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Understanding Your Cat's Behaviour

by VitaPaws

Cats are playful, independent and curious and it is these personality traits that have made cats popular with humans for thousands of years. Although actually talking with animals and discussing world politics may be a little unlikely, there are a number of ways you can communicate with your cat and better understand their mood or behaviour in a particular situation. Understanding your cat's behaviour is a fantastic way to bond further with your pet and maximise their quality of life, as well as your lasting friendship. In this article, we will examine normal behaviour displayed in cats in order to better understanding what they are feeling or trying to accomplish. Once you understand feline behaviour a little better, your relationship with your furry friend should progress even further so here is our guide on everything you need to know to speak cat!

Origins of the Domestic Cat

In order to better understand our cat's behaviour, it is important understand the history and lineage of the domestic cat. Today they are one of the world's most popular pets due to their inquisitive and playful nature, and the first cats were domesticated around 4000 years ago. The Egyptians were the first to keep and revere cats as they were used to catch vermin, control pests and guard food. Cats were treated as gods and goddesses, mummified when they were buried and there was a death penalty imposed in ancient Egypt for killing cats. Other ancient civilisations also began using and domesticating cats and from Italy, they were slowly introduced around Europe. From there they were then introduced into the New World by the Pilgrims and gradually around the world, becoming one of the most popular pet choices in every country. Apart from a small period of time during the Middle Ages, where cats were associated with witchcraft and the devil, cats have been popular throughout history and useful to humans in a number of ways. Domestic cats today show much of the same markings and behaviours as their older, wild ancestors such as markings, body shape and grooming habits so let's take a look at this behaviour and how it can help better understand our cats.

Typical Feline Behaviour and What It Means

Head Butting

While in human behaviour, head butting is not usually a sign of affection, this is not the case in feline communication and cat behaviour. Head butting, or `bunting` can actually be a sign of fondness in your cat and a sign, believe it or not, that they like you! Cats will use their head to communicate and show affection and so a good old head butt from your moggy may in fact mean they are just trying to say they love you! Bunting with their forehead or chin allows the cat to leave their scent on you therefore this is a form of communication, as well as a form of identification for your cat.


Cats can make their affection known without physical contact but through the use of their eyes. Slow, relaxed blinking indicates that your cat is happy and in a neutral state of mind. These slow, repeated blinks are often referred to as cat kisses and you can even return the connection, looking at your cat and blinking in the same slow, repeated way. This is a fantastic way of connecting with your cat and further developing the bond you have. Other signs your cat is happy and content include sitting up relaxed or lying down with their paws tucked underneath them. Ears and whiskers will be relaxed and it may even appear as if your cat is smiling! These are all signs you have one happy moggy!

Tail Up

If your cat regularly greets you with their tail held up high, this means they are feeling confident, want to be seen and are giving you a lovely warm welcome! Their walk will be relaxed and they won't be `stalking` as if there is prey around. The ears will be relaxed, pupils large, not dilated, and again, these are all great signs you have one relaxed, happy and healthy cat.

On Their Back

A cat lying on its back can mean two very different things and it's important to see your cat as a whole, reading all their body language in order to ascertain their behaviour. If your cat is on its back, napping, relaxing and purring softly, this is a pretty good indication you have a relaxed and content cat. Add a few soft snores and you know you're on to a winner! If your cat is awake and on its back, purring and looking playful again this can mean your cat is content, stress free and you're doing a great job. If they are on their back with dilated pupils or flattened ears however, this can mean something different and is a defensive posture, meaning your cat is ready to strike and use all their weapons such as claws and powerful legs.

Curling into a Ball

Your cat tucking themselves into a ball may suggest their behaviour means they are afraid or don't want to be bothered. Tucking into a ball is a defensive measure by which they try to make themselves as small as possible and invisible to the people, objects or other animals around them. This behaviour usually occurs when your cat is uncertain or a little afraid so you may witness it during times such as visiting the vets, or if you introduce someone new to the house.


Cats are complex creatures that, although domesticated, still retain elements of their wilder ancestors, such as their predatory instinct. It's important to note normal behaviours for your cat and address any issues that might cause them to change their behaviour. Understanding your cat's behaviour is important to developing a bond with them. Any unusual behaviour may be indicative of something wrong so if your cat is acting a little strangely and out of character - get them checked at a vet to make sure nothing is seriously wrong. Learn to spot common behaviours in your cat and enjoy a long and happy life with your furry friend and companion!