How to Read Your Cat’s Mood

Unless you speak cat, it’s quite impossible to know what your feline friend is saying. However, you can decode the cat language by taking a cue from its tail, eyes, ears, and general posture. 

Just like humans, cats may be sad, happy, scared, or simply chilling on the porch on a Sunday morning. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the different ways in which cats express themselves and how you can interpret the feline tongue by taking notes.

Vocalization Cues 

A cat laying on a couch.

The easiest way to translate cat language is through vocalization cues. Cats make different noises, depending on their mood. 


Meowing is a multi-purpose sound that your cat could make to greet you or even object to something. Some cat parents might have also seen their kitties meowing around the house for no reason – possibly talking to themselves. 

Meow could also be a command or an announcement.


Cats purr when they’re content. Sometimes, they may purr while eating too. However, purring could also be a coping mechanism using which cats comfort themselves when they’re anxious. 


If your cat is trilling or chirping at you, they want you to follow them. Since it’s the vocal signal mommy cats use to tell their kitties to come to the bowl, that’s probably where you’ll end up if you follow your feline friend. 

Cats also make trilling sounds when they’re talking to each other. So, if you have multiple cats at home, you’ll often find them gossiping about you in trills and chirps. 


To no one’s surprise, a howling cat is in distress. 

They might be locked outside or be in some kind of pain. Yowling or howling is also a mating call in unaltered cats, while in older cats, the howl may be a result of their disorientation due to a cognitive disorder. 

Growling or Hissing

Cats tend to hiss or spit when they’re annoyed or angry. It’s best to leave such kitties to their own devices. 

While growling, cats may also stare continually at the thing they’re angry at. Plus, they thrash their tails or hold them up. Sometimes, they show their teeth while hissing and lay their ears backward and flat. In such situations, you should leave your cat alone, giving it the time to relax.

Do not go close to such a feline as they may harm you. However, if you’re in the vicinity and get bitten by your cat, get medical attention right away as bacteria in a cat bite can be a serious health threat.


A chittering cat is excited – sort of how little kids get when they spot a snack tray coming their way. Your cat might make such noises when looking out of the window at birds. 

Cat Body Language

Cats are fascinating creatures who give away a lot about their mood from their body language. You should take note of your cat’s tail or ears to determine what mood they might be in right now. 


If a cat’s ears are swiveling, the feline is attentive to the sounds around them. They’re likely looking for prey, and that’s why they have to pay attention to each sound around them. 

On the other hand, if the ears are sideways or backward, your kitty may be angry or irritable. Also known as airplane ears, they are sometimes a sign of a frightened cat. 

When your cat is watching you fill their bowl with food, you’ll notice their ears to be forward. It’s a sign of happiness, interest, and alertness. 


If a cat’s back is arched and the fur is standing up, they’re likely angry or scared. However, if the fur is flat but the back is arched, they’re waiting for you to touch them. 

When cats are lying on their backs, they’re either growling or purring. If it’s the former, you should keep your distance as they’re ready to attack and are upset about something. 

However, when a feline is purring, lying on its back, it’s a sign of relaxation. 


The tail gives away the most about your feline friend’s behavior. If it’s erect, the kitty is happy and alert. However, if the fur is erect, that’s a sign of anger or fear. 

If the tail is straight up and quivering, the cat is extremely happy about something. But then again, if it’s thrashing, that’s a sign of agitation. An angry cat will whip its tail very fastly. 

Your cat’s tail wedged between the legs or held low indicates anxiousness or insecurity.


When trying to communicate with their cats, many parents ignore the eyes, but they can tell you quite a lot about your cat’s feelings. 

If the pupils are constricted, your cat might be aggressive. However, if they’re dilated, the feline is possibly submissive, nervous, or playful. 

Among all other signs, eyes are the hardest to read, especially if you don’t notice your cat’s eyes much. 


Have you noticed your cat likes to rub against you and other items in the house? You might wonder whether they are just scratching an itch or showing affection. Yes, they do love you, that’s sorted! But like their large wild cousin, the lion, your domesticated feline also likes to mark its territory. 

Like wild beasts, cats mark their territory by rubbing their scent on you and other items they don’t appreciate sharing. Thankfully they won’t spray urine like adult male lions, but they get the message across to feline guests.    


If you see your cat kneading their paws on something soft, it’s their way of expressing they are really amused. 

But what is your four-legged friend thinking? Kneading or rubbing their paws on soft things is a reminiscence of their nursing time. This action is a replication of them kneading their mama’s teats to drink milk. 

The Flehmen Response

The Flehmen response, also called the Flehmen reaction, flehmen position, flehmening, Fleming, or the famous Flehmen grimace, is typical in horses and cats. 

It refers to the look your cat gives you when it curls back its upper lip wide enough to expose the front teeth, inhales sharply, usually with closed nostrils, holding onto the same position for a few seconds. 

A black and white cat.

Your cat is basically trying to smell and taste something simultaneously to know more about it – James bond style but with a touch of cat language. When the cat opens its mouth with the lip wide open, it’s trying to inhale as much smell as possible to defer the pheromones, an essential part of cats communication. 

Don’t take it personally; they are not expressing disgust or sneering at you. Instead, the lip curl is natural and amicable cat behavior. All cats use this enhanced sniff mechanism to investigate the pheromones, but if you have a male cat, you are more likely to see the flehmen sneer. 

Rolling on the Back

If you see your cat drop to the floor and roll on its back, it’s mostly a positive reaction. This action might be accompanied by rubbing their nose on the floor and meowing gently. 

First, it could signify that your cat wants a comfortable stretch. The second and most common reason is that your cat has achieved a sense of safety and security. In reality, a cat will never roll on its back unless it feels completely relaxed and is comfortable in its surroundings. 

It’s similar to you relaxing on a bath towel at the beachside- all serene and calm. It’s time to take the cue that your cat trusts you. 

Sometimes, your cat also rolls on the floor intentionally to get your attention. The key is to notice the pattern. If it’s doing so right next to your toes repeatedly when it’s time for you to leave for work, you need to spare some quality time for your best friend. 

Finally,  this behavior also helps the kitty mark its personal scent on the floor. It’s just getting comfortable and marking its territory. 

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How to Know If Your Cat Is Sick or Injured?

Cats are both prey and predators. That’s why they’re good at hiding their injuries and weaknesses. You might not even know your cat is injured in many situations unless the signs get very severe. 

That’s why you should look out for the following signs to determine if your cat is ill or hurt: 

  • Hides away from you for long periods 
  • Does not show interest in eating or drinking 
  • Limping 
  • Does it’s business outside the litter box
  • Yowls or howls
  • Pants or breaths with an open mouth 

If you notice one or more of these signs, talk to a vet immediately to get your cat medical help.


While most parents are well-read on healthy tips for cats and have stocked their kitchen with healthy pet food, they often have trouble understanding cat body language. However, cats are great at giving signals to help you understand their current mood. 

Use the signs in this article as a feline language guide to interpret how your cat is feeling at the moment.

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