Cat Body Postures (Language)

The following is a brief guide to cat body language. Keep in mind that these are general descriptions only. When determining your own cat’s body language, take into account the environment she’s in. She may show only some of the characteristics of a certain body posture. In time, as you view your cat in certain situations such as at rest or play, you’ll become familiar with her postures.

Friendly

  • ears pointed slightly forward
  • smooth hair coat
  • vertical tail
  • head bunting
  • whiskers pointed sideways (relaxed)
  • whiskers fanned out, pointed forward (alert)
  • nose-to-nose touching
  • vocal murmur or acknowledgment

Fearful

  • dilated pupils
  • whiskers pulled back along face
  • tail may lash or be tucked close to body
  • hair coat may be raised along back and tail
  • hissing, growling, or spitting
  • flattened ears pointing down and back
  • crouched body, often facing sideways to opponent

Playful

  • dilated pupils
  • ears pricked forward
  • stalking movements
  • occasional chattering
  • various tail positions
  • fanned out, forward-facing whiskers

Submissive

  • ears held flat
  • smooth hair coat
  • tail down, close to body
  • dilated pupils, avoids direct eye contact
  • may issue a “silent meow”
  • crouched position with head held down

Offensive Aggression

  • tail down
  • lips curled into a snarl
  • direct stare with constricted pupils
  • fanned out, forward-facing whiskers
  • forward-facing body with hindquarters raised (ready to pounce)
  • piloerection of hair along shoulders and tail

Defensive Aggression

  • arched back
  • dilated pupils
  • whiskers pulled back along face
  • ears flattened, facing down and back
  • piloerection of hair coat
  • facing opponent sideways
  • mouth held open
  • hissing, growling, or spitting
  • tail held up and over the back or low to the ground or inverted “U” position
  • rolling onto her back to fight if there’s no means to escape
  • slapping the ground in front of her with front paw

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Comments

  1. You summed it up nicely. Having raised cats for 20years I have seen all of this body language.

  2. Yup, that’s my cat.

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