Wouldn't you love to know what your Cat is thinking?
You can sit and watch your Cat for hours, but you probably really never know just what is going on behind those beautiful eyes. Your Cat squints at you, fluttering their eyelids until they almost close... they switch their tail... Are they angry, playful, or about to spring into action? We may not ever truly know, however, we can make some pretty good assumptions about what Cats are thinking, based upon the full context of their behavioral signing and the events that normally follow.
Cat's Eyes say a lot about their mood:
When you look into your Cat's eyes and you can tell a lot about their state of mind. First, notice the direction of your Cat's gaze it will direct you to the subject of their attention. A Cat's gaze varies: some are intense and focused, while others are haphazard - well, really like a human, who can be focused on a task at hand or just calmly looking into the distance. When your Cat stares without blinking, do they want something from you or are they feeling something else completely different? Either could be true about what they are thinking. Although, a fixed gaze and rigid body posture might mean hostility, and the same look with a relaxed body posture may be soliciting petting session or some other form of attention in a relaxed, purring cat.
Next, another fairly definite eye sign relates to pupil size. If your Cat's pupils are constricted and slit-like, their mood is probably relaxed... or it may be in predatory mode - play or real. Dichotomies, such as this, are part of what have helped to create the irresistible mystique that has surrounded Cats throughout history. However, if your Cat's pupils become fully dilated in broad daylight, appearing as large black pools, it is a much more definitive sign. They are either in pain or ready to fight... or perhaps run away, if need be. Increased pupil size is functional and not intended to intimidate other Cats or people, but rather to allow more light into the eyes for better vision. Cats' pupils are always large at night to allow them to see at extremely low light levels, but Veterinarians learn very quickly to beware, when a Cat's pupils are fully dilated in a brightly lit examination room.
Also, the degree of opening of the eyelids can tell a tale, too. Wide-open eyes correlate with alertness and increased levels of mental activity ready for action, if you will. Semi-closed or fluttering eyes mean that the Cat is in a more sleepy, complacent mood and is probably in the mood for a nap. So, if your Cat's eyelids flutter and periodically close, while they are looking at you, this is a sign of faith or trust in whom ever is in their presence. Even if they are on the brink of falling asleep at the time, squinting at you is still a compliment. Your Cat is showing that they are comfortable enough, and trusting of you, to be able to take a nap in your presence.
Cat's Ears can tell you even more:
A Cat's ears can be arranged in a number of different positions and for several different reasons:
Ears erect and forward alert, with attention focused ahead Ears swiveled sideways on the offensive Ears pressed backward against the head extreme defense (ears folded back to protect their ears from harm) One ear forward and one back ambivalence Ears rotating like radar dishes listening carefully in an attempt to find the source of the sound.
Cat's normally keep their mouth closed, so this tells us very little about a Cat's motivation. When the mouth is open, however, you can sometimes learn about your Cat's thoughts.
The gape: your Cat gets a far-away look, allows the bottom jaw to drop, and looks as if they are grimacing in pain or smelling something with a "bad odor." What they are actually doing is savoring certain pheromonal odors in the air or on something. Cat's do not identify between good and bad smells; they simply smell everything, many times better than we do and they use this information to gain knowledge about their surroundings. Laughingly, we have always called this... "The Cat Face" and when a human tries to emulate the "face," it means "yuk!"
Open mouth with lips retracted: your Cat stares, bears their teeth, and hisses. This indicates intimidation and aggression, both at the same time. They are not happy, so beware, as a Cat, who is frightened, can lash out at anything and anyone - even their beloved human. They are in defense mode and probably do not even realize that it is you, who made a mistake and got in the way.
The yawn: yawning indicates stress, ambivalence, or sometimes preparedness for action. One of the most confusing of mouth positions!
Cats have many different "Meows" and other sounds that they make to communicate with you and with other animals. Their "speech," if you will, can be somewhat easily understood by listening to the tone, volume, and pitch, when you couple this audio information with their other visual behavioral signing.
