Cats have a lot to say, and as many cat owners know, "meow" isn't the only way they communicate. But what does it mean? When it comes to feline communication, it's important to focus on body language, as well as vocalizations. Here are some examples and signs to help you better understand cat behavior.

Vocalizations
  • Meow - This is an all-purpose word used as a greeting, a command, an objection, or an announcement all dependent on length, pitch, and number of meows.
  • Trills and Chirps - Somewhere between a meow and a purr, this is a greeting or a way to get your attention, most likely in the direction of the food bowl. Mother cats often use this sound to tell their kittens to follow them. If you have multiple cats, they may converse with each other this way.
  • Chattering, chittering, or twittering -  Does your cat make these noises whilst window watching birds and squirrels? These vocalizations mean your cat wants to attract and hunt wildlife.
  • Purr - This velvety, vibrating sound is usually a sign of contentment. Cats purr when they are happy, but in some cases, cats purr when they are anxious or sick.
  • Yowl or Howl - This sound warns that your cat is in some sort of distress or in pain. For unspayed and unneutered cats, these (very annoying) sounds are apart of mating behavior.
  • Growling, hissing, or spitting - Whether frightened, annoyed, aggressive, or furious, these sounds send a clear message: "Leave me alone!".
Ears
  • Forward-facing ears mean that your cat is alert, curious, or happy.
  • Swiveling or straight and upright translates to an attentive and alert cat that is listening to every little sound.
  • Pinned back or flat ears mean your feline is furious or frightened.
Eyes
  • Slow blinking - Consider these the kisses of the cat world. This means your cat loves you!
  • Dilated pupils - Someone is super excited and ready to play. However, when displayed with defensive or aggressive gestures, this could mean your cat is scared.
  • Slit or constricted pupils - Your cat is seriously annoyed with you.
Tail
  • Tail-wagging or flicking - Unlike dogs, a wagging cat tail is not a good sign. This translates to a frustrated and possibly aggressive feline.
  • Twitching - When cats twitch the tip of their tail, this indicates a playful mood.
  • Curved - Does your cat's tail look like a question mark? This is an excellent sign and indicates that they are ready to explore or play.
  • Puffed-up - A puffy tail is not a positive sign; this cat is terrified or preparing to attack.
  • Tucked - Like dogs, a tucked tail means your cat is nervous or submissive.
Body
  • Lying on their back, belly exposed - Your cat is comfortable enough to show their most vulnerable area to you. Unfortunately, going in for a belly rub at this time will most likely end in a scratch. It's an adorable, irresistible trap.
  • Arched back - An arched back with a curved tail means your cat is ready for cuddles and pets. However, an arched back with bristled hair and puffy tail means your cat is frightened or angry.
  • Rubbing against you - Many people assume this is a sign of affection; actually, it's how cats mark their territory. But don't worry, they're happy to claim you.
  • Kneading - This action is reminiscent of your cats kitten days when they'd knead their mother's teats to make milk flow. They knead when they are very happy.

Cats may not be interested in what you have to say, but that doesn't mean they do not understand you. Scientists have concluded that cats are equally capable of interpreting human language as dogs. When communicating with your feline, a soothing, reassuring voice can calm a shy, frightened cat or motivate them to cuddle with you. Likewise, a firm tone can discourage your cat from unwanted behavior. Either way, positive, consistent communication strengthens the bond between you and your furbaby!