Read Your Cat's Mind

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Have you ever watched your cat staring out the window into the night and wondered what it was thinking? When your normally loving feline sometimes gives you that "dirty" look and twitches its tail, do you try to guess what's on its feline mind? Is it possible to read your cat's mind - to perhaps tell what it is thinking?

Well... sometimes... It all depends upon how well you can read your cat's body language.

Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod

The eyes are the mirror's of the soul - and that applies to your cat too. Watch your cat's eyes - they will tell you lot about its state of mind. The direction of your cat's gaze will indicate to you in what it is interested. It's gaze may be intense and focused. Or casual. Or haphazard. If your cat stares without blinking, it probably wants something. An intense, unlinking, fixed gaze combined with a rigid body posture usually means the cat is upset or feeling hostile. A fixed stare by a relaxed, purring cat is often a plea to be petted or fed.

Pupils: Wide or Narrowed?

The size of your cat's pupils tell much about its mood. While the pupils are fully dilated in low light to allow the cat to see better, if they become dilated in broad daylight it is a sign of a problem. Either the cat is in pain or about to fight or flee. When the pupils are more slit-like, the cat is either feeling mellow, or if combined with a hunting posture and an intense gaze, it is getting ready to pounce.

An Open or Shut Case

How your cat holds its eyes can tell you something about what it's thinking. When the cat holds its eyes wide open, the cat is feeling alert. Semi-closed or fluttering eyes suggests that the cat is feeling relaxed, perhaps even ready for a snooze. If the cat is looking at you sleepily, it is a sign of faith or trust.

Ears Looking At You, Kid

A cat's ears can be very expressive:

  • If the ears are erect and forward, the cat is alert, with attention focused.
  • If the ears are held sideways, the cat is on the offensive.
  • If the ears laid flat against the head, look out, the cat is unhappy and maybe thinking evil thoughts.
  • If one ear if forward and one is back, the cat is feeling undecided, ambivalent.
  • If the ears rotating back and forth in all directions, it is listening carefully in an attempt to find the source of the sound.


You may not think of a cat as being expressive with just the way it holds it's mouth. Normally, a cat's mouth is closed. When the mouth is open, the cat is expressing an emotion. If the cat opens its mouth slightly and lifts its lips slightly, it is savoring certain pheromone odors. It is thinking sexy thoughts. Combine the open mouth and lifted lips with bared teeth or hissing and the cat is angry and feeling aggressive. Of course, we all know what a yawning cat is feeling... it's nap time!

Head and Body Position

  • Watch out, I am Not Happy: A cat on the offensive often walks directly toward the subject of his angst with his head held low and moving slowly from side to side, with his eyes fixed on the target. When in this mode, your cat will swivel his ears sideways and his body will appear wedge-shaped as his rear legs stiffen. Watch out for this cat: He means business.
  • I Want To Be Alone: When your cat is on the defensive, he will hunker down while backing up and lean away from the threat. His head is sometimes deflected to one side giving the appearance of a sideways glance and he will vocalize (hiss, growl or shriek). Other signs of defensive aggression include extension of claws in readiness for a fight, and piloerection (hair raised) - making him appear larger and thus more fearsome. A cat in this posture is less likely to attack than retreat – because he is afraid.

X Marks the Spot

  • Head Bumping: When your cat rubs or pushes his face against objects with his forehead, cheeks or chin, he is marking the object with his scent. He is marking the object as "his". Some say that a cat's rubbing with the forehead or cheeks indicates affection, but rubbing with the chin is usually reserved for territorial marking.
  • Scratching/Claw Sharpening: Contrary to popular belief, furniture scratching is not the cat's way of sharpening his claws but is a form of visual and scent marking. Your cat's paws are equipped with scent glands to facilitate this function. Territorial concerns will increase furniture scratching/marking and should be addressed if furniture scratching becomes a problem.
  • Spraying: This is an even more distasteful form of marking behavior to most cat owners. The function is similar to furniture marking signifying an olfactory warning.
  • Anal Sac Secretions: Your cat may sometimes discharge his anal sac when in situations of extreme fear. Anal sac secretions are thought to contain a fear pheromone that serves to remind the cat not to pass that way again. For additional information read the article titled Anal Sacs.

The Tail Tells A Tale

The tail can be very expressive indeed. Whether held high or low, straight or curved, puffed, flicking or slashing to and fro, it all means something. For more details about how to understand the meaning of every movement of this appendage, see the article titled Talking Tail.

In Closing

Every cat owner would like to know what their cat is thinking - a little glimpse into the feline mind. With an observant eye and the insights from reading this article, perhaps you will now be able to read your cat's mind. I'm reading my cat's mind as I write this...

I . . . want . . . tuna . . .

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