Translating Your Cat’s Behaviour and Body Language for Beginners

Cat Sits In A Paper Bag

Ever watched your feline friend and thought, “Why on earth did they do that?” Both adult cats and kittens, with their mysterious antics, have a way of leaving us both amused and puzzled. From their playful antics to their serene moments of relaxation, cats exhibit a range of behaviours that often leave us pondering their meaning. 

Read on to discover a few interesting insights into common cat behaviours and quirks, and how their behaviour influences us.

Reading Cat Body Language and Common Cat Behaviours

Cats might not speak our language, but they have many different ways of communicating. Your cat’s body language can be complex and can tell a whole story, all without your cat uttering a single meow. A twitching tail, flattened ears, or a slow blink can convey a world of emotions. These subtle cues, from signs of anxious cat behaviour to aggressive behaviour in cats, are their way of communicating with us. 

By learning to interpret the body language of cats, we can better respond to their needs and emotions, fostering a deeper connection. Check out some of the most common (and sometimes confusing) cat behaviours in this cat behaviour guide. 

Chattering Teeth

Ever noticed your cat seemingly chattering away at a bird outside? Some theories suggest this behaviour can be traced back to their ancestors, wild cats that would prepare their mouth muscles before they attack their prey. Others argue it’s a display of frustration, especially if they’re indoors and can’t chase after their target. 


The act of kneading (sometimes referred to as ‘kneading dough’ or ‘making bread’) is the heartwarming display of a relaxed cat. But why do they do it? Some behaviourists trace it back to their days as kittens. When nursing, kittens would knead their mother’s belly to stimulate milk flow. This early kitten behaviour, deeply rooted in comfort and nourishment, often carries into adulthood, reminding them of the warmth and safety they felt when they were a baby being cared for by their mother.

The Playful Knock-Over

If you’ve ever been baffled by your feline friends knocking objects off tables, you’re not alone. While it might seem like they’re just trying to keep you on your toes, this behaviour has deep, ancient roots for domestic cats. Some believe it’s a throwback to their hunting days, testing potential prey. Others think it’s the same as a human toddler’s curiosity, exploring objects to understand their texture, sound, and movement. 

Twitching Ears

A cat’s ears are like a mood ring. If a cat is twitching its ears back and forth, this can be seen as aggressive cat behaviour and may be interpreted as a sign of annoyance or agitation. This could be due to a change in the environment or the presence of other cats. However, if their ears are slightly pointed up, they’re likely just being alert, tuning into a distant sound or something that’s caught their attention. This subtle cat behaviour is a testament to their keen senses and their ability to communicate their feelings without making a single sound.

Twitching Tail

A cat’s tail can signal emotions from happy and relaxed to heightened alertness. A gentle, rhythmic twitch can indicate a state of calm or mild curiosity. However, rapid and aggressive tail lashing might be a sign of irritation or impending aggressive behaviour in cats. You may see your cat rapidly lashing their tail before they get the zoomies. On the other hand, if the tail twitches while raised high, it can show excitement or playfulness.

Seeking Snug Spots

Ever found your cat squeezed into a box or a small space that seems way too small for them? Just about anything can become a cat bed, from a cosy shoebox to a washing basket full of clean laundry. 

Historically, cats sought tight spaces as safe havens, allowing them to observe their surroundings while feeling protected. So, the next time you find your feline friend in a seemingly odd spot, remember that it’s just their way of finding comfort and safety.

The Blank Stare

If you catch your cat staring intently at a blank wall or something else you can’t see, you’ve probably wondered what’s going on in their head. Don’t worry–they’re not plotting world domination. Cats have keen senses, allowing them to pick up on subtle movements like shifting light patterns or floating dust particles that we might miss. Their infrequent blinking, a trait from their hunting days, helps them focus on potential prey. And if you’ve ever found that unwavering stare focused on you, this is just another way your cat is non-verbally communicating with you by attempting to read your emotions or express their feelings. 

The Slow Blink

Yes, even the way your cat blinks is part of their complex body language. Often referred to as “cat kisses,” a deliberate, slow blink from your cat is a sign of trust and affection. When a cat offers this gesture, it’s expressing a sense of comfort and contentment in your presence. It’s their way of saying they feel safe and relaxed around you. In the world of feline communication, a slow blink is a profound sign of a positive bond. Next time your cat gives you a slow blink, try returning the gesture. 

