Cat behaviour

What Do Different Cat Poses Mean

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
What Do Different Cat Poses Mean

You've probably seen your cat with an inflated tail or a tail that's twitching on the ground more than once. These are typical feline poses denoting one type of emotion or another. In this OneHowTo article you'll learn the what different cat poses mean so you can understand what your best friend is trying to tell you with every body movement. There are many factors involved, from the position of their tail to their ears, so pay attention and start to understand your cat.

You may also be interested in: What Do Cats See?

Steps to follow:


When your cat lies down with their belly exposed and/or begins to roll on the ground, this means one clear thing: that your animal wants to play. Whilst in this position, it's normal for them to give you soft bites on your hand or start playing with your hair. This position is one of the largest displays of trust that a cat can show because they are totally defenseless and have no fear because they know you will not cause them any harm.

What Do Different Cat Poses Mean - Step 1

When a cat is about to attack, they completely change their position. Their claws come out, they bare their teeth and they raise their hackles. These signs visibly show they are stressed and that their next move will be an attack. If you encounter a cat in this state, it is best you don't approach them because they could attack you. Some signs which may tell you that a cat is in this state are:

  • They'll have their ears flat, pointing forward.
  • They will be totally fixated, looking at their enemy.
  • Their whiskers will be forward.
  • Their fur will be raised.
  • They'll have a swollen tail.
  • They'll emit menacing sounds from their mouth while baring their teeth.
  • They'll be flicking their tail as a sign of preparation before an attack.
What Do Different Cat Poses Mean - Step 2

When the animal is completely confident and calm, you will notice that their posture is relaxed, either by lying flat out on the floor, leaning back or on their side showing their belly. This position shows complete tranquility and trust because the animal is not as alert as at other times.

However, when cats are lying on the ground, it doesn't always mean they are ready to have their belly stroked. Bear in mind that if the cat doesn't know you or is a stray cat, it's possible that they're simply resting but continue to be on alert. If you want to pet them, approach them slowly and let them sniff you first. Never make sudden movements with a feline as they could attack you out of fear.

If you've just rescued a cat that has lived on the street, in this OneHowTo we give you advice on how to care for a stray cat.

What Do Different Cat Poses Mean - Step 3

Earlier in this article we've already mentioned different factors that might indicate how a feline's posture reveals how they are feeling. When you see them walking with their tail raised, with an erect posture and decisive body movements, they are feeling calm and confident. They may be simply investigating their environment, wanting to attract your attention or wandering around the house. A raised tail is a sign that your cat is friendly and receptive to your attention and affection.

What Do Different Cat Poses Mean - Step 4

When a cat is afraid so you will also see it in their posture. From the moment that a cat feels scared, helpless or insecure, chances are you'll see how their body appears smaller. This is because they hide their tail, tuck their head into their shoulders and most characteristically bend their ears over so they're stick to their head.

This type of situation usually occurs when a cat is in a stressful or dangerous situation where another animal is intimidating them. They may react as we've indicated above by getting themselves into a position ready to attack, but if they feel helpless, the position adopted will be similar to the image shown.

What Do Different Cat Poses Mean - Step 5

In order to understand what different cat poses mean it's important to recognize the animal's different ear positions as these are indicators of their state of mind. Here are all the different meanings as follows:

  • Ears up show the cat is happy. It may be that they move them from side to side as they listen to the sounds around them.
  • Bent ears: Frightened cats flatten their ears as a sign of submission and to ensure that, if they get into a fight, they don't become damaged.
  • Ears flat pointing to the side: This is an attack position, indicating that the animal is stressed and about to attack.
What Do Different Cat Poses Mean - Step 6

However, the tail is the most significant part of their body when understanding cat positions. This is an expression of how they feel and, depending on where it is, indicates their particular state of mind. Below are a series of postures and their meanings:

  • Tail up indicates that the cat is happy and confident. In fact, the lower their tail, the lower their mood.
  • Slow tail movements: if you see that the animal is staring at something and they move their tail, it's because they are concentrating.
  • Quick, agitated tail movements: contrary to what happens with dogs when they're glad to see you, when cats move their tail from side to side, this indicates a sign of anger.
  • Inflated tail: as before, if you see a cat's tail is swollen, they are in an attack position.

These are the main positions but there's more! Here's an image that sums them up perfectly.

What Do Different Cat Poses Mean - Step 7

If you want to read similar articles to What Do Different Cat Poses Mean, we recommend you visit our Pets category.

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Zara Williams
Thanks that was helpful.
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