Cats often have a reputation for being solitary and self-absorbed. Many people think cats don’t bond with their humans or that they don’t need or want any kind of social interaction. Those who really “know” cats, though, know differently. Cats, beneath their stoic demeanor, are full of emotion and they convey that to others – cats, humans, dogs, etc., – in varied ways. Understanding them can be an art, but there are a few things all cats do that have specific meaning:
- Purring – Most think the cat’s purr in a sign of happiness and often it is. But the purr has many meanings. A cat purrs when it feels strong emotion. This can include love, contentment, pain or extreme stress.
- Meowing – Kittens meow at their mothers, but as cats grow, they tend to save this particular form of communication for their human companions. The meow can mean many things and is a way of garnering attention. Cats meow when they want something – food, petting or for you to open the door and let them outside. Some meows, usually lower in tone and seeming to come from the back of that cat’s throat, are a warning sign that Kitty isn’t happy and might attack if you don’t stop doing whatever it is that bothers her. The meow can also indicate stress or loneliness.
- Ears – Cats can’t change their general facial expression the way humans and dogs can. There is speculation that this is one of the reasons for their above-mentioned reputation, since humans read facial expressions to judge other creatures’ moods. But cats can do a lot with their ears. A laid-back ear is a sure sign that your cat is angry or afraid and you should probably leave him alone – or at least investigate a possible problem if the cat is reacting to something you can’t see. Perked up ears mean Kitty has heard something interesting that she might want to investigate herself. Perhaps there’s a smaller creature that needs hunting somewhere or someone to play with. A nervous cat will flatten his ears to the side while an annoyed cat will flick her ears.
- Tails – Just like dogs, a cat’s tail is full of expression. A tail held high and straight in the air is Kitty’s greeting and a sign that he might want some petting. This is especially true if the end of the tail tips over a bit. A relaxed cat might gently move his tail back and forth, but if that tail begins flicking quickly, you know your cat isn’t happy at the moment. If you’re petting him, it’s best to stop to avoid injury.