"A cat who chooses to lie with its stomach and chest exposed
conveys happiness, trust, and comfort."
Understanding cat body language
"Many people fail to understand the silent body language of cats. In particular, people who are accustomed to the outwards signs of dog body language seem slow in detecting what a cat is telling them in its body language, which creates the false impression that cats are cold-hearted, unemotional, or unintelligent. To understand cats, one must observe a feline closely and learn what its body signals tell them. It is important to keep in mind that each cat may display its emotions with different body language. The flattened ears, teeth showing, baring belly for submission are easily 'read' by humans. Some characteristic signals, however, are often misunderstood. For instance, a cat rubbing its body along an arm or leg of its human is not only a way in which to attract attention and, perhaps, a morsel of food; it is also a way of 'marking' its human as its own. Using scent glands located around its mouth and elsewhere, it subtly 'marks' its human as part of its cat territory. Most cats prefer gentle rubs behind the ears. To inform their humans they need petting or attention, a cat may push its entire body weight up against the human as the cat snuggles next to his/her favourite person."
Some common interpretations of cats' actions
- Disgust - Lifting and subsequent shaking of a paw or paws. The more paws, the stronger a feeling is indicated; this can sometimes be a four paw affair with each paw being lifted and shaken in turn. This is possibly related to the identical action that's displayed after stepping in water.
- Aggression - The swishing or sweeping of the tail in a wide swath, mid-air or against a person means the cat is trying to get the person's attention. And if the message isn't getting through, the cat may simply leave the room.
- Contentedness - Kneading with the paws on a person or, for example, a favorite blanket or sleeping spot. Young kittens knead their mother's nipples to stimulate the feeding reflex in her so that her milk flows for the kittens to suckle on. Cats may knead for a short or extended period of time, the extended period is sometimes interpreted by people as a sign of discomfort or restlessness, but it is more likely the cat is happy. Most cats will demonstrate this for about ten minutes at the longest.
- Relaxation - Sprawling on the side or back and, possibly, rolling about; this may be seen, for example, when a person enters the room or stirs from their seat. The cat may display this at the same time as the person's movement.
- Greeting - A particular sort of vocalization, such as a low meow or chirp, possibly with simultaneous purring.
- Affection - A pressing of the face or top of the head against a person's body, leaving a scent as a marking of territory.
- Submission - Upon being approached, it will fall down on its side, indicating it is not seeking attention and is unwilling to put up a fight.