The Ultimate Cat Body Language Chart

Cats may not be able to speak to us in the way we speak to each other, but they are constantly communicating how they are feeling.

cat body language chart, john travolta with cats

The key to understanding your cat is to understand their body language and what it means.

This cat body language chart will help you understand what your cat is feeling:

What they're doingWhat it looks likeWhat it means
Tail held highThey are confident, content, and happy.
Tail twitchingThey are feeling very happy about something.
Tail curved (a bit like a question mark)They are feeling playful and affectionate.
Tail straight out behind themThey are unsure and they are assessing the situation. They may also be aggressive in this position.
Tail low down near the groundThey are not in a good mood. They may be aggressive or feel threatened.
Tail tucked beneath their bodyThey are nervous or afraid.
Tail with puffed-up furThey are trying to make themselves look larger to be intimidating as they are feeling threatened or agitated.
Tail whipping back and forthThey may be afraid or distressed. This is a cat that should be left alone.
Tail slowly swishingA slowly swishing tail indicates the cat is about to pounce.
Tail flickingThis is their way of acknowledging you.
Ears facing forwardThey are interested and are listening. They may also be happy and playful.
Ears turned to the sideThey are uneasy or unhappy. They are also potentially blocking out the noise that’s making them feel on edge.
Ears flickering sidewaysThis is a sign the cat is agitated.
Ears flat against headThey are angry or afraid. If you see your cat's ears are flat back then give them space.
One ear flat one ear raisedThey are confused cat and are assessing a situation.
Pupils dilatedThis can be a sign of anger, fear, excitement, pleasure, or even surprise.
Pupils constrictedThey are feeling tense or aggressive.
Eyes wide openA sign of trust.
Eyes unblinking and staringThey are showing dominance and aggression.
Narrowed eyesNarrowed eyes indicate fear or aggression.
Sleepy eyesThey are showing they are relaxed and trusting.
Slow blinkingThey are content. Cats will blink slowly when they feel comfortable and safe.
Mouth openIf panting, the cat is hot and may need water. Cats also pant when they are anxious, afraid, or excited. If the cat has their mouth open and is smelling, they are processing a scent.
A playful cat will have their mouth open without showing their teeth.
Tongue outIt’s unusual to see a cat with their tongue out, this generally only happens when they are about to groom themselves or they have just been grooming.
Scratching a treeA cat that has their paws extended and claws out on a scratching post or tree are scent marking and maintaining their claws. This is a natural behaviour cat owners will see often.
Stretching out their front paws and kneadingWhen a cat is kneading with extended paws, it indicates they are happy and relaxed.
Claws outThis is a sign they are unhappy and want to be left alone.
It can also show they are afraid, angry, being dominant, scratching, or cleaning their paws.
Whiskers pointing downWhiskers pointed down are a sign of an anxious/ afraid cat.
Whiskers relaxed/limpWhen the whiskers are relaxed and not moving the cat is feeling content.
Whiskers flat against faceWhen the whiskers are held flat against the face, the cat is feeling threatened or afraid.
Whiskers facing forwardWhen the whiskers are facing forward, the cat is alert and is often either hunting or being aggressive.
Cat lying downIf your cat is laying down in a ball, they are usually getting ready to go to sleep.

If your cat is laying down on their side, they are relaxed.

When a cat is laying down when their paws under their body they are happy.
Cat showing their bellyA cat that is lying on its back and showing their belly is showing they trust you.
Cat with arched backAn arched back is a cat’s way of making themselves look intimidating.

A cat may also arch their back when they are stretching but in that case they are relaxed and getting comfortable.

How understanding your cat’s body language helps you communicate with your cat

Understanding your cat’s body language allows you to respond more appropriately to the situation.

Check out our review of The Cat Language Bible if you want to become an expert in communicating with your cat!

You will know when your cat wants attention and when they want to be left alone.

This increased awareness of how your cat is feeling allows you to communicate more effectively with them and strengthen your bond.  

When you see your cat is telling you they are comfortable with you and trust you, you can tell them the same thing back by slowly blinking and half-nodding at them.

An increased understanding of your cat will help you develop a stronger relationship with them. 

It will also allow you to notice when your cat’s behaviour is different so you can be more proactive in the future to help reduce stress, anxiety, and frustration.