Cats can be elusive creatures, and very difficult to understand. It’s not always reasonable to determine what your pet is trying to say, but there are patterns in behavior that make an educated guess possible.
a cat talking

Ever wonder what your cryptic kitty is saying? Here are some common physical cues and their meanings.


A cat’s ears are expression centers, communicating anything from engagement to discomfort. Ears pressed or leaning backward can signal fear, aggression, or distress. Swiveling and moving ears are a sign of possible excitement or discomfort. Finally, forward facing ears often mean your cat is interested in something- maybe food or a pesky rodent.


A tail can quickly signal a cat’s mood or energy. High in the air and swaying likely means your cat is available to approach and affection, but high up, stiff and with bristled fur can indicate impending aggression (see other behavioral signs). A tail between the legs is a sign of fear, but flat and pressed against the floor could just mean your cat wants some space.


Wide open eyes usually mean your cat is very alert. Squinted eyes can mean the same, however, generally with a fearful or aggressive tint. Lazy eyes that are floating between open and closed signal relaxation.

Body Shape

If a cat’s back is flat to the ground, if it is lying on its tummy or back, or if its feet are tucked underneath it, it is likely very relaxed. An arched back means trouble. If the animal is not facing directly toward you, it may be afraid and ready to run. If it faces directly toward you with an arched back, be wary, it may be prepared to fight!


While there are a handful of different purrs a cat will utilize, the common purr is a gesture of comfort and relaxation. If that purr becomes a hiss or a howl, two aggressive noises, make distance between you and the cat.

Remember to consider these signs in relation to one another. A cat with relaxed eyes but a hissing voice demands caution. Cats are sometimes unpredictable, so never take risks based on assumptions about their disposition!