Cats can’t tell you how they are feeling, but they have their own unique way of showing you exactly what they want.

How do cats communicate? Just like dogs, cats use a combination of vocal and physical signals. Perhaps you have wondered why your cat often flicks his tail or kneads you with his paws. All these quirky behaviours are actually forms of communication.


We learn from an early age that cats meow, but did you know that cats only make this sound when they are communicating with people? Cats don’t meow at each other!

There are different meows for different situations and this is important for cat owners to better understand what their cat needs.

  1. Hello

This meow is short and chirpy. Cats use this meow to greet their owners or people they are familiar with.

  1. I’m Here

This meow is often used by cats as they enter a room or come out from a hiding place. Cats like to announce themselves, often because they know they will receive positive attention such as strokes or even hearing you talk to them.

  1. I Need Something

This demanding meow is loud and slightly longer than the meow used for greetings. It is designed to get your attention and let you know the cat wants something. The demanding meow is repeated every few seconds if the cat doesn’t get what they want. This could be food, letting outside, or attention.

  1. I’m Not Sure About This

Anxious cats will meow in a similar fashion to a kitten. The meow is high-pitched, almost squeaky, and will be repeated almost like they are talking. If you have ever taken your cat to the vet in a carrier, you will have heard this same noise.

  1. NO!

This last meow is one that every cat owner has heard at some point. This is the warning meow, used to deter people from coming closer. A warning meow is a low-pitched, drawn-out meow that is designed to make the cat appear intimidating. If you do not take notice of this meow, you will most likely be on the receiving end of a sharp scratch, hiss, or bite!


It is not just meowing that cats use to get our attention. They also make a chirping noise similar to the noises a guinea pig would make. These sounds indicate a relaxed or contented cat and often occur during play or when the cat is being stroked.


Cats do not meow to one another, but they will use growls, hisses, and screeches to warn away other cats, strange people or anything else they deem a threat. Cat fights can be heard several houses away as the screeching is so loud and intense. It is designed to scare the other cat into retreating and prevent a physical fight.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is important for cats. when they greet one another, they will squint or slow blink. This is a way of saying ‘hi, I am friendly’. You may have seen your cat do this same thing to you when you come home from work or when your cat returns from a day of exploring outdoors.

Cats do not like prolonged eye contact as this is seen as a threat or sign of aggression. Cats who hold eye contact are either feeling threatened or agitated.

Slow blinking at a cat who you have just met is a great way of helping the cat feel relaxed in your presence, as you are showing them that you are not dangerous.

Ear Position

The way a cat holds its ears says a lot about how it is feeling. Ears held erect and forwards signal a cat who is alert, interesting or excited. Cats have excellent hearing and can move their ears independently. This means they can be focused on something in front of them, but still turn one ear if they hear a noise from a different direction.

Ears held slightly folded and to the side show that a cat is feeling unsure about a situation. The ears may also twitch between a folded and upright position as the cat investigates the source of their uneasiness.

An angry or scared cat will hold their ears pointing backward and flat to their head. you should not approach a cat with its ears pinned back as it may react aggressively.

Body Language

Cats use lots of different body language signals to display their feelings to their owners and other cats.

  • Arched back with fur lying flat shows an eagerness to be stroked.
  • Arched back with fur standing on end signals a cat who is agitated and wants to be left alone.
  • A crouched body position and tucked tail suggest an uneasy or nervous cat.
  • Exposing the stomach is a form of showing trust.
  • A tail held straight up signals excitement or happiness.
  • A twitching tail shows alertness
  • A swishing or wagging tail signals annoyance or frustration

Cats often use their tail when communicating with other cats. Two cats involved in a standoff will flick their tails held low to the ground to show that they are not happy with the situation. Cats who are approaching one another in a friendly greeting will hold their tails erect.

Scent Marking

Cats have scent glands in their cheeks, under the chin, above their eyes, the inside edges of their ears, their paw pads, the lower back where the tail joins the body, and along the tail itself.

Cats use their scent glands to pass on information to other cats. If you see your cat rubbing against a tree in the garden, they are marking their territory so other neighbour cats know who lives there.

Cats will rub on their owners as a way of marking them. This is often seen as a form of affection by cat owners, but it is more like the cat saying, ‘you belong to me’.


As we have learned, cats have scent glands in their paws and will knead on surfaces to mark their territory, but kneading serves other purposes. Kittens will knead at their mother’s mammary glands to encourage better milk flow to the teats during nursing.

Older cats will knead on a surface to create a more comfortable resting area. this might be a thick patch of grass or the cushions on your sofa. It is believed that this is a passover from wild cats who knead at the ground to create a hollow for resting.