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Understanding Your Cat's Behaviour

Understanding our feline friends.

Lets face it, the biggest problem that we humans have to overcome before we can understand our cats behaviour, is the belief that we are the superior species.

Cat lovers all over the world have experienced that withering look of superiority and indifference that accompany our very best efforts to entertain, show affection, feed or in anyway communicate with them. And when they do acknowledge us, it is often strictly on their terms. But when they do respond, the joy this furry little creature brings knows no bounds.

And so, what follows is perhaps futile attempt to infiltrate the cats psyche and to penetrate into the cats world. While stumbling around the world of this most illusive of creatures, it may become clear that we humans belong to a somewhat lower order (well, I am sure that's how my cats feel anyway!).

In what, at times, will be an ever-so tongue-in-cheek article, we will cover some familiar ways to understand your cats behaviour. But please note that while trying to keep this information on the light side, it has, none the less, a more serious purpose. And that is to give us the skills to truly understand our cats behaviour.

For sure, we must put in the effort to understand them because, by and large, cats are totally indifferent to trying to understand us!


Generally a sign of contentment but cats will also purr if ill or distressed in some way. More often though, this is the behaviour of a happy cat. A mother will reassure her kittens by purring and kittens will respond likewise. Cats will also purr at the perceived threat of another cat to show that they pose no threat to them.

Scientists are still uncertain about the mechanics of the purr. There are a couple of theories as to how a cat produces the sound, but without getting all technical, it is probably safe to say that both are right, or wrong, but then again, who cares! (Unless you're a scientist of course.)

Some cats may seem not to purr. However, it could be that a particular cats purr resonates beyond our hearing range. Because of the difficulty studying this particular cat behaviour, no one can be sure why some cats seem not to purr.


A whole stand alone section could be written on this aspect of cat behaviour and when coupled with a various expressions and body postures a host of moods can be conveyed.

Cats mainly communicate with each other through body language and scent. But the exasperated moggy soon learns that humans are unable to pickup this subtle art and therefore resorts to a much cruder form of language, just for us.

Short meow - greeting with affection - "hi, by the way, any food?"

Multiple meows - attention grabber/excitement - "Hello!, I'm so glad you're here. Now, what about that food ?"

Low grumbling meow - complaining - "I don't mean to push you but some food would be nice."

Loud, rounded, long mewing - "no, really pay some attention, I need feeding, NOW!"

Eating purr - content -"thank you so much, you took your time but better late than never"

Growl - complaint/annoyance - " look I've just been fed and want to go to sleep. GO AWAY!"

Screaming - Often heard before fighting or mating. (only if dinners not ready)

But more seriously, vocalisation could also be sign of distress or discomfort.

Sharp, high pitched meows could be and indication of pain especially if followed by growls or rumbles. Get to know your cat, if your cats behaviour seems out of character seek professional advise from your vet. Remember if in doubt, ask.


Typical happy cat behaviour! A kitten will paw its mother when content and/or to encourage the flow of milk.

Rubbing/Head butting

Going up on hind legs and rubbing against you is a sign of greeting and deep affection (and also cupboard love when food is in the offering !). Also a way of claiming you. With scent glands along the tail, lips, either side of the head, chin, tail base, paws etc.the cat will "scent" you by rubbing and head butting, it also does this to pick up your scent.

Happy greeting

Tail erect tip bent forward, sometimes the tail will quiver with excitement. Eyes often half closed and blinking slowly. Try mimicking this eye action, this often gets a very positive response !

Tail swish

No need to elaborate on this aspect of cat behaviour. Just watch out !

Tail and fur fluff/ ears flat

Very, very annoyed. Trying to intimidate by making themselves look as big as possible. Best to leave well alone!


Hay why not ! Sometime we humans just have to be put in our place. This often happens when petting. You see, what we fail to realise is that in cat world the subservient beast will often groom the superior. we stroke the cat, get it! So when his lordship/her ladyship has had enough a nip or cuff will soon show who's in charge.

But a nip can also be a sign of much affection often accompanied by licking. It shows acceptance of you as an equal (well maybe!)

Gift giving

There are a number of theories about this aspect of a cats behaviour. Probably a combination of these apply. Predominantly it seems to be another token of affection tinged with concern that you are totally unable to hunt and provide for yourself !

The above is a very brief insight into cat behaviour. But cats are notoriously elusive, independent creatures and each individual has its own unique character (much like humans, but more refined of course!) and this is, I think, their attraction. Unlike us and our other erstwhile companion, the dog, they are not a pack animal. The total lack of need for social contact gives them a freedom that we both admire and envy. Therefore when bonds have been made we feel privileged to be allowed into their world .

I hope you have enjoyed this all to brief introduction. Further articles will concentrate on the more practical aspects of cat behaviour and cat care.

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