What is Your Cat Really Telling You? Know the Secret Sign Language of Cats

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Given cats rule the internet it makes sense that there is almost as much information online about our fave pet’s body language as the cats themselves. And while no one can really get inside your moggy’s head to know exactly what they’re telling us, there are plenty of animal behaviourists and vets that have observed enough to be about as conclusive as it is possible.

So we’ve set about the task of pulling together a guide to just some of the vast array of cat body language and communication, and find out some of what your cat is really telling you. This is particularly useful if you’re showing a young child what your cat is trying to say.


Because the cat’s face is relatively immobile, as well as learning the communication it is sending from how it lies and sits, one of the easiest visual clues you can receive from your cat is from its tail:

tail positioning


1. The Tail Down, Bristles Up – This is a strong indication your cat feels threatened and can express as aggression, agitation, uncertainty or fear. This is typical behaviour seen in cats when they confront a person or another cat and they are unhappy and could mean they are about to attack. The puffing up has the effect of making them bigger and possibly can help in warding off the danger (Source 12).

2. The Swishing Tail – This is a classic hunting or playing cat pose. They are so focussed on the end goal that nothing else matters. If you see your cat doing this inside they are likely wanting to play… time to get out the cat toys, string and ping pong balls. (Source).

3. The Tail Kink – This is the cautiously curious cat. They’re interested, engaged but taking a reserved approach to suss out what’s going on. (Source)

4. The Tail Curl – This is the sign of a happy cat who just might be in the mood for a bit of attention and even time to play! (Source).

5. The Belly Reveal – This is the highest level of trust a cat can show you by revealing its most vulnerable part. But don’t be fooled! Your moggy might be about to give your hand the fight of its life because your kitty might be ready to play! (Source).


6. The Tail Twitch – Think of this position as the petulant teen. The “hurry up already” annoyed and impatient pose. Whatever you’re doing, it’s not measuring up with your feline friend. But you don’t have to pander to their whims in this instance, just do what they’re probably about to do and just walk away! (Source).

7. The Leg Stretch – When a cat stretched his or her leg it actually doesn’t mean a thing… except that they can reach into more intimate spaces for a better a wash. Yep, it really is that simple! (Source).

8. The Tail Straight Up – This is the sign of a confident, happy cat. The ears are pricked and often the cat’s whiskers are relaxed which indicates that the cat is happy to see you or whoever else is around, such as another cat. (Source).

9. The Tail Flick – This is about as restless or annoyed as you’ll likely see your cat. It can be a sign of aggression. if you’re trying to have a smooch, this is the signal that it’s time to stop! (Source).

10. The Tail Curl – When your cat is “in like” with you or another cat, this is the tail you’ll see. This is a cat’s way of expressing happiness and fondness, and is likely the tail you’ll see swishing around your legs at feeding time. (Source).


11. The Cat Loaf Position – This is where the cat tucks its paws under its body and resembles a loaf of bread. It is generally a sign that your cat feels safe and comfortable with you, and it is also a way of conserving heat and keeping warm. (Source).

12. Ears Pinned Back – When a cat is poised and on high alert, or annoyed it may pin its ears back. The dilated pupils are also a warning sign to take a step back and leave the cat alone before it bolts. (Source).

13. Cat in a Box – Cats love being in boxes. This is instinct as much as anything. Historically, a small, confined space, which the box has come to represent, was a place of safety for a cat for either being a place to hide from being hunted, or a place to stalk their prey. Today it’s just darn cute as this video (below) of even the very biggest cats reminds us! (Source).

14. Cats Curled Up In a Ball – As with the “loaf” this is the best way for your cat to conserve precious body heat from historically cold bedding, and as a survival tactic to preserve their precious organs from a predator attack. Thankfully they also happen to look adorable in this position and just makes us love them even more! (Source).

15. Cat Ears Facing Forwards – This is the sign of a happy, content cat. The eyes will often be slanted and the cat will give the appearance of being engaged in its environment. (Source).

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning what your cat is telling you. There are heaps of websites from every pocket of the globe that can help you suss out even more of your cat’s behaviour. And with 30,900,000 hits for “cat behaviour” in a Google search, you’ll be researching ’til the cats come home!

As a starting point, we liked this one and this one but as with everything to do with your kittens and cats, always consult your vet if you have any concerns, no matter how small it might seem.