the sides like aeroplane wings.

  • The tail held close to the body. 

  • Thrashing or thumping the tail.

  • Attempts to hide as against asking for attention.

Fearful Cat’s Body Language

The vast majority of animal attacks involve fear on the animal's part; they are afraid you will attack them, their young, or you are approaching their territory and scaring them. The ways cats show that they are afraid are – (3)

  • Arched back to look bigger and more intimidating

  • Upright and stiff tail

  • Their fur standing on the end

  • Whiskers pointing at the thing making them feel threatened

  • Growling or hissing to warn the threat off

  • A loud yowl followed by a shriek to indicate that they are about to defend themselves. 

An aggressive may show similar signs. They may also spit, a sudden and explosive burst of noise that is often accompanied by a lunge or swat. 

While it is important to know the above signs to recognise a happy or a sad cat, it is more important to know when the cat is sick. 

Body Language of a Sick Cat

Coughing, sneezing, or clutching may be obvious signs of sickness in us humans. But most of the time, we can also tell from the person’s face that he/she is sick. Cats also show some physical signs apart from the obvious ones that can tell us they need vet attention. These include - (1)

  • Hunched body with legs tucked underneath.

  • Shut, dazed or glassy eyes.

  • Visible third eyelid, the pink tissue in the corner of the eyes.

  • Closely wrapped tail.

  • Increased purring, meowing or yowling.

Apart from these signs like decreased energy levels, lack of appetite, excessive grooming, etc. may also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. 

Cat Tail Language

Cat tails tell tales. You can know a lot about the cat’s mood, energy levels, and whether you are welcomed or not by observing their tails. It’s the position and movement of the tail that talks. Here’s a quick brief for you – (2)

  • High position – It is usually a sign of confidence, happiness and a willingness to be friendly. If the tip of that high tail is a little twitched, you’re lucky. You’ve just got a perfectly happy cat. 

  • Curved like a question mark – It is another indicator of a happy mood, more to say ‘Let’s play!’. 

  • Low position – A straight-down tail usually means stress or anxiety. It can be followed by aggression as well. You might want to stay cautious here. Some breeds like the Persian are an exception to this rule though. They hold their tails low, usually for no apparent reason. 

  • Tucked away tail – This means a submissive mood. You might want to check the surroundings in this case. There could be something making the cat nervous. 

  • Puffed up – This one is not a great sign as it usually indicates that the cat is frightened and is trying to look bigger and more intimidating. 

  • Whipping motion – A rapid back-and-forth slapping of the tail is another indicator of a stressed, fearful or aggressive cat. 

  • Slowly swaying – A tail in swishing motion indicates a focused cat. You would usually see this before your cat pounces on a toy or food. 

Body Language and Cat Ears Meaning

Just like the tail, ears are another avenue for cats to express what they are feeling. When a cat's ears are pointed forward, it generally indicates that the cat is alert, interested, or curious about its surroundings. Ears that are flattened or turned sideways, like the wings of an aeroplane, usually signify that the cat is feeling threatened, frightened, or anxious. Ears that are twitching can denote irritation or indecision.

More About Spot Pet Insurance

As we mentioned above, recognising signs of a sick cat is the most important thing to learn for a pet parent. Cats are experts in hiding their pain. This can make it more difficult for you to know when your cat is sick. The signs noted above can help you with that. At times, some signs can be indicators of a severe underlying medical condition. They can not only put your cat’s life in danger but also put a severe dent in your savings. We’ve also seen cat parents who had to lose their pets because of insufficient finances for their kitty’s treatment. The best way to avoid such circumstances is to get pet health insurance for your kitty. You can save up to 90% of the costs with one. 

With a Spot accident and illness plan, you can take your cat for treatment at any licensed vet in Canada or the U.S. Spot plans don’t have networks, so whether you’re home or traveling within the U.S, veterinary services your cat receives for the diagnosis, treatment, or management of eligible services can be covered. Spot’s accident and illness plans can help cover a variety of conditions, ranging from broken bones and bite wounds to behavioral conditions, and cancer. While base plans do not offer coverage for preventive care services, Spot’s Wellness Riders can be added to any base plan for an additional fee and can help cover the eligible costs of wellness exams, vaccinations, dental cleanings, and more! 

Learn more about cat insurance or get a free quote. 


  1. Behavior, A. G. D. (2023, August 30). How to read a cat’s body language. PetMD.

  2. Nutrition, H. P. (2021, November 28). The tales your cat’s tail tells. Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

  3. Cat Body Language | Cat Behaviour Help & Advice. (n.d.).

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