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Understanding Feline Behavior: Tips for a Happy Cat

Understanding Feline Behavior

If there’s one thing cat owners and dog owners can agree on, it’s that dogs are far simpler to understand.


Wagging tail? Happy to see you. Jumping up and down? Happy to see you. Coming up to you to have its head scratched? Happy to see you.


Cats, on the other paw, have some emotions and behavior that is, shall we say, nuanced. Spend enough time with cats, though, and understanding feline behavior becomes second-nature, too.


Today, we want to share some of the expertise we’ve developed over the years at Catonsville Cat Clinic. Below, you’ll find a guide to common feline behavior, as well some tips for keeping your cat as happy as possible.

Neutral/relaxed cat behavior

If you had to take a wild guess as to how your cat was feeling, most of the time they’re going to be feeling … nothing. They’re content, happy to watch you and the world around them.


This is how cats will act when relaxed:

  • Curled in a ball, lying down stretched out, or lying with their paws tucked in
  • Slowly blinking eyes
  • Ears facing forward
  • Relaxed whiskers

Focused cat behavior

We’ve all seen the moment something captures a cat’s attention. They become obsessed. They watch with their whole body.


Connected to your cat’s hunting instincts, their body language is certainly going to reveal this focused behavior. 


This is how cats tend to act when focused:

  • Open eyes with narrow pupils
  • Ears perked up and forward
  • Body angled toward whatever’s captivating them
  • If moving/stalking, their hind legs may be coiled underneath
  • Tail may be twitching

Happy cat behavior

This is one of the easier cat behaviors to recognize, and it’s the right time to take advantage and bond with your cat. 


This is how cats normally act when happy:

  • Sit upright and relaxed with ears forward
  • Relaxed whiskers
  • Lying down, pays tucked underneath
  • Lying stretched out or on their sides, legs spread


These happy states often lead to a little nap time. It’s also a good time to go in for pets and ear scratches, as they’ll likely purr happily.


You may have also heard about the slow blink that happens when they’re relaxed – this is the time to imitate it back to them!

Anxious cat behavior

Cats can have wide-ranging personalities, but one thing many do have in common is a bit of anxiety. This anxiety could be the result of an unexpected change to their living environment, a strange new person or a new animal in their space, or a move.


It’s helpful to recognize anxious cat behavior so you can help to reassure them while also giving them some space to readjust.


This is how cats tend to act when anxious:

  • Eyes open and not blinking
  • Ears moving, potentially flattened
    Lower head, whiskers to the side
  • The tip of the tail moving slowly side to side

Fearful cat behavior

Even easier to spot than anxious cat behavior is fearful behavior.


This can result in loud noises, a resistance to being stroked, and even rejecting treats. 


In moods like this, try not to move too quickly or rush to their side. They may just need time to calm down. 


These are some signs of fearful cat behavior:

  • Ears flattened against head
  • Run away if there’s space
  • Wide-open eyes
  • Hissing, spitting, growling, or striking with claws
  • Arched backs and fluffed up to seem bigger
  • Tail moving side to side rapidly

Angry cat behavior

If you find that your cat is angry, you’ll want to avoid trying to pet or comfort them. Likewise, staring, shouting, or sudden movements should also be avoided. Give them their space and let them calm down of their own accord.


Should your cat regularly show signs of anger, it could be worth seeking out the help of a feline veterinarian or cat behaviorist.


These are some signs of angry cat behavior:

  • Rigid body, tail either stiff and straight or curled around body
  • Vocalizations different from normal, can include silence, hissing, growling
  • Make themselves appear larger
  • Ears flat, whiskers out from face
  • Eyes focused, unblinking

Relieved cat behavior

While it can be worrisome to see your cat angry, scared, or anxious, it’s important to know when they’re relieved so you can go back to interacting with them normally.


These are some signs to know your cat is feeling relieved:

  • Whole-body stretch
  • Visibly relaxed tails, body, and head
  • Whiskers back to normal location
  • Washing themselves 
  • A good yawn


Get The Rest Of Your Feline Behavior Questions Answered At Catonsville Cat Clinic

Understanding your cat’s behavior is key to having a happy, healthy relationship with your feline friend. 


When you can approach them in their happy, relaxed states, you’ll be able to build a better bond. When you can give them their space if they’re feeling anxious or fearful, you can show them you have their best interest at heart.

Still, we know understanding each of these behaviors – especially all the nuances! – can take some time. For more help understanding your cat, book an appointment with our expert feline veterinarians at the Catonsville Cat Clinic.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 24th, 2023 at 5:12 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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