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Your Cat Is Not A Book – But You Can Learn to Read Him

While we don’t spend lots of time on cats, I did want to talk a little about them today. Cats are not humans but neither are they just brainless animals, despite what some people seem to believe. They have thoughts (however instintual and primitive they may be) and feelings, they can mourn for a favorite cat or person when that loved one goes away. They show happiness when being petted, anger at being provoked, it’s all just a matter of reading their signals to know what they’re after. They, like humans, come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and personalities. What upsets one may not faze another. What sends one into paroxysms of delight may only garner an indifferent glare from another cat. But how can you tell what your cat is thinking? Short of someone inventing a collar like Dug the Dog wore in the movie β€œUp”, where his thoughts were turned into words that humans could understand, you have to know what his body language is saying. The nuances of emotion are fairly easy to understand once you have a grasp. Let’s start from the head and work our way back, shall we?

Eyes
A common expression says that the eyes are windows to the soul. Not sure if this is true in a cat’s case, but they can be a very good indication of the cat’s frame of mind/physical condition.
β€’ An intense, direct gaze could be a sign of hostility or merely that Pablo wants something. When locking your gaze with him, blink slowly. When Pablo blinks, flutters or otherwise closes his eyes when looking at you or being petted by you, he is showing you that he’s happy with your presence and what you’re doing.
β€’ Cats can see a whole lot better than we can. When Pablo’s pupils are huge in a dark room, it’s so he can make the most of the limited light. When they’re wide open in a brightly lit room, this is likely a sign of ‘fight or flight’ or that the cat is in pain or distress. If the former, leave him alone for a bit until he calms down.

Ears
As with Pablo’s sense of sight, his hearing and other senses are vastly superior to our own. He’ll move his ears to catch sounds depending on their location, but his ears are also a great way to gauge his mindset.
β€’ When they’re erect and forward, the cat’s alert, his attention focused in front of him
β€’ When he presses his ears back flush to his skull, he’s angry and probably on the offensive. It’s therefore advisable not to mess with him when he gets like this.
β€’ His ears are sensitive, so when you pet him, don’t play with his ears exessively, or he’ll likely get overstimulated very quickly. This leads to the…

Tail
Lash, thump, twitch – Pablo’s tail seems to have a mind of its own, apparently moving of its own volition. But we assure you that he’s in control the whole time. Understanding what such movements mean can be the difference between a happy, content kitty, and one who is not all that happy with you.
β€’ When he sees you, or some other well-loved human, or he’s alert but otherwise in a good mood, his tail will be erect, perhaps waving a bit at the tip.
β€’ When he holds it low to the ground, the tip twitching, it means he’s stalking – either you or that laser pointer in your hand. Perhaps you have a mouse in the house that you weren’t aware of, but Pablo is.
β€’ When he holds his tail vertically, but curved to one side or another, he’s feeling friendly, playful.

Additionally, there are other behaviors that Pablo might display to show you his feelings. Headbutting is a sign of trust and affection, as is rubbing his face against you. In doing so, his whiskers are marking you as ‘his’. (Given an option, wouldn’t you rather have him do that, than urinate on you as he does on objects he wishes to mark?) As tactile creatures, cats will groom one another as a bonding exercise. We are not cats, but Pablo may see you as a large hairless kitty, potentially a parental unit. This may compel him to lick you. This is yet another sign of his complete trust and faith in you.