We’re all familiar with the kitty “meow”, but that is not the only way that cats communicate. The majority of the way that cats communicate is by using body language.

How and why cats communicate

What’s interesting about cats is that they’ve evolved from the African wildcat which lives in a solitary lifestyle and they only come together for mating and things like that. In contrast to humans and dogs that are very social creatures and have developed a really complex verbal and facial expressions and signals to communicate things with each other, cats haven’t needed to develop any of that in their solitary lifestyles.

What they have found very useful to them though is using scent or smells to communicate with each other and this works brilliantly for animals that don’t like to see others of their same species. That is because a smell can last over time so they can leave a communicative smell in one place and another cat can come at another time and receive that communication without them ever having to come in a face-to-face contact or conflict with each other.

What kind of smells do cats use?

Well they use quite a variety. There are some that are a bit more obvious to us things like urine and feces. Sometimes they can use scent glands that are in various parts of their body or they can use scent glands on their paws or on their cheeks to convey different signals. Cats will use these scent glands in different areas to tell themselves different things. Smells like cat urine, when a cat sprays in places that can tell them to be wary or watch out around that area, is kind of a signal to be careful. Cats use the scent glands in their paws sometimes to mark territory. You may see cats scratching at things especially around the edges of their territory and that’s telling other cats that area is theirs.


Cats use the scent glands on their cheeks to tell them what is safe and what is comfortable to them. You may notice when you come home from a day at work that you’ll get smooches around your feet or around your shopping bags, things that have been out in the environment and come back smelling different. Your cat wants to re-sync them and make them smell safe and okay.

How are you going to communicate with your cat?

The first thing to remember is that they use scent for everything so they want you to smell safe and like them. sometimes you can use a calming pheromone spray and things like that that can that mimic the cheek scent gland and that can help cats to feel nice and at home. But important thing is to remember that cats also don’t like change, they like routine and like things to stay the same, especially when it comes to these smells. Also remember that these smells are things that we can’t smell so it’s just things that the cat is going to be able to perceive.


What’s important to a cat is to keep this routine and keep its home nice and steady. Try and limit the changes. Doing things like stroking and grooming your cat, playing with your cat, these things can give them endorphins that are the chemicals in your body that make you feel good about things. So they can be a really good way of bonding and communicating with your cat. If your cat is smooching you or rubbing its face on you, then they need to do this to make you feel comfortable and make it feel nice and secure with you.

Although cats don’t generally use verbal signals to communicate with each other except when a mother maybe with their kittens, some cats have become quite savvy and that is what’s called learned behaviors with their human owners. Little things like if you go to the cupboard and your cat meows and you feed it – that’s going to make it know that when it meows that way, it’s going to get a reward.

Reading cat body language

Body language is universal among the feline family. So if you see a lion out on the Sahara you know it’s the same thing as that domestic feline they have the same characteristics. It’s important to be able to read the cat’s body language so that you know how to react to each mood or whim.  Reading feline body language will also help you learn to gauge when it’s okay to approach and when it’s time to back away. Cats have responses to stress and stress equals aggression.

signs of stress in cats

Cats are mysterious but if you look for subtle clues in their ears, their tail, their whiskers and their eyes it really lets you have a clue as to what is going on in their head. When your cat is in a nice relaxed state her ears are in a nicely relaxed and calm position. Though she’s relaxed, her tail may move a little bit because cats have very flexible tails.

You should know that a kitty’s tail will tell you a lot about them. Cats are kind of opposite than dogs with the tail. When you see a dog’s tail really wagging very fast that usually means that they’re happy to see you. But with a cat, if you see that tail wagging furiously that usually means that they are upset. It also might mean that they’re worried that they’re thinking about something they haven’t quite made the decision but the decision may be that you’re in trouble and they are mad at you! So you might want to keep that in mind.

If your cat is happy their tail will be curled or when they come to greet you and they are in kind of a friendship mode or just curious, their tail might just be straight, nice and alert, there may be some wagging just a tiny little bit like a question mark.

