Cat Emotions: The Beginners Guide

Cat with its eyes closed

What Are Cat Emotions?

I know what your thinking, but yes cat emotions area thing. Cats, just like humans, can experience a vast range of emotions that vary depending on the circumstances they are in.

Cats emotions are best read through their body language, movements, facial expressions, and noises. The emotions they display are a response to a situation or event within are around their environment.

What Are The Different Types Of Cat Emotions?

There are 5 main emotional states recognised is cats. These include; Anger, Happiness, Sadness, Nervousness. Other emotions recognised in cats are; Pain, Anxiety & Fear, Frustration, Attachment Loss.

If a cat is in a prolonged negative emotional state it can lead to aggressiveness, nervousness, and reporting actions such as excessive grooming.


Cat aggression is where a cat displays violent and hostile behaviour towards humans and other animals. There are two types of aggression in felines; offensive and defensive.

You may be interested in this article about understanding why cats fight.

Offensive Cat Aggression:

Typically in offensive aggression the cat tries to be as big and intimidating as possible. These traits can be identified by the following body language.:

  • A stiff and straight-legged stance.
  • A stiff tail.
  • A direct stare.
  • Upright ears.
  • Constricted pupils.

Defensive Cat Aggression:

When cats are in a defensive mode they try and make themselves as small as possible. This is so they can protect more of their bodies from the attacker. The following actions can be signs of defensive behaviour:

  • Curved tail.
  • Crouching.
  • Eyes wide open.
  • Ears flattened sideways.
  • Head tucked into the body.
  • Open Mouth.
  • Hissing.
  • Quick strikes with their front paws.


As we know, cats, just like humans, are all very different and they show happiness in many different ways. Cats can show happiness in both their physical appearance and behaviour. The happiness they display depends on their personality. Some of the signs you might see are:

Physical Signs:

  • Tail straight up with a hook at the end.
  • Upright ears.
  • Eyelids slightly lowered
  • Relaxed eyes
  • Sitting down with their paws tucked underneath their bodies.
  • Lying down showing their tummies.

Behavioural Signs:

  • Some cats may welcome you home at the door
  • Rubbing their bodies against you
  • Chirping or talking in high pitched vocals.
  • Purring
  • Kneading or concentrating on you or something near you.


The opposite of a happy cat is a sad cat. The best way you can tell if your cat is experiencing sadness is to see if any of their usual habitats and behaviours have changed. For example; if you have a quiet cat they will remain quiet or maybe quietly purr to comfort themselves. Compared top if you have a playful cat you will notice that they become less active and might hide instead.


  • vocally – low pitched yowls.
  • crouching low
  • tucking their tail close to their bodies.
  • Poor appetite
  • Less grooming
  • Sleeping more often or for longer periods of time.
  • Sleeping in different spots.
  • Avoiding company – from humans and other pets.


Angry cats are easier to identify than some of the other emotions cats can experience. Cats will make themselves as big as possible to appear as more of the threat to the other party.

Typicalls angry cats will display the following:

  • Tail smacking
  • Hissing
  • Spitting
  • Physical Attacks
  • Puffed out fur
  • Arched back body position
  • Walking sideways
  • Erect ears.


A nervous cat will run and hide in the safest place they can find. They can also display anger and aggressive behaviour such as scratching, hissing, and biting in an attempt to scare away what is making them nervous.

Other nervous behaviour includes:

  • Destroying furniture
  • Spaying around the house
  • Avoiding the thing or area that scares them.

Cats that display nervousness could benefit from using a product such as Feliway.

Feliway contains the ‘feline facial’ pheromone, natural pheromone a cat releases when they rub up against something to mark an area as safe and secure.


Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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