What is my cat trying to tell me?

Cats have long been known to be mysterious creatures; independent, intriguing, curious and forever an enigma.

However, as a pet owner, it’s important that you are able to recognise and ultimately translate the traits in your cats’ different behaviours and what exactly they could be trying to tell you. It’s often much easier to understand and communicate with their canine counterparts.

In order to help you distinguish the difference between some of these traits, we have outlined some of the key messages they may be trying to tell you and how to recognise these messages.

“I am in pain”

sleeping ginger cat on knitted cushion

Cats are good at masking their pain, so it’s often difficult to recognise the signs.

Some tell-tale signs of pain may include:

  • Wanting to be on their own or hiding more than usual
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Becoming less tolerant of human interaction
  • An increase in aggression
  • Reluctant to do things they usually wouldn’t think twice about, e.g. jumping from the counter, using the cat flap
  • Stiffness
  • Less interaction/playtime
  • Changes in appetite or thirst
  • Being more vocal
  • Difference in their grooming routine – either overgrooming or undergrooming
  • Not using their litter tray

If you notice any of the above changes in your cat's behaviour, or indeed any other behaviours that are unlike them, it is best to take them to the vet for a health check.

It's not always easy to tell if your cat is stressed, because signs of stress can be subtle and cats can be good at hiding their feelings. By understanding the causes of stress, you may be able to reduce the stress your cat feels, which can in turn reduce unwanted behaviours.

“I am feeling stressed”

 frightened ginger cat

Much like pain, it’s often difficult to recognise this in a cat, namely because any indication can be very subtle.

There are many things that might cause stress to your cat, including:

  • Moving house or unfamiliar surroundings
  • A change to their daily routine
  • Bullying or intimidation by other cats – either in or out of their home
  • A new person in the household, be it a baby or maybe a new partner
  • Unfamiliar visitors
  • Unsuitable placement of food, water or litter trays

This can manifest itself in many ways, which are often very similar to the indicators of pain; for example:

  • Withdrawing and wanting to spend more time alone
  • Sleeping more than usual or indeed pretending to sleep
  • Becoming less tolerant and not wanting any human interaction
  • Changes to appetite
  • Their ears are twitching
  • Pacing, circling or restlessness
  • Soiling in the home
  • Over or undergrooming

“I just want to let you know how happy I am that you’re my human!”

tabby cat rubbing human's leg

When your kitty rubs his head on you, he is doing more than just showing you affection and saying hello. He is actually doing something that behaviourist’s call “bunting”. Pheromones are actually being released from his head and it is his way of showing ownership over you. Just as a cat would rub on furniture to leave his scent to mark his territory- he is showing pride in that you are his.

“I am feeling happy and content”

Cat holding paws with human

When your cat presses his paws into you, and massages back and forth. Your cat’s instinct to do this traces back to their earliest days of nursing. By pressing his paws on his mother’s mammary glands, it encouraged better milk production. If your cat does this as an adult he is either content, and showing that he is happy, or he is trying to alleviate stress and the habit is one to calm him down. Either way, take it as a compliment that you remind him of his cat mum!

“I am feeling safe and secure”

White cat lying in an open drawer

Ever wondered why your cat curls up in tiny spaces such as boxes, drawers and even the sink? This is your cat’s way of making them feel safe and secure. If they were out in the wild, they would not want to be unprotected in an open area as it would make them more susceptible to predators. Felines also have a natural instinct to ambush. By hiding in small spaces they are able to observe their surroundings from a distance and pounce if and when necessary.

“I’m bored!”

Fluffly grey cat beside a glass vase filled with white lillies

For no apparent reason, your cat randomly starts batting things off of the table, and calmly watches it fall to floor. This is more than frustrating as a cat owner and although it may seem like it, your cat’s goal with this behaviour is not to frustrate you. As you’re well aware, cats are curious creatures and they’re simply acting on this curiosity as well as letting you know “hey human, I’m bored!”. Try introducing some new and engaging toys to try to curb this naughty habit.


If you're worried about your feline friend due to changes in their behaviour or need help to manage them, always consult your vet.


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