Cat Facial Expressions

This is a place to gain some understanding of cat behavior and to assist people in training their cats and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other cat owners and lovers...not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

Sarge (In- Loving- Memory)

Hey you, pay- attention to me!
Purred: Wed Jul 25, '07 6:26pm PST 
We know that cats often express their emotions with their tail. (Right now I have mine ending in a bend like a candy cane.) But what about the eyes? How well do cats express their emotions with their eyes? We're not like Garfield with our eyes half closed most of the time.

My Daddy is wondering because on http://icanhascheezburger.com/ there's a momma cat sitting in front of her litter of kittens. She's looking at the camera, ears forward, eyes wide. Above is the caption "what i do now?" Humor aside, is she really scared or is she happy or something else?

Daddy has a hard time telling my expressions visually. Actions are more clear. Like if I sit on his head in the morning it means I'm hungry and it's time to get up and feed me. Or when my head is low, but I'm looking up at him and put one paw on his stomach it means I'm asking for permissions to climb on him and be held. (He almost always says yes.)

Sometimes cats look bored, disdainful, scared, but are those their real feelings or are the humans making assumptions based on their own expressions?


Mommy's Little- Man
Purred: Thu Jul 26, '07 9:08pm PST 
Hi Sarge!wave
I have all my own facial expressions. I wrote a diary entry about them on the 14th, since mommy has noticed I do them so well. laugh out loud
**My diary entry here**

Most people will just say what they think the cat is thinking. Just like you said, but it mostly isn't true. Just like a cat sleeping next to an empty beer bottle and they write a caption saying something like "I think I drank too much..." obviously that isn't true. But a lot of animal lovers can tell from eye contact of what they might be thinking.

But yes they do have feelings. Mommy is a crazy animal lover and she believes that, so that's just her. If your daddy stepped on your tail, you would cry in pain and hiss for him to get off. Or when your daddy comes home from work all day long, you run to him, tail high, and meowing hello and purring to greet him. And when I get sad or feel lonely, I'll yowl and whimper. We do mostly express our feelings, but we can express them through our eyes. Just like a human giving another human a glare. They know it just by the look. A cat can eyeball another cat to show them that they are more superior then they are and stare them down to the ground. Have you ever watched a show about wolves??

And those pictures do seem like they were made up. The cat and the kitten one -- Mommy has a feeling that the cat was surprised by the camera or the person with the flash making the cat look like that. Saki gives that look a lot when she's surprised by something. But humans like to make up captions because it's funny, not because it's true. The "You're Fired" one made absolutely no sense to mommy. But mommy was able to tell from they're looks:

Iz Sykik - the cat is playful or spotted something
You're Fired - he looks annoyed with the ball of fur on his head
Not Want Decaf - he looks like he doesn't like the camera or he wants down
Bad Taste - he's playing with the magazine
Pull Mah Finger - they're rough housing
The Shower - he is enjoying the water
Im on your side - lying down and rubbing each other

But that's what mommy believes. And I'm sure you knew what they were actually doing, like the "Pull mah finger" and "monorail" ones. You can tell by their actions a lot easier then eye contact, like you said, but they do have true feelings. Like our humans do, it's just we can't say it. Have you ever watched Animal Precint on Animal Planet? You can see eye expressions a lot on there.

Sorry if that was too long or confusing. But it's really what your human believes and what they can feel when they look into our eyes or whatever makes it easier for our humans to understand us better. It's all up to our humans, what their personality is like. But mommy says yes. We do have feelings and we do express them based on what we are feelingbig grin

Did this help in any way?? laugh out loudshrug


Itty Bitty- Pretty One =)
Purred: Tue Jul 31, '07 4:45am PST 
Cat facial expressions mostly involve the positioning of whiskers, ears, mouth and dilation or contraction of the pupils.

For some information on feline body language (and facial expression meanings.) You can read here:

Sarge (In- Loving- Memory)

Hey you, pay- attention to me!
Purred: Wed Aug 1, '07 7:16pm PST 
Thanks for the link and advice. Daddy wants to know if my step-sister Lena and I have been happy living with him this past year. Our tail says amicable or friendly but unsure, then we jump up on him and start making biscuits. Our body language is sending mixed signals, our tails say we are just fine, not great but fine. But at the end of the day we like to be nearby and follow him around the house.

