Wouldn't you love to know what your cat is thinking? You can sit and watch your cat for hours but you never know just what is going on behind those big dreamy blue (or green or amber) eyes. Your cat squints at you, fluttering his eyelids until they almost close. He switches his tail. Is he angry or just excited? We may not know, but we can make some pretty good assumptions about what cats are thinking based upon the full context of their behavioral signing and events that normally follow.
The Eyes Have It
Look into your cat's eyes and you can tell a lot about his state of mind. The direction of your cat's gaze will direct you to the subject of his attention. But gazes vary. Some are intense and focused while others are haphazard. When your cat stares without blinking, does he want something from you or is he feeling hostility? Either could be true. Although a fixed gaze and rigid body posture might mean hostility, the same look might be soliciting petting or some other form of attention in a relaxed, purring cat.
Another fairly definite eye sign relates to pupil size. If your cat's pupils are constricted and slit-like, his mood is probably ambient, bordering on vegetative. Or perhaps it's predatory. However, if your cat's pupils become fully dilated in broad daylight, appearing as large black pools, he's either in pain or ready to fight or run away. Increased pupil size is not intended to intimidate other cats or people but rather to allow more light into the eyes. Cats' pupils are always large at night but veterinarians learn very quickly to beware when a cat's pupils are fully dilated in a brightly lit examination room.
The degree of opening of the eyelids can tell a tale, too. Wide-open eyes correlate with alertness and increased levels of mental activity – ready for action, if you will. Semi-closed or fluttering eyes mean that the cat is in a more dozy, complacent mood or may be in the mood for a nap. So if your cat's eyelids flutter and periodically close while he is looking at you, it is a sign of faith or trust. Even if he is on the brink of falling asleep at the time, squinting at you is still a compliment because your pet is showing that he is comfortable and trusting enough to take a nap in your presence.
The Ears Have It, Too
A cat's ears can adopt several different positions and for several different reasons:
Your cat normally keeps his mouth closed. This tells us very little about a cat's motivation. When the mouth is open, however, you can sometimes learn about your cat's motivation.
Head and Body Position
A cat on the offensive often walks directly toward the subject of his angst with his head held low and moving slowly from side to side, with his eyes fixed on the target. When in this mode, your cat will swivel his ears sideways and his body will appear wedge-shaped as his rear legs stiffen. Watch out for this cat: He means business.
When your cat is on the defensive, he will hunker down while backing up and lean away from the threat. His head is sometimes deflected to one side giving the appearance of a sideways glance and he will vocalize (hiss, growl or shriek). Other signs of defensive aggression include extension of claws in readiness for a fight, and piloerection (hair raised) – making him appear larger and thus more fearsome. A cat in this posture is less likely to attack than retreat – because he is afraid.
Tail position and movement offers insight into your cat's psyche. Basically a cat's tail can be up, down, or sideways; it can be curved or straight; and it can be still or moving. Here's how to interpret the various positions and movements of the tail:
There are benefits to caring cat owners in obtaining glimpses into the mind of their pet because it enhances their bond with their cat and facilitates communication. So, next time you are alone with your cat and don't have anything to do, try reading your cat's mind. You'll probably learn something you didn't know before and have a greater understanding because of it.