How to understand your cat's mood


Cats can't talk (except Siamese, of course) but they do express themselves if you know how to read their body language. Cat expert Dr Katherine Miller of the ASPCA tells how to understand your cat's mood.

How to understand your cat's mood

Cats have personalities and moods just like humans. It’s important to observe and judge your cat’s moods when establishing and building your relationship.

Assessing your cat’s mood:

  • Cats express themselves through their body language.
  • A resting, happy cat will appear relaxed, with a slow moving tail, drooping or closed eyes and it’s ears will be placed at a 45° angle to its head.
  • Indicators of a fearful, anxious or angry cat are a pulled-back head, whiskers and ears, tense muscles and a tail that is held closely to or under the body.
  • Hissing is a defense mechanism. Give your cat the space it is requesting.
To calm an angry cat:
  • Draw the cat toward you using a calm voice, crouching down low and holding out your hand to your cat.
  • Don’t stand straight on and upright, making quick motions.
  • Try to stay calm, soothing and small.
Bonding with a new or nervous cat:
  • A new cat may not feel comfortable with you at first.
  • As they start to get comfortable, you can coax them out of their shell with play time, a toy, some treats (make a trail of treats leading the cat to you).
  • Ideally you want to encourage a cat to be with you rather than force them.
  • Give new cats a few weeks to adapt to a new home environment.
Transcript RON:  I’m Ron Corning for and we are here with a guide to help you understand your cat’s moods. I’m joined by Katherine Miller; she is an animal behaviorist for the ASPCA. You know I have to wonder if you’re not a cat owner, and you thinks cat’s have one mood, that indifferent. And if you are a cat owner you know differently, but you may not know exactly how to asses you cat’s mood, or know what mood they’re in. What are the different ways cats might use to express themselves.

KATHERINE:  Even though cat’s can’t speak and tell you how they’re feeling, they’re body language speaks volumes. So that’s why cat owners know that their cats have different moods and different things that they’re trying to tell them. And people who aren’t so familiar with cats aren’t aware of that. So it’s important to get to know the whole body language repertoire or a cat in order to understand how it’s feeling.

RON:  Can their tail be doing something in particular, or just in general their stance?

KATHERINE:  Its both of those things actually, the particular parts of a cat’s body, their ears, its tail, the tension in its muscles, these are all important things. But it’s also important to look at it as a whole to understand exactly what’s going on.

RON:  Okay, so lets give specific examples, how do you know when your cat is happy?

KATHERINE:  If your cat is happy and its resting for example, its probably going to have very relaxed muscles, its tail will be sort of drooping moving slowly, its eyes might be also half mast closed, and its ears will be at a sort of forty-five degree angle from the front of its head.

ROM:  Cat’s can turn fearful at times, of what exactly, I suppose it doesn’t matter as much as knowing they’re fearful of something. How do you know that? What are some of the indicators?

KATHERINE:  A cat who is fearful of anxious has a lot of tension in its body language, and you’ll see that the muscles are tense, the tail is often held close to the body or tucked underneath the body, the head might be pulled down into the shoulders, and you might see the ears plastered back against the head. And also the whiskers get pulled back as well.

RON:  So if you generally have a cat who is shy and nervous for whatever reason, how do you begin to break through?

KATHERINE:  Well, when you first take a cat home a lot of them are going to be shy at first. It’s a new situation, everything is new to them, and they don’t know why they’re there or where they are. And as they start to get comfortable in there new home their personality’s starts to show. They will have a good bonding experience with you, you can sort of coax them out of their shell with a little bit of playtime, with a little toy or some treats. You can put out a little trail of treats up towards you. Just encouraging them to be with you, without forcing them to do so. Which they can find a little too much and overwhelming.

RON:  Again, there can be a process that doesn’t happen over night, you need to have some patients and give it some time.

KATHERINE:  Right, usually it takes a couple of weeks for cats to settle into there new home, and start to show their true personalities. Though, don’t rush things. Know that it is a slow process, but it will pay off for you to take, give the cat time to settle in properly.

RON:  All right, thank you Dr. Miller. I’m Ron Corning for
meet theexpert
  • Dr. Katherine Miller

    Dr. Katherine Miller Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Katherine Miller is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer with the ASPCA’s ® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) National Programs Office. more about this expert »

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