Deciphering what our animals are telling us through their body
language isn’t always easy or intuitive. And cats are no exception. Oftentimes,
the behaviors that are signs of friendliness in dogs are actually indicators of
stress or fear in cats. Misinterpreting what your cat is saying can lead to
bites, scratches or worse, so it’s essential to know what her body language
really means. From tail wagging to purring, here are four common feline
behaviors that are easy to misread.
Unlike dogs, cats usually don’t wag their tails as an
indication that they want to interact. For cats, tail wagging can be a
sign of agitation. When a cat is relaxed, her tail typically doesn’t move very
much. However, when she’s agitated or aroused, she may move her tail back and
forth in a whipping motion. If your cat is “wagging” her tail in this manner, you should give
her some space until she calms down.
Showing Her Belly
When a cat shows you her belly, it’s a sign she’s comfortable
with you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants a belly rub. In fact, you shouldn’t be
surprised if she grabs your hand and tries to bite it or kicks at your hands
with her back legs. So although this behavior indicates
comfort and appeasement, it is not always a cue to try to make physical contact with
your kitty. If your cat wants attention, she’ll usually approach you to get it.
Raised Hair or Puffed Tail
If your cat’s tail is all puffed out, it doesn’t necessarily
mean she’s going to attack. Piloerection, or the raising of hair, especially along the neck and back, often
happens when a cat sees another cat or animal, or hears a strange sound. Even if
a cat isn’t necessarily going to strike, though, raised hair often indicates high
arousal — and you should stay away from any cat exhibiting this behavior until she’s
A cat purr is one of the best sounds a cat lover can hear,
but it isn’t always a sign of contentment. This soothing sound can sometimes indicate
stress, fear, duress, illness or pain. And purring may be a self-calming
technique — cats have even been known to purr while giving birth.