This month, come along with Fluffy and Fido as they learn how to read Fluffy’s body language. And stay tuned to learn about Fido’s next month!

FIDO: Hi, Fluffy, how are you?

FLUFFY: (Doesn’t answer, just waves her tail.)

FIDO: Fluffy, I asked you a question. Why won’t you answer me?

FLUFFY: I did answer you. I waved my tail.

FIDO: That’s not an answer!

FLUFFY: Is too! I was using body language.

FIDO: Well, I don’t know your body language.

FLUFFY: Neither do mom and dad. I think we’d better get Pearl and Meryl to tell pet parents how to figure out what we mean when we talk with our bodies.

…And so they did. Here are some common messages your cat is sending with her body. 

Tail Talk: Cats speak volumes with their tails. A straight tail, quivering with excitement, means just that. Your cat is very happy and excited about something. (But beware. If the animal hasn’t been spayed or neutered, it could mean he or she is getting ready to spray.) A gently waving tail also indicates happy contentment. On the other hand, if the tail is held very low, or tucked between the legs, you’ve got a frightened or insecure kitty on your hands. And if that tail is thrashing back and forth, stop whatever you’re doing to her, because you’re annoying her. The faster the thrash, the more annoyed she is.
Those Adorable Ears: Cats hear 3 times better than dogs and 5 times better than humans, but those cute little ears are good for more than absorbing sound. The position of a cat’s ears tells you how he’s feeling beyond a shadow of a doubt. When the ears are forward and upright, your cat is telling you that he is feeling alert, interested, and happy. If you see his ears pushing backward, sideways or lying flat against the head, he’s irritable, angry or frightened. And swivel ears mean he hears something interesting. When you notice this, start counting. If the sound is coming in your direction, you’ll hear whatever it is, too… 5 to 15 seconds after your cat does!
Read My Body! Maybe your cat can’t actually talk, but the way she positions her body carries as clear a message as if she were speaking. If she’s curled up in a fluffy ball with her tail wrapped around her, or lying on her back inviting a tummy rub, she’s feeling perfectly relaxed, secure and ready to snooze. (Be careful here. Tempting as that tummy is, don’t linger too long. It only takes a second for her to decide she’s done with the belly rub, and then she may strike out with a good healthy scratch to your offending hand.) A cat lying full length, with tail and a paw or two extended, is relaxed but alert. She’s still checking out the environment. And if she’s standing up with back arched and fur standing on end, or is on her back with fists up and growling, she’s upset or angry, and there’s a good chance she’s about to strike. (This last may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people insist on approaching a cat that clearly doesn’t want contact. This will occasionally be true even with the most loving of kitties, so respect her wishes and stay away when she sends this message.)
Rubbing: We all love it when our cats rub up against us. It makes us feel loved. You cat does love you, but he’s also got a much more practical reason for the rub. He’s marking his territory, and at that moment, you’re the territory. You’ll notice that he also marks the rug, the wall, his toys, the furniture, and just about everything he considers his own. He’s giving a clear signal to any animal that may want to cozy up to you or his stuff – stay away, this is mine!
Kneading: Sometimes known as “making bread”, kneading is the ultimate statement of happiness and contentment. Your cat is in reverie, possibly remembering when she would knead her mom to get milk as she nursed. This would be very flattering to us if we were the only ones kneaded, but as any observant cat owner knows, anything soft will do if Fluffy’s feeling kneady. Still, it’s nice to know she’s happy, no matter who or what she kneads to show it.

We hope you enjoyed these tips, and that you learned something, too! We’d love to hear from you, so please send your ideas to


Meryl Schwarz, M.A., M.Ed., is an animal lover and Certified Professional Coach specializing in grief support for people grieving their beloved animals. Whether you’re grieving a terminal diagnosis, the normal aging process, a disappearance or a death, Meryl offers compassionate and caring support with the wisdom of experience. Visit her website at to schedule an appointment by Skype or phone.