Meows can mean from hello, I want to play, go away, I'm hungry, my litter box is dirty to I love you and everything in between. A hiss is typically a warning from mild to severe. Wails and screams are most definitely a warning and mean the Cat is frightened and/or about to attack. Many wild Cats, large and small, also make rather odd "barking" sounds, rather than meows. Bengals often make this short bark as one of their types of communications. It is a hold-over from the wild Asian Leopard Cat in the Bengals' genetic history. And, of course, there is the beloved purr, which we all know means contentment and happiness most of the time. However, Cat's can purr when actually in pain as they have the ability to release constituents in their bodies to relieve some of the pain.
Head and Body Position :
A Cat on the offensive, often walks directly toward the subject of their angst with their head held low and moving slowly from side to side - with their eyes fixed intently on the subject. When in this mode, your Cat will swivel their ears sideways and their body will appear wedge-shaped as their rear legs stiffen in preparedness for springing into action. Watch out for a Cat, who is in this position, as they mean business.
On the other hand, when your Cat is on the defensive, they will hunker down, while backing up, and lean away from the threat. Their head is sometimes deflected to one side giving the appearance of a sideways glance and he will vocalize (hiss, growl or shriek). Other signs of defensive aggression include: extension of claws, in readiness for a fight, and hair raised - making him appear larger and thus, more fearsome. A Cat in this posture is less likely to attack and more likely to retreat, because they are afraid.
A Cat's tail position and movement offers insight into your their psyche. Basically, a Cats tail can be up, down, sideways, or held close against their body; it can be curved or straight; and it can be still or moving. Here's how to interpret the various positions and movements of the tail:
Tail tucked fearful, defensive Tail held at half mast and moving slowly from side to side indicates mild interest Tail vertical or straight up indicates anticipation and/or greeting Tail vertical but curved to one side indicates playfulness Tail curved over the cat's back indicates expectation/monitoring Tail held completely to one side (in a Breeding female) indicates sexual receptivity Tail held low with tip twitching indicates a stalking, predatory stance - pretend or real Tail frantically switching in wide arcs indicates heightened affect/aggression Tail puffed up (piloerect) indicates fear and aggression
Marking Signs :
Bunting: your Cat may rub or push their face against objects with their forehead, cheeks or chin. What your Cat is doing is marking them with subtle biological scents. Some say that a Cat's rubbing with the forehead or cheeks indicates affection, but rubbing with the chin is usually reserved for territorial marking.
Furniture scratching: contrary to popular belief, furniture scratching is not the Cat's way of sharpening their claws, but is a form of visual and scent marking. Your Cat's paws are equipped with scent glands to facilitate this function. Territorial concerns will create or increase the instance furniture scratching/marking and should be addressed. If furniture scratching becomes a problem, first, know that it is more than likely a reaction to a new Cat, or other pet, in the household and working with both pets to acclimate can reduce or remove that behavior. Their are also various products on the market that can teach your Cat not to scratch your furniture, but to scratch and mark their own scratching post or Cat tree. Having one for each Cat can help to give them their own space and territory. This type of marking can also be because of a loose or stray Cat outside of your home and your Cat is defending their territory.
Marking objects with urine or feces: This is an even more distasteful form of marking behavior to most Cat Owners. Happily, it is very rare that a neuter/spayed pet will engage in this activity. Breeding Cats, both male and female, are hard wired to act in this manner, however. The function is similar to furniture marking and signifies an olfactory warning, but it is a much more intense "billboard" method, leaving no doubt of who has that territory.
Anal sac secretions: your cat may sometimes discharge their anal sac gland, when in situations of extreme fear. Anal sac secretions are thought to contain a fear pheromone that serves to remind the Cat, and others, that there was danger and not to pass that way again.
Understanding more about how your Cat communicates will help to enhance your bond with your Cat and it facilitates communication between the two of you. We hope that this information helps you and your Cat to enjoy each others company even more!