Cat and Dog Body Language

Cat and Dog Body Language

Cat Profile: The American Curl Reading Cat and Dog Body Language 6 minutes

Have you ever wondered what your pet’s body language means? Does your dog stretch into “downward dog” when they see you? Does your cat slow blink or “make biscuits?” There are so many different ways our animals show emotions physically, just like us humans! 

There’s of course the simple tail wag of a dog showing their excitement or the well-known arched back of a “scaredy” cat. But, there’s so much more! Let’s check out some lesser known meanings of dog and cat body language. 


Odds are you are familiar with the standard dog tail wag – we usually interpret this as a sign of a happy pup. This isn’t necessarily the case! It is important to assess their whole body, from their ears and eyes to their face and tail. 

According to Reading and Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language, you can tell when your dog is relaxed based on soft or droopy eyes, a tension free body and face, and neutral or upright ears. “You might even see their tongue hanging out to the side! And when you talk to them, they might cock their head.” 

If your pup’s tail looks alert, even if it might be wagging, and their ears and body appear engaged, this could be a sign they are stressed or on guard. If their ears are flattened to their head, this could be a sign they are submissive or fearful. 

Does your dog ever stretch into “downward dog” when they first see you or other dogs? If your pet stretches out their front paws and bends their back downward to a familiar face, this can show they are happy to see you! Doing this around another dog or during a playful moment can indicate playfulness. 

You know when a yawn feels contagious? Say, someone yawns and you see it and it makes you yawn, too. This can also happen with our floofs! When a yawn spreads to your pet from a human, it can indicate a close empathetic bond with that human. 

If they yawn when they first see you, this can be a sign of emotional connection. Whenever I first see my childhood dog in the morning, she always stretches into downward dog and lets out a huge yawn! This always warms my heart and I appreciate her happiness to see me. 

If you want to read up more on dogs and their body language, check out How to Read a Dog’s Body Language. This guide takes you through different emotions of your furry friend from appeasement to anxiousness to aggressiveness. Complete with pictures, you can read up on the different aspects of doggy body language like their eyes, ears, mouth, and tail. 


To kick us off for our feline friends, here is a great diagram showing a happy cat’s body language from How to Read a Cat’s Body Language. 

Some may have a hard time identifying our feline friends’ body language. There can be subtle differences from happy or playful or on guard. Recently, I went to a lovely local cat cafe where I observed parents teaching their kiddos how to identify cat body language.

If, like I historically was, you are someone intimidated by cats, this awareness can be very important and change your dynamic and comfortability with cats. I found cats that were overly playful or on guard to be scary, but now I understand how to interpret their reactions and act accordingly. 

Let’s start off with the precious signs of a relaxed cat. Maybe you have seen a cat slowly wag their tail – this is often a sign that the feline is content. This as well as their eyes being closed and sometimes accompanied by purring can show that it is time to chill! 

When a kitty slowly blinks, this means they feel security, trust, and love! If you are wanting to show your cat you love them, you can slow blink back! You can use your own slow blinking to form an even deeper connection with your cat and show them your appreciation for them. 

Another way cats show their love is by “making biscuits” – this is where your furry friend uses their front legs in a kneading motion. If they rub up against you gently with their tail high, they may be gathering your scents and imprinting their own on you! 

Oftentimes, when a cat is feeling playful, their eyes will get big and dilated and their behinds might shake a little while in a crouched position. I had a cat whose tail would get big and fluffy – when that would happen, I knew he was looking for trouble! 

Cats can be full of noises. If you hear a cat hiss, you probably know this means they feel threatened. A growl can be a similar warning sign. Did you know purring isn’t guaranteed to mean pleasure? Cats can purr even when they are in pain, so it is important to pay attention to other aspects of their body language. Meowing could mean anything! 

Check out this diagram from The Definitive Guide to Cat Behavior and Body Language! Here are some other frequent cat noises and their meaning: 

How cool is it that cats and dogs express themselves physically, just like us humans? The next time you spend time with a furry friend, especially ones you aren’t super familiar with, be on the lookout for these different indicators. This can help you better understand their mindset, and you may even have a better, more empathetic interaction with them! 

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