Why Cats Purr

Purring is often seen as happy cat behaviour. Whether they’re nestled in a sunbeam, receiving gentle strokes from their owner, or simply lounging around, a purring cat is often a happy cat, expressing their comfort and satisfaction with their surroundings.

Kitten behaviour often includes purring when they are only a few days old during nursing, signalling to their mother that all is well. This early form of communication can carry into adulthood, with cats using purring as a way to communicate their needs or desires to their human companions.

Other reasons for your cat’s purr

Some studies suggest that purring can be a cat’s way of healing. The vibrations from purring have been linked to producing anti-inflammatory effects, which can aid in pain relief, wound healing, and bone repair. This might explain why some cats purr when they’re unwell or recovering from injury.

Cats might also purr when they’re anxious, stressed, or in pain. This is why it’s so important to observe accompanying behaviours and context to determine the reason behind the purr in such situations.

Strange Cat Behaviour: Not Using the Litter Box

Many kittens and adult cats will naturally use the litter box you have set up for them in your home. However, while having an available litter box is a fundamental aspect of feline care, there may be times when your cat does not want to use it. Understanding the reasons behind this behaviour can help cat owners address the issue effectively and ensure their feline friend’s comfort and well-being.

Cleanliness of the Litter Box

Cats are incredibly meticulous creatures and prefer a clean environment. A dirty litter box can be off-putting for your cat. Scooping out waste daily and changing the litter frequently can make the box more appealing.

Type of Litter

Every cat has their own unique preferences, and this extends to the type of litter used. Some might prefer clumping over non-clumping, while others might be sensitive to scented varieties or crystals that feel harsh on their sensitive paws. Experimenting with different litters can help determine your cat’s favourite, ensuring they use the litter tray properly.

Location and Privacy

Just like humans, adult cats appreciate a bit of privacy when doing their business. Avoid placing the litter box in a high-traffic area or near their food and water. To give your cat some privacy and to ensure they use their litter box as intended, place the box in a quiet, accessible spot. For extra points, consider having more than one litter tray. Litter boxes that are set up in different areas of the house will also encourage your cat to use their trays properly.

Medical Concerns

One of the primary reasons a cat might avoid the litter box is due to medical issues. Cat medical conditions like urinary tract infections (especially common for male cats), bladder stones, or gastrointestinal problems can make using the box painful. If a cat suddenly changes its litter box habits, a vet check is always advisable.

The Mutual Influence of Cats and Their Owners

cute ginger kitten sleeps

The influence we have on our pets is a two-way street. As much as we influence our cats, from their feeding times to their play routines, they, in turn, shape our habits. Ever found yourself waking up at the same time your cat demands breakfast? Or taking a moment to relax when they curl up on your lap? It’s not uncommon for cats to develop a liking for their owner’s favourite relaxation spots or even show interest in their activities. Similarly, owners might find themselves humming a tune their cat responds to or buying furniture that doubles as a cat perch. These shared quirks and preferences highlight the depth of their mutual influence.

The Bond Between Cats and Their Owners

The relationship between cats and their owners often goes much deeper than we think. 

Cats are incredibly attuned to their owners’ emotions. If you’ve ever come home after a rough day at work, you may have noticed your feline companion offering comforting purrs or curling up beside you. This emotional resonance is a two-way street. Just as humans can sense their cat’s moods—be it playful mischief or a need for solitude—cats pick up on their owner’s feelings, often responding with gestures of empathy and understanding.

Learning Their Language and Caring for Your Cat

Whether you’re a first-time owner or have had the pleasure of raising many cats and kittens, cats are much more than pets—they’re our free-spirited, curious, entertaining and affectionate companions. 

Their habits, quirks, and behaviours enrich our daily routines, offering moments of joy, laughter and sometimes bewilderment. Understanding and embracing your cat’s quirks, habits and communication style can help make your bond stronger. So, the next time your cat does something peculiar, take a moment to reflect. It might just be a reflection of your own habits. is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436, is arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure) and is promoted and distributed by PetSure’s Authorised Representatives (AR) Pet Insurance Pty Ltd ABN 38 607 160 930, AR 1234944 (PIPL) and Gumtree AU Pty Ltd ABN 33 616 996 840, AR 1304608. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing. PDS and Target Market Determination available at

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