We’ve all had times when we wish our cats could just speak and tell us what they really want.
But cats do have a way of communicating all their own, their body language. And while most cat owners can guess what a purr portends, what can it mean when a cat or kitten pulls its ears back?
This is important for cat owners to know as the clue your cat is giving you can be easily misinterpreted if you aren’t aware of its meaning.
Cats may pin their ears back for many reasons, including setting and mood. If a cat’s ears are put back, it may feel aggressive or vulnerable, or it may be listening to a distant sound. A cat with its ears back may lash out with a scratch if it feels threatened.
Watching your cat’s ears can give you crucial clues as to how your cat’s feeling or thinking, but this is also just one clue of many that you can learn to read.
Learning to decipher your cat’s body language will help you to know how it expresses itself, and how you can best keep it happy. Cat’s ears are just one tool you can use.
Our cats often put their ears back at times of loud noises. Maybe they just don’t like our singing!
For more ways your cat may use their body to express themselves, be sure to read on below.
What Does A Cat Putting Its Ears Back Mean?
As mentioned above, a cat can provide a wealth of non-verbal information if you watch its ears.
We know now that a cat with its ears back may feel trapped, aggressive, or threatened.
But what else can a cat say with its ears? Some ear movements can be easy to pick up on and discern, others can take some practice to understand.
A few of the ear clues that are easiest to pick up on can include:
- If your cat’s ears are facing forward: If the ears are forward but relaxed, the cat is alert but comfortable. If they also seem vigilant in this position, they may be interested in stalking prey or pouncing.
- If your cat’s ears are backward, sideways, or flat: Your cat may be afraid, annoyed, or angry. Give your kitty some space and time to calm down and everything should be fine.
- If your cat’s ears are perked straight up or swiveling: Your cat is most likely startled or listening to distant sounds. (Something your body does too!)
- If your cat’s ears are relaxed or neutral: Your cat is feeling extremely comfortable and secure; you know this is true if they are also purring or have closed their eyes at the same time.
But as anyone who observes their kitten probably knows, the ears are just one way that cats use their body to express themselves.
Other areas of the feline body to look for include the tail, whiskers, general body language, and vocalizations like meowing. We will look into the specifics of each below.
What Does My Cat’s Tail Movements Mean?
The tail of a cat is one of the best ways to quickly be able to discern how they are feeling.
This is because the movements of a cat’s tail are more straightforward and thus can be easily deciphered.
The mindsets that a cat’s tail can reveal can include the following:
- Tail tucked between legs or low: The cat may be nervous or anxious about its current situation.
- Tail low or erect: The cat could be frightened or startled.
- Tail between legs or wrapped around its body: This is often a defensive posture that a cat will adopt.
- Tail is up or down with its fur standing on end: This is a clear sign of an angry or aggressive cat, be careful and give it space!
- If the whole tail is twitching or swaying side-to-side: The cat is in a curious mood or is ready to play.
- Tail is mostly still: This normally means the cat is perfectly content and happy.
A cat’s tail is clearly one of the easiest ways to quickly judge its mood, however, below we will see there are still other hints cat owners can pick up on.
What My Cat’s Whiskers Can Tell Me About Their Mood?
Whiskers on most cats are so slight and transparent that they can be easily overlooked, but they can be another good indicator of a cat’s mood, often working in concert with kitten ears.
In general, a cat will show some of its strongest reactions through its whiskers.
Be sure to look at your cat’s muzzle area to see what way they may be facing.
Cats express themselves through their whiskers in three main ways:
- If your cat’s whiskers are forward: This is a sign that your cat is in a playful or relaxed mood. They may also be investigating.
- If your cat’s whiskers are pulled back: This can mean your cat is experiencing one of a few different things. The cat may be feeling frightened or startled by the current situation. The cat may also be adopting a defensive posture. Telling the difference will require you to read the rest of your cat’s body language to get a fuller picture.
- If your cat’s whiskers are to the side or neutral: This is the way your cat’s whiskers will look the vast majority of the time. And slight movements from this are normal for cats when sniffing.
How Do Felines Use Their Entire Body to Communicate?
Besides the specific features we have discussed above, cats will also use their entire bodies to express themselves as well. Some of these cues can be easily misinterpreted.
Most cat owners know that when their kitty is rubbing its body or head against them it is a sign of affection and marking their territory, but not all body clues are as widely understood.
For example, if your cat makes a habit of rolling around on its back and showing you its stomach when you get home, you might be tempted to reach down and give its tummy a rub.
This is a common mistake.
In fact, a cat showing its stomach in this manner is a standard feline greeting.
Rubbing their stomach at this time might surprise them (as it is a betrayal of their trust) and may lead to an aggressive reaction such as a bite or scratch.
Knowing when and how much to pet your cat is something that will be learned over time, however, striking the right balance can lead to a much happier and content kitty (and owner) in the long run.
What Do Different Cat Meows Mean?
Of course, as any cat owner knows if they forget feeding time, cats can be plenty vocal, mainly in the form of meows.
And different sounding meows can mean different things as well. And it may take some time before you are able to recognize and differentiate between them all.
While some sounds, such as chirps and chattering, might be playful or curious in nature. Other sounds your cat makes (like howls) can be a sign of displeasure, distress, or worse.
For this reason, it is best to seek your vet’s opinion if your cat begins vocalizing more than usual, especially if this is accompanied by an additional change in mood or appetite.