Paul Leyhausen’s Offensive, Defensive Cat Behavior Drawings

The drawings show the varying aggressive postures of the domestic cat from Paul Leyhausen’s study Cat Behavior (1979). The book is still available on Amazon at the staggering price of US $690.05 for a new copy! Second hand the book costs $214. Thanks but no thanks. I hope I am not in breach of copyright. Technically I might be but I would argue fair use and I am indirectly promoting the book, sort of.

Each drawing presents a different cat posture and in the top left corner are the letters A (offensive) and B (defensive) under which is a subscript of numbers 1-4. 1 = weak and 4 = strong.

Paul Leyhausen offensive defensive cat postures
Paul Leyhausen offensive defensive cat postures
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

I must say that the postures illustrated show a range of cat body language which I had not fully recognized before in terms of its complexity. Of course I am familiar with cat body language and have written about it some time ago. However, this takes offensive and defensive cat behavior to a different level. I don’t know how accurate it is. The author’s book was published in 1979. People have a greater understanding of cat behavior today. Nonetheless, the drawings are interesting and are worth studying if you are interested in cat body language.

Cat Body Language

Dr Desmond Morris

Dr Desmond Morris writes about cat fighting in his book Cat World. He describes the moment an attacking cat approaches a rival. He says that the cat twists his head in a characteristic manner. At a distance of about 3 feet the cat raises his head slightly and tilts it to one side. His eyes are always fixed on his enemy. The attacking cat then moves forward slowly and tilts his head in the other direction. This may be repeated several times. Dr Morris believes that the head tilting is in preparation for a neck bite which will happen when he finally attacks. It is also a signal to the other cat that he will receive a neck bite. Dr Morris calls this the “intention movement”.

4 thoughts on “Paul Leyhausen’s Offensive, Defensive Cat Behavior Drawings”

  1. I was lucky enough to get my copy of Leyhausen’s book when it was new for the now-unheard-of price of $14.95 (through the Natural Science Book Club). I had to take an entry-level course in ethology to get through it, and I have re-read it several times over the years. I am astonished at its current price, which, on today’s Amazon listing, is $2,016.54 new, and from $145.59 to $859.27 used. Even adjusted for inflation, I paid around $55 in 2019 dollars.

  2. That is a good set of illustrations. The key is to be able to read them as they happen in clusters, add some feline vocals and boy do they say a lot to each other.


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