Why Is My Cat Acting Like That? A Guide to Cat Body Language

Cats use their body language to communicate. From the flick of a tail to the narrowing of their eyes, each movement or position can mean something different. A cat’s body language can indicate what they are feeling at any given moment.

Find out more about cat body language by reading our Pewaukee, WI, animal hospital‘s article below.

cat body language pewaukee, wi


There are three main body positions when a cat is standing. They can be in a normal relaxed position, a crouched position, or an arched back position. Each of these positions means something different.

Normal Position

A cat in a normal position will have a back that is flat or slightly arched. They will be facing you or whatever grabs their attention. They will look relaxed.

This position is one that indicates that a cat is comfortable around you. Cats in this position are open to being approached and petted. If lying down, a cat will look relaxed. They may even be sleeping. They might be curled up or stretched out.

Crouched Position

A cat in the crouched position will lower their body close to the floor. They will pull themselves tight, as small as they can. This position indicates anxiety or fear. The cat is trying to make themselves a smaller target.

If you meet a cat in this position, it is best to give them space and time. Do not approach them or try to touch them.

Arched Back Position

In this position, the cat stays up and instead of making themselves smaller, they try to make themselves bigger. Cats will arch their back up. Their fur may puff out and stand on end. They may be standing to the side, looking to the side where the thing that frightened them is.

This position can indicate either fear or anger. Cats in this position can be aggressive. Keep your distance and give the cat some space to calm down.


Cats’ eyes can indicate a lot about what a cat is feeling. Cats’ eyes can show excitement, curiosity, anger, or fear. Be sure to take a good look at all of your cat to help determine what the cat might be thinking or feeling.

Unblinking Stare

The unblinking stare is a cat asserting its dominance. A cat who is staring you down is either feeling competitive or possessive. They may be saying “this is mine” or “you are mine”. A cat may get aggressive in an attempt to win the staring contest.

Lowered Lids or Drowsy Eyes

If a cat has lowered lids or partially closed lids and looks relaxed, then they are telling you that they are calm and relaxed. They may even purr when you pet them. This is also a sign of sleepiness or that they are feeling content and happy.

The Slow Blink

The slow blink indicates affection. If your cat looks at you and blinks slowly, they are showing you how much they like you. It is also a sign of trust and friendliness.

Large Pupils

Large pupils can mean many things for a cat depending on body language. For instance, if a cat is crouched with their tail swishing and their eyes are open wide and a toy is in their grasp, they are excited and playful. They might also be under the influence of catnip.

If a cat’s eyes are open wide and their ears are alert, they may be feeling excited or alert for danger.

Narrowed Pupils

The narrowing of the pupils indicates fear or anger in a cat. A cat’s pupils will expand or contract due to the amount of light available, which means during the daytime a cat’s pupils will be narrower than at night.


A cat’s ears are one of their most expressive body parts. They are constantly turning or flicking them. They sometimes move them even when asleep.


If a cat is facing you, ears forward and in a neutral body position then they are calm, confident, and possibly curious. Ears in this position may be stiff with a tail up indicating excitement. If the tail is calm instead of excited, then the cat is calm. Ears facing forward is a good sign the cat might let you pet them.

Erect and High

If a cat has ears that are erect and high but not facing forward, then they are listening. If you watch them, you may notice the ears twitch. You may not hear anything, but they sure do. They may turn their head in a specific direction or simply hold still and listen.

Flattened or Down

If a cat has its ears flat down against its skull, then they feel aggressive. This may be due to fear or anger. Cats may crouch down or puff up and arch their backs. They may even hiss or growl. Give any cat acting this way plenty of space.


A cat’s tail is one of the key things to look at when determining cat behavior. Whether the tail is high or low, moving slowly or quickly, you can learn what your cat may be feeling.

High Tail

A high tail typically indicates a cat trusts you or is excited to see you. A high quivering tail indicates a lot of excitement. Slow lazy movements can indicate relaxation, calmness, or happiness.

Low Tail

A low tail indicates that a cat does not like or trust you. They may tuck it down while also crouching and trying to be smaller. There is generally very little movement if the cat is crouched.

Tail Speed

If a cat is standing or seated and flicking its tail back and forth it may be agitated. In this case giving the cat space is best. If a cat is crouched in fear the tail will likely be tucked away. If they are crouched but their tail is swishing back and forth, they may be about to pounce.

If a cat’s tail is moving slowly or lazily then they are most likely relaxed and calm.

Our Pewaukee, WI, Vets Can Help If You Have Any Questions About Cat Behavior

As with the body language of all creatures, there is no exact answer. As you get to know a cat you will begin to find that you can guess what the meaning of certain body positions are for that cat. Each cat is different so until you get to know a cat always be cautious.

If you have any questions about your cat’s behavior, please let our Pewaukee, WI, veterinarians know during your next vet visit. To schedule your cat’s next appointment, give us a call at (262) 347-0787.

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Since 1977, Pewaukee Veterinary Services has provided progressive veterinary medicine to pets of Pewaukee and the greater Milwaukee area. We put a strong emphasis on preventive medicine and alternative therapies aimed at keeping companion animals healthy and happy. Yet, if your pet is ill, there’s no better place to entrust their care. Our animal hospital in Pewaukee not only has the most advanced veterinary equipment in the area, but also the skilled veterinarians and staff to use it.