Sharing a home with someone usually means getting intimately acquainted with their personality. Does the same follow for feline friends? Cats have a reputation for sly games and hidden agendas, but the breadth of their emotions is every bit as varied as their human owners.

Understanding the complicated emotional life of a cat is not so difficult. Animals are motivated by similar needs to their owners. Following these feline cues can help owners understand what cats are thinking and feeling.

Relaxed And Happy

Contentment is the usual setting for most cats. Cheerful cats generally give off many easy-to-spot signals:

  • The familiar and happy buzz of a contented purr
  • Relaxed body posture, lying in a ball, atop the front paws, or stretched out
  • Whiskers away from the face, as if grinning
  • Ears are in a comfortable, upright position
  • Eyes blinking lazily, or semi-shut
  • Tails will be relaxed or upright and hooked in welcome


Felines were made to hunt and pursue prey. Whether it is an object of prey or an owner with a toy, even domesticated house cats haven’t lost these common predatory characteristics:

  • Tails down, hanging low behind the cat’s hindquarters, twitching in anticipation
  • Lowered body position
  • Ears and whiskers aimed in the direction of the intended prey or desired object
  • Eyes open and pupils focused
  • Pacing


Nerves and anxiety usually result from a significant change in a cat’s environment, whether that’s a move or a new element introduced into their world. Here’s what to keep an eye on:

  • Body cowering or back arched and prepared to flee
  • Still tails or slow sideways movements at the tip
  • Lowered head and ears flat or rapidly scanning for information
  • Whiskers pulled in towards the face or pointed out in preparation
  • Eyes will be wide open and fully dilated

Scared Or Angry

A frightened or irritated cat exhibits more apparent signs than the apprehensive cat above. Owners should approach a scared cat with slow, deliberate movements and help remove the source of fear. Signs include:

  • Hissing, spitting, and claws may appear
  • Bodies will be tall and fluffed out to seem larger
  • Tails will be pulled entirely beneath the body or rapidly whipping
  • Eyes will be wide and ears flat