Cat Body Language: Getty Images
Learning the cat body language can help you understand what your cat is trying to tell you.
Experts estimate that 65 to 90 percent of all human communication is through body language.
Since your cat can't tell you what he or she wants with words, you really need to be able read your pet's body language.
Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a feline behavior consultant, shared the four body language messages that have helped her clients improve their feline-human relationships. She also suggests responses you can use to reinforce your cat-human bond.
Cat Body Language Message 1: Don't Pet Me Anymore
"Most of my clients don't realize that over-stimulating the cat through petting almost always results in a bite," Nagelschneider says.
"Before this happens, your cat's tail begins to twitch. Her ears turn back or flick back and forth. This body language signal means your cat is preparing to bite. Because cats are predators, attacking is the release cats have when stimulation is overwhelming, even if that stimulation is pleasurable."
"The trick," Nagelschneider says, "is to recognize the signal and stop immediately." With practice, you can learn to distinguish the first signs of over-stimulation and stop before your cat is distressed.
Cat Body Language Message 2: Leave Me Alone, I'm Content
"Contented cats sit or lie with the tail curled around the body, paws tucked beneath them," Nagelschneider says.
"This is an indication to you and to other cats that everything is peaceful and harmonious, and that you are unwelcome visitors. This is not an invitation to come closer."
Nagelschneider advises to let contented cats lie.
Cat Body Language Message 3: I'm Afraid
When cats are afraid, they crouch, often rolled slightly to the side. They tuck their tail or flatten it against their body, and lay their ears back.
If you see this body language, remove the object, dog or small child that's creating your cat's reaction. Allow your cat to retreat and leave him alone.
He'll come to you when he's good and ready.
Cat Body Language Message 4: You Caught Me Off Guard
If you surprise your cat she may react defensively or with aggression. Or, she may flip from aggression to defense and back again.
To defend, cats roll onto their backs, claws out. In aggression, the cat will make herself look as large as possible to intimidate an "enemy."
Body language techniques that signal increased aggression include turning to the side, arching the back with body fur up, tail upright and fur splayed. Hissing, yowling or growling usually completes the effect.
Nagelschneider suggests owners never punish a cat for aggression. Physical punishment teaches your cat that you are to be feared. In order to avoid aggressive behavior try speaking to your cat before approaching.
If you've got these four postures down and you feel you and your cat still cross signals, contact Nagelschneider at www.thecatbehaviorclinic.com for a one-on-one consultation. If you prefer reading to talking, try Pam Johnson Bennett's books at www.pamjohnsonbennett.com.