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How To Read Your Cat

Posted by Henry Jackson on

Many people consider cats to be aloof, maybe even mysterious creatures, and aren't sure how to tell what their moggie is thinking. In truth however, cats are fairly easy to figure out, once you know all of their sign language. So, this week we at Pet Food Plus More have decided to put together an article to help you pick up on all of your feline friends' little tells.

Let's begin with one that everyone will be interested in knowing - what signs does my cat give me that they love me? Well, most people probably already have one or two ideas, the first being that the cat will purr in your presence. This is usually a good sign that they are happy and comfortable, but in reality cats purr in all kinds of situations! Sometimes they can even be heard purring during events as painful and stressful as giving birth! However, it's always a good bet that if they're settled down and purring, they're nice and comfortable, and it's generally not something they would do in the presence of a human they didn't trust.

The second common idea is that your cat rubbing it's head on your legs or other parts of your body is a sign that they love you, which is true in one way, but the actual intention is quite different. Cats like to keep their owners marked with their scent, which they do by rubbing their face (which have a lot of scent glands!) on you. Perhaps this is because they think they own us!

The most sure way to know when your cat is trying to tell you that they love you is to look out for them giving you a signal known as the 'slow blink'. Usually cats don't like to look other animals directly in the eye - to cats that can be a way of issuing a challenge - but when they are relaxed and fully love and trust you, they will look at you and give a slow, deliberate blink in your direction, usually with their ears fully facing your direction. This symbolises that they feel completely at ease in your presence, and it's their most telling way of affection. That said, different cats have different methods of showing their affection.

Other common signs can include licking you (they're grooming you!), kneading on you, or making vocalisations such as meows, chirps, or trills at you. One common mistake people can make is when a cat shows you it's belly. Many people mistake this behaviour as the same as for dogs, in which they assume that the cat is asking for a belly rub. However, in cats this simply means that they are showing you that they trust you. That is why if you give in to your cat by rubbing it's belly, they may try to scratch or bite your hand, as you had just broken their sign of trust. It is also generally uncommon for cats to enjoy belly rubs.

Did you know? - The best way to approach a cat - especially a new cat you haven't met before - is to gently 'offer' your index finger to it. With your index finger fully elongated, turn your hand palm-up and curl the rest of your fingers inwards, and slowly offer the finger to the cat's face. This is basically you offering the cat the opportunity to sniff you and identify whether it thinks you might be a threat or not. This definitely makes them think you're a lot more trustworthy than if you just started touching them, and even if you are their owner they would appreciate the gesture. Doing this also helps you to gauge whether the cat wants to be touched, as it gives the cat a chance to react before you do.

Turning to the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, let's look at some of the signs that show that your cat may be nervous or frightened. The most obvious tell here is gained from looking at their eyes. When relaxed, cats' eyes are usually not fully open, but instead are squinted or half-closed, and they only fully open when they are watching something (such as a bird or another cat) or frightened. This can be easily recognised and can be thought of in terms of attention. If a cat feels like something requires it's full intention, it will fully open it's eyes while watching it. Similarly, their ear's are a good way of identifying what they are paying attention to, as a cat relies on their hearing even more than their sight. You may sometimes observe a cat trying to listen to something happening elsewhere in the house or garden by angling their ears towards the direction the sound is coming from, but not actually looking in that direction, for this very purpose. A cat's tail can also be a good indicator of it's mood, working in a way almost opposite to a dog's - when they are anxious, or even just unhappy, they will move their tail a lot, though this will be more of a 'flick'ing motion rather than a wagging motion. 

However, when cats are very frightened, they will almost always face their threat, and their ears will 'pin back' very close to their head. Other signs include either fully raising their tail or fully lowering it between their legs (as opposed to swishing around behind them) and fully arching their back, in the same way that many animals try to make themselves look bigger against threats.

Did you know? - A cat's eyes can be used to tell the time! It may not be as accurate as an actual clock, but a cat's pupils naturally fluctuate throughout the day, being very narrow at midday and becoming very wide at night. before the mass availability of clocks, some parts of the world would be able to tell the rough time of day by looking at the size of a cat's pupil! 

One other set of behaviours that all cat owners would want to know is when their cat is ill. In truth, there isn't really a universal behaviour to keep an eye out for; illness-related behaviours vary a lot depending on the specific illness, and even then can vary from cat to cat. Behaviours to be on the look-out for would require an entire article to itself, which, thankfully, we at Pet Food Plus More have already produced, which you can read by clicking here. Be sure to give it a read, as it could mean providing your cat with a bit of relief and save you a vet trip if your cat does face a problem in the future!


And with those the article comes to a close. We hope that this article has touched upon the behaviours that you have wanted to decode the most, and that you have learnt something new about how your cat is trying to communicate with you! If you still have any questions that you think we can help you with, be sure to contact us by clicking here, and our staff will be more than happy to help you however we can.

Hope to see you in-store again soon!
Henry Jackson, Head of IT for Pet Food Plus More


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