Talking cat - Lesson 1, the ears

Alert, flat or drawn back... Your cat's ears speak volumes about her emotions. Find out what her ears are trying to tell you and learn how to 'speak' cat.

Talking cat - Lesson 1, the ears

We all try to understand our cats. This is normal, since we want to establish how we can provide the best diet and care possible. So it is interesting to decode the position and movement of her ears as they are a crucial part of how she communicates. A cat’s ears indicate her emotional state and level of alert. Ethology, the science of animal behaviour, explains cat behaviour as follows:

  • Ears are straight, points facing forward - she is calm.
  • Ears are straight, points facing to the sides - she's angry.
  • Ears are flattened laterally - she is anxious and defensive.
  • Ears are completely pushed back - she’s angry or in a state of intense fear.
  • Ears are straight, points facing towards the back during sniffing
  • An automatic and involuntary posture.

Ears are not the only signal

The position of the ears is a valuable clue, but cannot always be depended on alone to decode the emotional state of a cat. In order to read her more precisely, observe her facial expressions too, such as the movement of her whiskers and her pupils.

If your cat’s ears are completely flattened back and her pupils are dilated - a phenomenon called mydriasis - you can conclude that she is afraid. However, if her pupils are smaller -miosis- she is angry, and aggression is not far off. Other behaviours such as body posture, the whiskers and tail, and vocalising, all help you to understand how your cat is feeling.