Cat Behavior… Explained!

grey cat looking at camera

Cat Behavior Meaning

Estimated Read Time: 6 ½ minutes


If you’re a cat owner, then you’ll know that cats can have the most intriguing personalities. However, sometimes they adopt and exhibit certain behaviors that can be simply baffling to us, their humans! 

Let’s take a look at some common cat behaviors and the meaning behind them, so we can start to understand our feline friend’s communication techniques a little better…

Cat Behavior Explained

Cat Behavior Meaning: Kneading

The infamous kneading! Most cats display this common behavior and this starts from when their nursing as kittens. Kittens typically and instinctively do this whilst feeding; the kneading massages their mother’s mammary gland which encourages a better production of milk. This continues into adulthood as a way of our kitty saying they’re relaxed and content, and it could even be argued that you and your love remind them of their mom! They also have scent glands located in their paws, so they could also be marking their territory on something or someone they really like.

Cat Behavior Meaning: Ear Twitching

If your cat is flicking their ears back and forth, this is a usual sign of anxiety or agitation so it may be a good idea to leave them to their devices if you want to avoid a defensive pawing! If their ears are just upright and fairly stiff, this means they are just intently listening to their surroundings.

tabby cat

Cat Behavior Meaning: Vocalizing

One way cats communicate quite often is by using their voice, but if you want to be a good pet parent to your feline fur baby, it’s important to know what each vocalization style can mean…

Chattering – This usually occurs when they’re at a window; their teeth start to chatter rapidly. A touch bizarre to witness, but usually normal: they’re frustrated that they can’t get to the prey they may have just spotted!

Growling – They do not want to be disturbed. Our advice? Let them be!

HissingWhen cats are frightened, stressed or defensive they will hiss to warn the threat not to come any closer. If this happens to be you, definitely back off. If this happens for an obvious reason (you need to administer medication or they’ve recently come back from an unpleasant but necessary experience at the vet, which you took them to!) just back off and gain their trust again gradually once they’ve calmed down. If they’re hissing regularly for no apparent/diagnosed reason, it’s time to get them checked over by the vet as they may be defending something they’ve hurt or experiencing something like kitty depression…

Crying/HowlingThis is usually a good indicator that something is wrong. They may be unwell, in pain, or distressed, and need rescuing or medical attention, stat.

Yowling – Yowling is like a cry, but is more drawn out, louder and longer. This is often associated with adult cats when they’re mating. If it’s happening often and not in these circumstances, have them checked over by their vet.

Purring – Purring usually happens when your kitty is relaxing, grooming, nursing, or enjoying some affection. However, cats may also purr when they’re in a stressful situation to help soothe themselves and calm down.

MeowingMeowing is usually just an attention-seeking tactic because they want something they can’t get without you (food, access to somewhere, or simply affection!) If it’s annoyingly frequent, this may be a cause for concern as they could be unwell or stressed. This should be ruled out by a vet.

Cat Behavior Meaning: The Tail Tip Twitch

If your fur baby is meandering around the house and you see the tip of their tail twitch, this is perfectly normal. It’s either a sign of excitement or focus, or they’re practicing their hunt for prey. The twitching tail usually subsides after they’ve decided to pounce on an unsuspecting foot, light, or suspect object – or if they’ve decided to give it a miss!

Other emotions shown through the behavior of your cat’s tail may include:

  • A high tail that’s not tense: Familiarity and/or confidence
  • A high, bushy tail with an arched back/low body: Scared or excited
  • A wagging tail: Irritable or upset, and they need to be left alone
  • A tail in-between their legs: Frightened
cat tail

Cat Behavior Meaning: Rubbing Against You/Rolling Around

When your fur baby rubs their head against you or a piece of furniture, they are releasing their scent (pheromones) from glands present on their head, to mark their territory. It’s usually from a place of pride – they like you and recognize you and the items in your home enough to want to own it!

When kitty’s roll around on their back, showing off their tummy, this is an incredibly vulnerable position for them to put themselves in. So, when they do this, they feel incredibly comfortable and are showing you that they trust you! They may also be looking for a little playtime, so reward them with some affection and attention if they’ve exposed their belly to you.

Cat Behavior Meaning: Sitting In Small Spaces

We’ve all seen the memes and TikToks, haven’t we? “If I fits, I sits” and these are usually shared because owners are baffled at the item their cat has elected to squeeze themselves into. Whether it’s a cardboard box or a basket, or in-between a group of snoozing dogs! This can be a bit insulting if you’ve provided them with a lovely, snug bed but don’t take offense. Kitty’s love the security of a small space and this comes from their wild cat instinct. Cats (in the wild), when they catch prey, need to be hidden in order to time their ambush just right. If they rest in an open, wide space they leave themselves vulnerable to attack. In a small, tiny space, they are able to observe their surroundings, protected and from a safe distance.

Cat Behavior Meaning: Staring At You

Do you sometimes look up from reading and are startled by an intense, feline stare gazing at you? This is usually them trying to magic up some attention from you. However, be cautious about staring back as this can seem aggressive to them, and you may be pounced upon!

But, what about that all familiar slow blink cats sometimes give you? Well, this is actually another way your cat lets you know they love and care for you. If you do it back to them, this can become a shared affectionate exchange they’ll recognize as a reciprocated feeling of care and trust.

Cat Behavior Explained

So, now you understand your cat a bit better, you can help them have an even happier life by acknowledging their needs exhibited by the unique behavior they display to you, their pet parent!

But, as ever, always trust your gut with cat behavior changes and excessive, unexplained behavior. If it worries you or feels wrong, always check in with your vet.

Related Reads

Indoor Vs. Outdoor Cats

The Best Way To Prevent And Treat Hairballs


Drake Center For Veterinary Care

Pet Cube

Well Be Loved


Sarah Milton

Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!

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