4 Ways You Might Be Misinterpreting Your Cat's Body Language

Deciphering what our animals are telling us through their body language isn’t always easy or intuitive. And cats are no exception. Oftentimes, the behaviors that are signs of friendliness in dogs are actually indicators of stress or fear in cats. Misinterpreting what your cat is saying can lead to bites, scratches or worse, so it’s essential to know what her body language really means. From tail wagging to purring, here are four common feline behaviors that are easy to misread.

Are You Misunderstanding What Your Cat Is Telling You?

Cat wagging tail


Tail Wagging

Unlike dogs, cats usually don’t wag their tails as an indication that they want to interact. For cats, tail wagging can be a sign of agitation. When a cat is relaxed, her tail typically doesn’t move very much. However, when she’s agitated or aroused, she may move her tail back and forth in a whipping motion. If your cat is “wagging” her tail in this manner, you should give her some space until she calms down.

Cat lying on back


Showing Her Belly

When a cat shows you her belly, it’s a sign she’s comfortable with you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants a belly rub. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised if she grabs your hand and tries to bite it or kicks at your hands with her back legs. So although this behavior indicates comfort and appeasement, it is not always a cue to try to make physical contact with your kitty. If your cat wants attention, she’ll usually approach you to get it.

Cat puffing tail


Raised Hair or Puffed Tail

If your cat’s tail is all puffed out, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to attack. Piloerection, or the raising of hair, especially along the neck and back, often happens when a cat sees another cat or animal, or hears a strange sound. Even if a cat isn’t necessarily going to strike, though, raised hair often indicates high arousal — and you should stay away from any cat exhibiting this behavior until she’s calmed down.

Cat purring



A cat purr is one of the best sounds a cat lover can hear, but it isn’t always a sign of contentment. This soothing sound can sometimes indicate stress, fear, duress, illness or pain. And purring may be a self-calming technique — cats have even been known to purr while giving birth.

More on Vetstreet:

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!