Body language, behavior, and vocalizations are keys to understanding the feline mind.

Indicators such as the look in your cat's eyes, the tone of her voice, the position of her ears, and the motion of her tail can provide important clues that reveal her feelings and intentions. You can learn to "read" these signals so you’ll get a good idea of what's on your feline’s mind.

Feline Body Language Basics:

A Relaxed Cat:

  • Gently swaying tail
  • Relaxed head
  • Relaxed ears
  • Relaxed mouth
  • Purring

    A Scared Cat:

    • Hairs on the back may stand up
    • Stiff tail
    • Arched back
    • Ears laid back
    • Wrinkled nose

    An Angry Cat:

    • Flicking or thrashing tail
    • Straight back
    • Straight back
    • Ears back
    • Whiskers forward
    • Growling
    • Hissing
    • Vocalizing
  • Ears

    • Forward: alert, interested, happy
    • Backward, sideways, flat ("airplane ears"): irritable, angry, frightened
    • Swiveling: attentive, listening to every little sound


    • Pupils constricted: offensively aggressive; content
    • Pupils dilated: nervous, submissive (somewhat dilated); defensively aggressive (fully dilated); playful


    • Erect, fur flat: alert, inquisitive, happy
    • Fur standing on end: angry, frightened
    • Held very low or tucked between legs: insecure, anxious
    • Thrashing back and forth: agitated. The faster the tail, the madder the cat
    • Straight up, quivering: excited, really happy. If your cat is not neutered, he or she could be getting ready to spray something!


    • Back arched, fur standing on end: frightened, angry
    • Back arched, fur flat: welcoming your touch
    • Lying on back, purring: very relaxed, may be asking for a tummy rub
    • Lying on back, growling, upset, ready to strike. 

Pay attention to her eyes, ears, body and tail—they're all part of the story.