An Introductory Guide to Cat Body Language

4 min read
May 14, 2023

As cat parents, we’ve all wondered from time to time what it would be like if our beloved feline friends could talk. But, just because cats can’t speak, doesn’t mean that they can’t communicate with us. In fact, they use body language to talk to us all the time. Everything from our cat’s ears, tail positions, eyes, and body posture can offer insights into their mood and state of mind.

Read on to begin decoding your cat’s body language!

Body Posture

Your cat’s posture is a good starting point for understanding his current mood. To understand the full picture, take note of what his ears and tail are doing at the same time. 

Exposed belly: Cats expose their bellies when they are feeling happy, confident, and relaxed. It may be tempting to pet your cat’s exposed belly but beware-- many cats will bite and scratch when you try. Just because they show their belly doesn’t mean they are inviting pets. However, there are some cats that do enjoy belly rubs. 

Arched back: A cat with an arched back and a rigid tail is fearful and may act aggressively. If your cat is in this position, give him plenty of space so he can calm down. 

Crouched: Cats crouch when they are attempting to make themselves small and unnoticeable. Your cat may do this when he is nervous and trying to stay out of harm’s way. Other times he may do this when he is hunting and trying to remain inconspicuous to his prey. A nervous cat will crouch and tuck his tail, whereas a cat that is hunting will swish their tail and focus on their prey. 

Ear Position

Cat ears are incredibly expressive and they are always at work. Have you ever noticed that your cat’s ears move even when he appears to be sound asleep? There’s no way you’ll be able to sneak up on him: Cats can pinpoint sounds to their source. 

Forward-facing: When your cat’s ears are pointed forward it indicates that he is alert or curious. The more alert he is, the more pointed his ears become. For instance, your cat’s ears may be forward when you are petting him, but they will perk up even more when you pour food in his dish!

Pointed out to the side: This indicates that your cat is feeling anxious or uncomfortable. He is likely trying to assess his surroundings and deciding how to handle himself. You may notice your cat’s ears do this when he hears a loud noise, or when a new person or animal enters his surroundings. 

Flat ears: If your cat’s ears are pinned flat against his head, he is feeling scared or aggressive. In instances like this, it’s best to give him space and ensure he has an escape route to remove himself from the uncomfortable situation. 

Flickering ears: If your cat’s ears are swiveling back and forth it indicates that your cat is listening intently. Cat ears have over 32 muscles each, helping cats position them perfectly to take in the sounds of their surroundings. 

Tail Position
Your cat’s tail is another powerful window into his mood. Everything from your cat’s tail position, shape, and movements offer insights into how he is feeling. 

Erect tail: When cats hold their tails upright, it usually means that they are feeling confident and happy. If the tail is curved slightly at the tip it’s a sign that your cat is feeling friendly.

Low tail: If your cat is feeling anxious, scared, or agitated he will carry his tail low or tucked underneath his body. 

Medium, neutral tail: A relaxed cat will often hold his tail in a neutral position, extending straight out from behind him. 

Rigid, puffed tail: A rigid puffed up tail is a tell-tale sign of an aggressive or fearful cat. While this is usually rare, your cat may puff his tail if he feels threatened. If this happens, give your cat plenty of space, as approaching him may increase his overwhelm and cause him to act aggressively.

Swishing Tail:
Do you ever notice your cat swishing his tail back and forth? This means he is focused. You might notice your cat doing this when he’s playing with toys, or looking out the window at birds.  

Final Thoughts

By now you can see that your cat has all kinds of non-verbal ways to communicate with you. Sure, it’s not the same as a conversation, but understanding your cat’s body language certainly helps you to respect his boundaries and engage with him in meaningful ways! 

Consider Investing in Cat Insurance 

Looking for more ways to protect your kitty? Consider investing in a cat insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Get your free quote today.

Protect your Pets

Enroll in 3 Easy Steps

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.