September 13, 2012
Cat body language can be very subtle and requires great attention to detail when evaluating how cats are getting along with each other and their humans in the environment. Whenever I need a quick refresher, I always find myself referring to Dr. Karen Overall’s three articles on cat body language. In addition to the easy and informative text, there are also excellent pictures to correspond with the articles.
As I am a visual learner, the pictures have become an invaluable way for me “test” my observation skills. Observing animals in a systematic manner (just as one would do a physical exam) allows you to more quickly gain information and put it together. The more practice one has at this skill, the better they get and can then relay this information to others. Most importantly, getting owners excited about learning what their cats are telling them, will allow the owners to see behavioural changes more quickly.
A recent example I had of this came from a phone call from a concerned owner. The cat was still eating and drinking normally but when sleeping next to her owner while she was watching TV, the cat was curled up rather than stretched out. Many owners would not have phoned their veterinarian about this small change in behaviour. The physical revealed a tooth root abcess.
Some basic tips to take away from the articles include: raised tails indicate a willingness to interact (this may not necessarily be a positive interaction). When cats are fully committed to the situation, all of their body signals agree (ie. The tail, back, ears and eyes are forward). If one or more of the signals are “out of concordance”, this indicates uncertainty. Plus, one of the most important tips is context, context, context!!!
Learning their language allows us to better anticipate their needs and allow us to be more humane in our interactions.
Cat signaling: learn the behavior dance to help patients
Feline communication: listen to the tail’s tail
Watching the cues will help unlock clues to feline communication