Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | May 19, 2010

Cat Communication for All

Rain - the Sunny One

As I search for my new forever family I have temporarily taking up residence at the Second Chance Humane Society Shelter and this week I am hosting the Pet Column by answering a variety of questions our readers have been sending in about curious cat behavior.  I have provided answers with the help of the animal education organization, Pawprints & Purrs, Inc.:

Why do cats quiver their tails?
When a cat’s tail is quivering it typically communicates mild irritation, although erect and quivering tails denote excitement.

Why do cats swish their tails?
One reason is to get his balance before leaping. The other is to mesmerize prey that has become still and hard to locate.  A cat moves his tail to initiate movement in his target, which he can then spot.

What does it mean when a cat lashes his tail from side to side?
A tail waving quietly from side to side reflects contentment. If a cat is sitting quietly with his tail gently wagging back and forth, he’s concentrating intently on something. Vigorous lashing back and forth demonstrates anger or annoyance and a good indicator that the cat be left alone. Tail wagging somewhere in between heavy duty and half-hearted can mean that he is indecisive.

What else does a cat’s tail tell?
When the tail is bent forward over the head, it means a cat is feeling confident and in control. When it’s waved quietly side to side like a lady’s fan, the cat is displaying contentment. Several quick flicks upward is a greeting to both humans and other cats.

What do a cat’s different ear positions mean?
There are five basic ear signals revealing if a cat is feeling relaxed, alert, agitated, defensive or aggressive. When the ears are pointed forward and slightly outward, the cat is relaxed and carefully listening to everything that is going on. When erect and facing forward, the cat is alert and ready to investigate any noise that has been heard. When they twitch nervously back and forth, the cat is agitated or anxious. The ear twitching may be accompanied by two quick flicks of the tongue around the lips. When the ears are flattened tightly against the head, the cat is signaling annoyance and is feeling defensive. A cat will pin the ears back to protect them during a fight. When feeling aggressive but not frightened, a cat’s ears will be in a position somewhere between alert and defensive.

What do the different positions of the whiskers reveal?
When pointed forward and fanned out, the cat is tense – alert, excited and ready to act. When the whiskers are bunched together and flattened to the side of the face, he is feeling reserved, timid, or shy. When pointed sideways and not spread out, the cat is comfortable, calm, relaxed, friendly, satisfied, or indifferent.

That is it for now – but do remember that, like people, cats find communication an important part of interacting with other animals and people.  My name is Rain and I have so much to teach the lucky family who brings me into their home, and yes purring is our way of saying, “I love you.”

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online:  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.


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