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How to Better Understand Your Cat and Their Behavior

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Cats are unique little creatures. As cat owners, we are amazed and bewildered every day by the things that our cats do. We probably all spend a lot of our time with our phones pointed towards them, trying to capture the funny things that they do.

But what do all these funny little behaviors really mean?

Dogs are open books, at least more so than cats. Hungry? Barking. Happy? Tail wagging? Wants to play? Delivers ball. All of this is a lot easier and a lot more straightforward to understand.

Cats, on the other hand, historically have more of an enigmatic quality about them. And I think they know it too…

If you want to lessen the mystery of your cat’s life, read on to find out some of our favorite uncovered secrets about cat behavior.

You never know, it might help you find a whole new level of connection and understanding in the relationship between you and your cat.

And who doesn’t want that?

1. Learn the secrets of their tail movements - they have multiple meanings

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As we said, dogs are more straightforward when it comes to their movements and behavior, and their tail movements are no exception to this. When a dog wags their tail, they are happy or excited. When they hide their tail between their legs, they are scared or upset.

Easy peasy.

What about when your cat wags their tail? Sways it back and forth? Flicks it? What about when it goes bushy?

Cats have more complicated tail behaviors and this can be confusing, especially when we have been told different things through our life about what this means.

But it isn’t actually too tricky after all.

Here’s the key.

  • Fast-moving tail with flicks: Your cat is agitated and likely to pounce or scratch
  • Slow-moving, waving tail: Your cat is focusing on something it is interested in, this could be a toy
  • Curved tail posture (often with a little quiver): Your cat is approaching with comfort and happiness, probably looking for some attention and probably happy to see you
  • Curled tail around you: Your cat loves you! A lovely sign of affection and bonding
  • Tucked tail between legs: A sign of a scared and stressed cat
  • Bushy/puffed tail: A cat ready to pounce, commonly seen as a reaction to another cat

So, yes, it is pretty complicated. It isn’t simply that an angry cat wags their tail, oh no, they are much more nuanced in their behavior.

Hopefully, you find this key helpful next time you see your fluffy friend moving about!

2. Understand their meows - they are an entire language

Did you know that adult cats don’t meow to each other? They only meow to humans as they have learned over time this is an effective way to communicate their wants and needs, with other cats they have no such need.

If you want to understand your cat a little more and get on the same page with them, getting to know their meows and what they mean is a wonderful way to do so. After all, it is a form of communication they are using especially for you.

Isn’t that sweet?

Here are some of the different instances in which you will hear your cat meow:

  • For food: If you have a cat, you will already be very familiar with this instance of meowing, you might even be having flashbacks to 7 am this morning (and every other morning). Cats will meow when they want food and this will continue until they get it. This one will be pretty easy to spot because they will usually do it in the pattern of when they get fed, or when there is no food left in their bowl if they graze.
  • For attention: Your cat will meow if they want your attention, they will usually always look directly at you while doing this, almost as if they are telling you off! If your cat is staring at you and meowing, and/or bumping up against you while doing so, they want some attention.
  • During play and excitement: Sometimes cats will meow while they are getting attention because they are enjoying it so much. Some cats are more vocal than others, however, so don’t worry too much if your cat doesn’t do this.
  • To be let in or out of the house/a certain room: If your cat is standing in one location, usually in front of a door, and repeatedly meowing, then chances are they want to be let either in or out of this door. They might immediately change your mind after you do it, however, this is simply a cat’s prerogative…
  • If they are in pain (yowling): This circumstance is very unusual as cats will normally hide their pain as much as possible from their owners, but if your cat is lying down, seems stressed and they meow or yowl (sharper and more uncomfortable to hear), then take them to the vet right away.

3.   Know their tell-tale signs of discomfort

Because we love our cats and we want them to be happy, we also need to know what to look out for whenever they are unhappy. If we know this, we can figure out exactly what they need to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed.

These are the top signs of a distressed cat:

  • Flattened ears: Flat ears tight to the head imply a cat is scared and on alert
  • Hunched posture: If your cat is hunched and arched a lot of the time, they are uncomfortable with something and stressed
  • Excess hiding: Cats will disappear to sleep for long periods in the day and this is normal, but if you find they are hiding a lot or a lot more than usual, this can be a sign they are unwell or chronically stressed
  • Aggression: Cats aren’t naturally aggressive. If a cat is spitting, scratching, or biting, it is usually because they are scared and feel the need to defend themselves. They could be feeling overwhelmed or cornered.

It might seem like a lot to learn but over time as you spend more and more time with your cat, this will all become second nature to you.

The more we understand our cats, the more we can keep them happy and healthy in our co-existing life together.

But don’t worry if it takes you just a little longer to figure out your cat’s playbook, they might be feeling exactly the same about you…

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