The eyes really give you an idea of how a cats doing.  If your kitty is in a nice relaxed happy state, her eyes will actually be half closed and that means she is really content and she thinks everything is okay. But when you see a cat with dilated or enlarged pupils and the pupil is the black center of the eye you want to be aware because sometimes that means that the cat is happy and sometimes that means that that cat is fearful. Therefore read the rest of their body language. See what their tail is doing as well.

signs of a happy cat

Also when you see your cat grooming herself, this is another good indicator that she’s very happy and content. But you also want to be aware when you see a kitty with really pinpoint slits for pupils. That usually indicates that that kitty is not so happy.

The ears and the whiskers are another good indicator.  When your cat is happy, her ears are nice and high but when you see a kitty with the ears back that could mean that they’re fearful and that could also mean that they’re angry. When the ears are flat back, you better watch out.

The whiskers also let you know your cat’s mood. If your cat is startled or overexcited then their whiskers will often be pointing outwards along with the rest of their fur. When a cat is in a hunting mood, their whiskers will be tilted forward slightly. When a cat is content, her whiskers will be relaxed and when scared or threatened their whiskers will be pulled back against their face.

Understanding common cat behavior problems

Sometimes cats can exhibit some behavior problems that upset us. It is important to know how to manage those so that both you and your cat can have a happier more satisfying relationship.

Cats have different personalities. Some are very friendly and outgoing while others are timid and shy. so a cat that runs when the doorbell rings may just be a timid shy cat that really doesn’t want to make more friends. Sometimes even a well-adjusted outgoing cat may seek privacy and hide a little bit.


Does your personality match with your cat?

You should choose a cat that works for you. If you’re a very gregarious outgoing person that has a lot of company then it may work best if you have an outgoing interactive cat. But don’t worry if you have a timid and quiet cat just make sure that you offer your kitty some safe places where they can hide and watch without necessarily interacting. That could be something like an igloo bed or even a high perch on a cat pole.

My cat suddenly bit me

Many cat owners ask this common question that why does my cat bite when I pet them. Cats who really like each other also groom each other. But most of that grooming takes place around the head and the neck. Some cats seem to prefer interaction around the head and neck, scratching down the ears, a light pet on the top of the head but not enjoy stroking down the entire body. So if your cat is one of those kitties who doesn’t like when you give them long strokes down their back, why don’t you try just scratching them a little bit around their head and neck.


Look for signals

The second thing you need to be aware of is the cat will usually give you a signal when they’re not particularly happy. These can be subtle just as a little flick of the tip of their tail. For other cats, their ears will go back and some cats even might hiss at you. You may then realize that what your cat wants to do is be close to you without being touched.

I have multiple cats

Often people who have one cat or even two cats, decide they would like to adopt another cat. Sometimes that integration goes smoothly and everybody is one big happy home, but other times things don’t go so well. When you have more than one cat in your house, it’s important to remember that cats don’t share space equally. Each territory that the cat occupies should have all the resources they need – food, water, resting places and litter boxes. So if you have multiple cats in your home you should have multiple food bowls in different locations.

My cat doesn’t use the litter box

If your cat’s not using the litter box take your cat to the veterinarian and have them checked out. There can be lots of medical reasons that a cat might not use their litter box and we want to make sure that they’re medically healthy before we start on behavior changes. There are several factors that can lead a cat to not use the litter box. Cats really like cleanliness and every cat is different and what they consider a clean litter box. Scoop out the waste material at least once a day. It’s also important that every 7 to 10 days you totally dump out that litter box, wash the litter box, dry it and refill it with clean litter.

My cat scratches furniture

Scratching is a normal cat behavior but one that often drives pet owners crazy. Why does the cat pick the arm of the new sofa to use as their scratching post when you have a perfectly good one in a different location?

The first step to change unwanted scratching is to cover up the area where they are scratching right now that we don’t want them to scratch on. The second is to put their scratching post right there. So hopefully they’re going to scratch on their scratching post and as they are using it regularly we generally can move it to a less obvious location. Decline is something that should be done only as a last resort.