Cat Body Language Video

This is a cat body language video from Cats Protection in the UK. I think they made it because a survey for Cats Protection found that 32% of cat owners risked being scratched because they did not understand their cat’s body language when he/she rolled over onto his back and in doing so risked getting a scratch. Rolling over on his back is not an invitation to stroke the belly but a sign of trust. Although cats who trust you like this will let you stroke their belly, gently. I think the problem is that people use too much force which stimulates a play/fight reaction which incorporates a bite or scratch sometimes. It is really about common sense.

Other mysteries to cat owners were as follows1:

  • 75% did not realise that an upright tail was a friendly greeting – tail up position.
  • 31% did not know that the slow blink meant their cat was content. The slow blink is often made in response our interaction with our cat (provided our cat likes us!). See Cat Stress and Welfare.
  • 66% thought purring always meant the cat was content. It is more sophisticated than that. Cats purr when in pain too.
  • 38% did not realise that a cat with flattened ears “is scared” according to Cats Protection. I’d say it means that a cat is in defensive/aggressive mode (because she is scared, perhaps) and sending a signal to beware of impending aggressive action.
  • 50% did not realise that a cat licking his lips “signals stress”. I would not say it signals stress, more uncertainty. Licking lips or nose is a displacement behavior indicating that the cat is unsure. It is like scratching our hair or biting our nails.

It is obviously important to know cats if you are looking after a cat. I really believe that many problems to do with cat ownership would be resolved, at source, if people knew cats a lot better. As Ruth says, it is about education. I hope this video helps a bit. I am sure it is designed to try and stop the steady flow of unwanted cats that find their way to Cats Protection.


Ref: (1) Times Newspaper 1st Aug. 2013.

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Cat Body Language Video — 9 Comments

  1. A very useful video. Very good to recognise those signs. Luckily my cats do not react to having their tummy tickled by grabbing or scratching but by licking my arm and hand. I think it’s because they are always very relaxed with me. But I will remember the advice given on the video. She missed out explaining why my Kadir bounds up to me and puts his paws on my knees. Kahraman, Kemal Kebab, and Messalina jump on my shoulder and proceed to give me a hair cut and shampoo. No need to worry about subtle signs!!

  2. I’m suprised at how many don’t know obvious things like flat ears. That could really cause some serious problems – it’s important to know/

    But what this really says to me is that people don’t pay enough attention to their cats. I have never had a minute of cat education in my life however I have always paid attention to my cats and been able to learn everything from personal experience. People need to want to educate themselves I guess – for a start.

  3. I love this video and it’s a very English video which our USA friends might enjoy, an American friend told me they think we speak with ‘cut glass tones’ lol
    But I think with some cats, rolling over is an invitation to tickle their tummy, Jozef loves it. But on the other hand Walter used to egg us on then remove some skin from the hand tickling lol until we learned his tummy is out of bounds.

    • It’s called a “social roll” for good reason! My dear Oliver used to do it, but tummy scrimmaging was verboten unless you wanted shredded hands. I always saw it as a little wind up on Oliver’s part, showing me his delicious fluffy tum, but never allowing access to it. He’d roll over often to get his feline housemates to play too.

  4. Marc, the will to learn is so important I wholeheartedly agree. So many who have cats just don’t bother or lazily prefer to believe common held and incorrect beliefs. Ignorance is perpetuated by the media also.

    I also believe that the human animal is very insecure in its own cleverness and achievement. This can be evidenced by the roaring disbelief shown by some that animals are sentient, have rich emotional lives, have memories, are clever in their own right, feel pain etc. If anyone ever watches QI on BBC2, there is a lot of this behaviour from people who consider themselves well educated. To me, it shows insecurity as well as ignorance.

    Some of my happiest and enlightening hours have been spent just observing my animals. This has been true for me for as long as I can remember.

    A quick mention – lip licking can also signify indigestion and reflux. I’ve seen this a few times in cats who have CRF. A suitable antacid can really help there.

    Props to CP for putting out a video on basic feline body language. It’s badly needed.

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