How to decipher the many moods of cats

Categories: PHS Blog

My best friend, Bailey the cat, lived to be almost 21 years old. Since I spent half my life with him, I have learned a thing or two about how cats express themselves. Bailey had a flair for the dramatic (a trait my partner insists he got from me, but whatever), so over the years I got to know his many moods and opinions based on his behavior. So I thought I’d pass a little of that knowledge on to you, lovely readers.

Let’s start with what a good mood looks like in cats.

The most obvious and common way cats show their happiness and love is through purring. Cats seem to have a special little motor inside them that gets started when they are relaxed and enjoying something. You’ll often hear this rumbling, vibrating noise while you are petting your cat. Purrs can also mean your cat is upset but it’s not as common.

Children tend to throw themselves on the ground and roll around during a tantrum, but when your cat does it, it means they are excited to see you. Cats may walk or run up to you and throw themselves on the ground and begin to roll around. This is a loving greeting and means they want your attention, especially if they show you their belly.

Bunting is when your cat rubs their cheeks on you or an object, head-butts you with their forehead, or rubs their head on you. It’s a way for your cat to leave his scent on you, marking their territory. Cats do this when they love something or someone. They may practice bunting on other pets or their favorite humans.

Scratching leaves both scented and visual marks of ownership to a cat. Pay attention to where your cat scratches the most. The areas most important to a cat are often associated with the owner.

Kneading behaviors hearken back to ​kittenhood. Kitten paws knead against the mother cat’s breasts to induce milk to be released. Adult cats continue this behavior when they’re feeling most relaxed, content, and loved. That’s often when they’re being petted on their owner’s lap. Think of kneading as a distinct expression of adoration.

Cats are adorable but they’re still tiny carnivores who have hunting instincts. Cats may catch everything from toys to mice and they often share their bounty with those they love. Cats who present you with a catch deserve praise. They wouldn’t bring these special gifts if they didn’t love you.

A kitty’s eyes are proportionately huge. As such, cat eyes are important assets for survival, yet extremely vulnerable. Cats that place their faces and wide open eyes near a person are expressing great trust and love. A slow “eye blink” from across the room is considered a cat kiss.

If you’ve ever petted a cat, you’ve probably encountered the “elevator butt” pose which invites you to pay particular attention to the base of the tail. Cats love to have this body area scratched. They also use their upright tails to signal their love. When a cat approaches you with their tail held straight up and the end slightly tipped over, it’s a sign of love. A cat that holds their rear end up in your face is also showing a sign of affection. Kittens greet their mother with tails flagged high in respect and adult cats continue this behavior with their favorite people.

Cats rarely meow at other cats. Typically, only kittens meow to their mothers and they grow out of the habit as adults. Your adult cat uses these vocalizations specifically to interact with people. Just like us, cats don’t “talk” to people they dislike, so even when your cat pesters you with lots of meows, remember that they are interacting with you out of love.

Cats spend an enormous amount of time self-grooming and friendly cats also groom each other. Cats that groom their favorite people, by licking their skin or hair or even nibbling or sucking on their clothing, indicate great affection. This spreads a familiar scent and helps mark their person as an important part of the family group.

Every year the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA is inundated with kittens. Despite having a foster volunteer program in place to assist during peak demand, more help is needed. By taking the initiative to raise kittens, you have saved their life and given them a chance.

If you’re interested in fostering this kitten season, you should give us a call. We provide initial care supplies, covers medical costs, and make ourselves available to provide step-by-step guidance while you foster.

If you love a kitten’s purr, and you have some time to give – this is a great way to help save lives and get some serious feline lovin at the same time. It’s a win win! To learn more, visit our website at pasadenahumane.org/foster.