Interpreting the Meaning of Cat Behavior

While many people find that dogs behave in a way that is generally transparent and easy to understand, it's more typical that cat behavior will leave you baffled. Even long time cat owners who are very familiar with their pets can find that a cat will display unusual behaviors periodically. Cats are fickle animals by nature and tend to mind their own business. However, they may also be variously social or aggressive, loving or playful. While each cat tends to differ in the ways in which he exposes these different sides of his personality, there are some cat behaviors which are generally consistent from animal to animal.


One of the most important signs to recognize is hissing. If a cat begins to hiss, it is likely that he is angry or frightened about something. Cats that are upset in this way can often not distinguish between a friendly family member and a perceived threat. You may find that, if you attempt to touch your cat or get too close, he tries to attack you and ends up scratching or biting you. Generally, it's best to leave a hissing cat alone and to determine what is causing him to become angry or frightened.

Arching of the Back

Cats tend to arch their backs along with a hissing sound as part of their angry and aggressive behavior. This is a tactic to make their bodies appear larger to potential predators. Arching of the back is therefore a sign that your cat is afraid or in self-defense mode. Once again, it's best to leave cats that do this alone.

Exposing the Abdomen

If a cat rolls over onto his back and exposes his belly to you, it's not necessarily the same as when a dog does this. Cats may enjoy being petted on the stomach. However, the true meaning behind this behavior is that your cat is showing his submission to you. This area is the most sensitive and exposed area for a cat; by showing it to you, he's asserting that you are dominant over him.

Rubbing against People or Objects

Cats often nuzzle up against people or objects. While this is seen as a sign of love or affection, most cats actually exhibit this behavior in order to show control or possession. This behavior extends back through centuries and millennia of development to allow cats to demonstrate possession of territory and objects to other cats.


Cats meow for a wide variety of reasons. Just as humans use speech to communicate with one another, so too do cats. Meows are generally a cat's way of trying to get your attention. Whether this is to begin to play, to give him food, to pet him or something else is dependent upon the situation and the animal.

For more information about cat behavior, compare notes with other cat owners or ask your vet for assistance.