When your cat's tail twitches and she fixes you with her cold, glassy stare, does it mean:
A. I want a tickle?
B. Let me out?
C. Could you please die now, so I can eat your remains?
Kitties are notoriously inscrutable beasts but now a video posted by Cat Protection, the leading non-profit organization in the United Kingdom devoted to feline welfare decodes some of their mysterious behaviors.
According to their research, humans display a "worrying lack of knowledge" about their cats' body language. Notably, 49 percent don't know that licking the lips means a cat is stressed and 38 percent don't understand that flattened ears are a sign a cat is frightened and needs a place to hide.
"Cats are often considered to be independent and able to look after themselves whereas dogs are usually perceived to 'need' their owners," says Cat Protection Behavior Expert Nicky Trevorrow. "The reality is that while cats are pretty good at surviving without us, they do of course have needs. If these aren't met, it can lead to stress and behavioral problems."
Other key signals:
Cat approaches with tail up: This is a cat's way of greeting you. Trevorrow suggests you respond with affection.
Rubbing objects with their head. The object can include you. It's not a sign of adoration but a way of spreading their scent.
Slow blink. It's a sign of a happy, relaxed cat. To communicate with your pet in cat language, you can slow blink back and slowly turn your head to the side. You might get a slow blink in return.
Cat lies down and shows you its belly. An exposed stomach is not an invitation for a belly rub. The cat is showing that it trusts you and by touching its belly you are betraying that trust. Just give it a little pat on the head instead.
Purring. It can mean the cat is content but can also be a signal it is in pain.
Now, go apologize to your cat for your ignorance (especially those years of tummy rubs) and hope for a slow blink in return.