The Cheshire cat explained to Alice in Wonderland: “A dog growls when it is angry,
and wags its tail when it is pleased. Now, I growl when I am pleased and wag my tail
when I am angry. Therefore, I am mad.”
All cat owners will be familiar with the warning sign of a swishing tail and the purr of
contentment when everything is going right, but there are many other ways in which
your cat expresses its emotions.
You may notice that when the cat is sitting on your lap it slowly blinks and momentarily
shuts its eyes. This is a cat’s way of saying “I feel safe and I trust you” and has
sometimes been described as a “cat kiss”. If the owner gives a soft smile and blinks
slowly many cats will respond by blinking back. When the cat is in this mood it will
often appear mesmerised and knead the owners lap or arm with its front paws, often
with the claws extended, which can be quite uncomfortable for the owner.
Nonetheless it is a sign of affection and contentment – for the cat!
Cats also pat with their paws. In contrast to the defensive or angry swipe with claws
out, the gentle pat with claws retracted is the cat’s way of getting attention or inviting
play. Many cats will gently tap their sleeping owner’s eyelids when the cat believes it
is getting up time!
On returning home, a dog owner will be greeted with joyous bounds, barks and a
wagging tail. The cat owner will be greeted by a “meow” which, with a little
imagination, may sound like “Hello”. This particular meow will be quite distinctive and used only as a greeting. It is quite unlike the meow as a reminder that it is meal time. The cat will also rub around the owner’s legs and purr and the tail will be carried
flag-like in greeting.
Although grooming is an important part of the cat’s toilet, it is also used to express
contempt - who hasn’t noticed the cat sitting just out of reach of a dog and washing
behind its ears with a look of total disinterest!
The cat is a most complex creature which has learnt that there is mutual benefit in
living with people who provide food and warmth and comfort. In return, we gain the
benefits of companionship and entertainment from a pet which is quiet, clean and
undemanding in terms of cost and exercise.
Article Courtesy of Petcare Information and Advisory Service Australia