Confused by your cat’s behaviour sometimes? We hope this article helps clears things up a little for you
1. Flop of the floor & expose their belly
What it means: A sign of relaxation and trust. Can be mistaken for requesting a belly rub but this can often be an incorrect message as many cats do not like their bellies being touched. However, they will only do this behaviour with the people they trust.
What it means: An expression of ‘all is well’. Cats will purr as kittens as they suckle and is recognized this is signalling all is well to the mother. Cats that are particularly unwell or distressed will sometimes purr also, so this being said, it seems this is a self soothing sound as well. When your cat purrs under normal conditions, then it is a very clear message to us that ‘all is well’ and life is good.
3. Head butt
What it means: Actually known as Head ‘bunting’ this is a social behaviour between cats to leave happy messages from their scent glands on their heads on objects or people they like. A form of territory marking and ownership.
4. Scratching your chair to claim ownership of you
What does it mean: Scratching your chairs or especially areas you sit or frequent is not all about sharpening their claws, but more about marking their territory from the scent glands in their feet. By scratching up your favourite chair is either claiming ownership of you or re-establishing ownership of this space.
5. Kneading you
What does it mean: Originated in kitten-hood, this behaviour can be seen when a kitten suckles which is believed to help stimulate milk flow. This primal behaviour carried into adulthood can also be symbolic of feeling intense feelings of satisfaction or pleasure, much the same as the flow of milk has created in the hungry kitten.
6. Butt presentation to you
What it means: According to cat behaviour experts, cats olfactory senses are as acute as dogs, where they openly sniff each others butts. When cats present their butts to you it’s actually a sign of flattery, where the cat is actually saying you can have full access to all my scents. Isn’t that lovely?
7. Tail straight up as they approach
What it means: A cat approaching with an erect tail or even a slightly vibrating tail is a sign of welcome greeting. This followed by butt presentation is the ultimate ‘I Love You’ cat greeting.
8. They groom you
What this means: Grooming themselves is an important ritual which other than cleans their fur, it also covers themselves in their scent from their salivary glands. When cats lick each other, it’s a symbol of acceptance into the family group. When they groom you, it sends a strong message of ‘I accept you – you are my family’.
9. The leave you gifts
What this means: One interpretation is that your cat is trying to train you to hunt, just as the mother teaches the kitten in the wild. This other explanation is the cat sees you as the ‘mother’ and the one to impress with their keen hunting skills. This is more common if the cat resumes play with the object or eats it (in the case of a mouse or other dead animal) after you have acknowledged the gift. Either way, the cat sees you as needing to be included and therefore another symbol of the important role you play in the cat’s life.
10. They sleep on you
What this means: There can be many reasons, such as – you are warm, soft and comfortable, your rhythmic breathing is soothing…however, sleeping is a vulnerable state for any animal with wild origins. The choice to sleep with you, on you or beside you is flattering as you are seen as protector or a safe space.
What does it mean: This is the special language developed past kitten-hood to communicate exclusively with YOU. The only other time cats meow is between the mother and tiny kittens to communicate their needs. Once past the mother/kitten relationship, cats cease to communicate with each other in this way. Their relationship with you is why they continue to use this language to ‘train’ their caregiver and communicate their emotions. It’s the special language between a cat and it’s human that is a particularly strong indicator of the relationship.
12. Love Bites
What it means: It’s a sign that the cat is becoming over stimulated. Cats are very sensitive to touch and each cat has a very individual threshold to when enough is enough. It’s not play so much as a clear message to stop and leave them alone. It may not mean they want you to go away so much as to just cease the patting, stroking or rubbing. They may continue to happily sit on you, purring signalling all is now well as this level of interaction.
13. Slow Blink
What it means: Cats closing their eyes in the presence of another is the ultimate sign of trust. By doing the slow blink, it’s a clear communication of trust. Try doing the same in return as a mutual symbol of trust.
As you can see, cats have a very complex range of communications. For those that assume cats are indifferent to us, are missing the very obvious cat cues that are being given that cats show every day in so many ways they love us.