How To Cummunicate With Strange Cats?

You and your cat(s) probably have a good and close bond. You know what it means if your cat meows, if his tail sways or just looking him in the eyes. You know what he means (most of the time), and you probably know what he wants. But if you meet a strange cat, a cat you have never met before and who you might need to help because he is wounded, his body language might seem a bit different from what you’re used to. So here is a little guide to help you out.



Almost every piece of that cat might say something about how he feels. For example:

Ears going back
The cat is afraid, angry or irritated.

Ears that move forward means the cat is alert, interested or even happy.

They have your attention and they are listening to every little sound they can hear.

Do not always trust the ears! After all, the ears are actually for listening. The cats ears may turn when hearing a sound.



Rule number 1: don’t look directly at the cat, it can be intimidating to them and you pretty much tell them to stay away.

It’s a sign of offensively aggressiveness, but possibly content. If you don’t trust the eyes, look at the ears or the tail. Are his eyes big, his ears flat and he’s licking his lips? He could be pretty pissed off. Look at the total image.

Pupils are a sign of submissive (but not always), nervousness, defensively aggressive and/or on the attack (if fully dilated), but also playful. Be aware, if his tail is flicking from left to right, and he looks pretty angry. He’s probably not in a playful mood. 

Squinty eyes
Are usually a sign that the kitty is relaxed.

And let’s not forget about slow blinking. By slow blinking you show cats that you are not dangerous. Slowly close your eyes, (I always do this by slowly saying in my head: “I love you”. I don’t know why), and open them slowly, doing this repeatedly — and slooooow. Yes, it’s a bit awkward.



A wagging tail
Uh oh, bad sign! No, the cat is not happy, but angry (or excited!). She wants you to leave her alone, and go away.

A straight up tail
This is a good thing! This means the kitty is pleased.

Upright and quivering
The ultimate sign of a happy cat.

Tail Down
An alert kitty.

Tail down tucked between the legs
Insecurity or an anxious cat. I see this a lot when there is firework going on, and Hiro is afraid of that. He gets insecure, and his tail gets low and between his back legs.

Facing down with a kink at the base
This happens when the cat becomes aggressive. You can also see this shape when the cat is chasing something.

A brushy tail
When the tail is up and busy it’s a sign of anger. An emotionally charged cat. You may have seen this before if you have an outdoor cat, and your cat is having a little fight with the cat next door. Often the coat on the back will also go up. He wants to look bigger than his enemy.



Whiskers that stand back
For angry cats, the whiskers usually stand back, close to the cheeks.

Lowered whiskers, or drooping whiskers
A sad, unhappy kitty.

The whiskers stand straight.
An alert kitty, you’ve got her!



I guess you can say that smell is important for them too. If you want them to smell you, like an “Hi, nice to meet you”. I suggest not doing it with your fingers/hands but more with an object that belongs to you. A pen that has been stuck behind your ear for a while, a glasses or a hat. It’s important to keep a save distance between you and the cat. What if the cat suddenly attacks you because you misread his body language and you used your hand for him to sniff at? Yea… That’s going to hurt!

Do not approach the cat, but let it come to you.

Body / Posture

Upright posture with the head held high
This is a confident and content cat, for sure!

Lowers his head and turns it sideways
If your cat does this while avoiding eye contact, then the cat is not interested, and not aggressive. He’s just not that into you.

Head down, and back arching
When there is a dangerous situation the cat is in (or he thinks he is when a strange cat is in his territory), the cat’s head will move down and the back will start arching so he is ready to attack if he has to. Sometimes cats may also lower themselves to the ground with their front paws in before them, and back legs hid underneath.

A relaxed cat will lie on her side or back with legs spread outwards. It’s a sign of a trust, and something you will not see often with strange cats.

A cat that is flattened to the ground is most likely a cat that is trying to hide. It doesn’t really means he is scared of you — they do this as part of a game too. — Tom Duhamel


In Short

Attentive cat: ears pointed, whiskers straight.
Unhappy cat: ears pointed sideways and flattened, whiskers drooping.
Angry cat: ears and whiskers back, eyes narrow, pupils wide.


14 Responses to “How To Cummunicate With Strange Cats?”

  1. Kitties Blue

    Thanks for a great post with excellent information. When you have the opportunity, please stop by our Thanksgiving post. There’s an award waiting for you there. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  2. onespoiledcat

    Absolutely! I guess those of us who have had cats forever learn these things over time but it’s great that you’ve compiled it all in one place!!


  3. hutchagoodlife

    Thank you for putting all this together. I was particularly interested in the whiskers part. I had no idea they could show emotions using them! I will definitely use something else to reach out to a cat if I need to again. I was lucky I didn’t get my hand attacked and Rocky the cat was relatively friendly!

    ~ Amy

    • Cats & Co

      I also always use my hand because I don’t always wear my glasses and most cats around here I trust enough not to attack my hand, haha. :)
      But I’m glad Rocky is doing okay! Is he back to his owner, or staying with your brother, or you?

      • hutchagoodlife

        He’s with his owner. She took him straight after we got him down and got him to the vet. He’s limping quite badly but there are no signs of infection and miraculously he didn’t chip any bones in his foot so it’s healing pretty well.

        I think he’s really grateful to me because he hobbles over to snuggle me when I check up on him! I used to think I was more of a dog person but I think he has converted me. Cats FTW! ^_^

        ~ Amy

      • Cats & Co

        Awe, that is sweet! Good to know there doesn’t seem to be an infection! Hope there isn’t going to be one in the future either!
        He’s lucky you found him. :)

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