If you grew up with dogs, cats can be an alien species. Dogs are (generally) really easy to read. They wag their tail, lick you and jump when they are happy. Cats? They purr. Sometimes.
So here is a beginner’s guide for how to speak cat, for dog people.
My best tip for getting along with cats is to ignore them until they come to you. Trying to pet a cat when he isn’t ready is a great way to get hissed at. When the cat is ready he will come out and say hi.
How do cats say hello?
Most cats will not come bounding up to you when you walk into the home. Generally they will observe the situation then come and check you out (if they want). Let the cat rub his head or body on you before you try to pet him.
What it mean when a cat rubs his head or body on me?
This behavior is called allorubbing. It is when a cat rubs himself on another cat or person. Cats have scent glands all over their body. There are glands by the ears, on the edges of the mouth, and by the temples. So when a cat rubs his head or body on you, he is scent marking you. This is not the dog equivalent of peeing to mark their scent. Cat scent rubbing means hey you are pretty cool. A cat rubbing on you is a compliment and means you are probably good to pet him.
What does a crouched body position mean?
Similar to dogs, this means I am really uncomfortable. Leave this cat alone,and let him chill out. Do not try to pet this cat.
What does licking mean?
Licking can mean two things. It can be a grooming behavior. It is cat for hey friend I am going to groom you, because you are so cool. It could also be because you taste good. If you have had a sweaty day, the cat may lick the sweat off of you.
What does swatting mean?
Swatting (unless at a toy during playtime) is a scared behavior. Cats will do this if they are cornered and feel threatened. This is the cat equivalent to a dog growling. It is usually a bite warning. Be aware that if a cat is declawed they may go straight to biting.
Purring almost always means I am really content. You will hear purrs when you are doing a good job petting the cat, or when they are really happy (like about food or treats). There are some (very few) cats who will purr when they are upset. Purring is usually a good thing.
So while cats can be harder to read than dogs, with this guide you will be able to better understand cats. And I will remind you again, ignoring a cat is the best way to say hello to him.