There are more pet cats than dogs in the United States, but not every cat owner understands their cats. Many people think cats are aloof, solitary animals that are not very affectionate or expressive. In fact, many animal behaviorists would attest that cats are actually just as "social and expressive" as dogs.
The trick to understand your cat is to speak their language. Cats are wonderful communicators. They use their body, sound and smell to communicate.
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Cats body language can be observed through their tail, ears, whiskers, eyes and so forth. Tail flipping can signal that the cat is getting annoyed or unpleased. A rattling tail that stays straight up means a happy, eager to please cat. A pair of flattened ears usually indicate an unhappy, upset, angry or intimidated cat. Their whiskers can also show you how they feel. If they are drawn back to the sides of their face, it is a sign of contentment. The way they wipe their body against an object is to leave their own scent as part of their territorial instinct. However, if they do the same to you, they are expressing affection towards you besides claiming you as their territory.
Did you know that cats purr differently when they are hungry and want to be fed? The "feed me" purr tends to be more intense and mixed with a bit of a crying sound... Cat meows can also differ in different situations. Cats meow with a crying sound when they demand food. The Siamese cat is very a vocal breed that loves to express their feelings by talking. One tip to help understand your cats' language is to understand their daily routines. Cats are creatures of habits. If they are used to being fed at a certain time, they will most likely come to you about it right on schedule. Cats understand that humans are not as keen to their body signs as they are, so they often resort to using verbal communication with humans for certain very desirable things such as food.
Cats strongly rely on their sense of smell. The reason that they groom themself is not just because of cleaning. It is also a way for them to calm themselves (same as purring) or lower their body temperature during summer. However, grooming also helps cats to mask or reduce their scent, so they are not easily detected by predators.
Image via flickr: Gideon ven der Stelt