You have to remember both of us has been in three homes including this one. I was declawed and abandoned during winter. Lena is partially declawed was returned once after being adopted and was originally a stray. Daddy wants our lives with him to be as happy and long as possible. But will we ever feel completely content or will our past experiences with other humans always cast a shadow on our present?


Itty Bitty- Pretty One =)
Purred: Wed Aug 1, '07 10:04pm PST 

Your biscuits are the signal of contentedness, and your tails while held on the friendly position but expressing too an unsureness - does not necessarily mean that you are 'unsure' of your human daddy, but perhaps you are unsure about "is now an *ok* time to step and walk on him, and settle making biscuits"

Your question and efforts about making their lives as rich and as happy as possible with you is admirable. Our whole family here thanks you from the bottom of our feline hearts that you adopted!
I guess it depends on the individual personality of the cat how much of a scar the past leaves on that cat.

Taag although comfortable enough with us to lay about here on her back and being loving, also remains the most fearful of any sudden or loud movements or noises. She also has yet to lose her fear of men with beards and never around her use your foot to kick a paper ball or toy ball into motion - that kick action sends her running for cover. (we suspect there was some kicking abuse in her past, but considering that she was abandoned there is no human accountable for her history)

Nuk too was abandoned (he's mr. attitude) and I myself was abandoned for who knows what reason - but we adjust to changes with much more ease than Taag. We don't seem to live under any 'shadow' of our past lives.


Queen of- Apartment 3B
Purred: Fri Aug 3, '07 1:19pm PST 
I have such a cute face at times when I do something really bad, like knock a plant over or something like that, I look at dad with my lil face and eyes like did i do that. I know that dad cant be mad at me for long with these cute eyes.

I use my eyes to get the attention I want. I am such a nice cat

Sarge (In- Loving- Memory)

Hey you, pay- attention to me!
Purred: Sat Aug 4, '07 2:57pm PST 
Yes, Lena and I are happy with our Daddy. We wouldn't sleep on him and purr when he pets us if we didn't. But Daddy doesn't do everything to make us happy. Like I want to go outside every day for hours without my harness and he won't let me. Something about keeping us safe as well as happy.

Lena expresses herself well. She wants brushing all the time so she stares at Daddy with her ears forward and pupils wide open. She's trying to look as cute as possible so he'll get down on the floor and brush her. Then she jumps on him and starts kneeding half the time. If she could brush herself, she'd never stop doing it. Sometimes I wonder how she can have any hair left!

Daddy realizes that actions speak more about how we're feeling overall than our tails which is how we're feeling at the time. We lick him and each other and he scratches and pets us. It works out so well. Who needs kittens? Adult cats are so much better.


I'm cute and I- know how to use- that :)
Purred: Sat Aug 4, '07 9:59pm PST 
Hey, sometimes it is in the eyes.

Earlier tonight, daddy's friend came over to play. I was being my usual skittish self, and was hiding in a box. The friend went and picked the box up, and then reached in and petted me. I was really scared, so I looked over to mommy with my eyes really really wide, and my ears lowered, and she could totally tell I was really scared (it's the look I have after she vacuums the apartment, my "is it okay?" look). She said "It's okay, he just wants to be friends", so I let him pet me for a little bit, until I got uncomfortable and jumped out of the box. But then I went back for more cuddles later. MOL.

But yeah, most of the time they can tell I'm happy by what I do. I jump up at mommy when I want her to play with me, and I get on the bed and lay next to her side when I want pets, and when I'm really happy to be with her, I knead on her while I'm purring. My tail tip also twitches when I am thinking deep thoughts (like "where did the toy go?" or "should I grab it now"), and swishes when I'm really proud of something I did (like redecorating the carpet with toilet paper).

With me, I am usually not very local when I am happy and everything is great, but if I want extra attention or really need something, I will definitely meow up a storm. That sounds about right when it comes to domestic shorthair. So if your cat is not being especially vocal, that probably means they're pleased with the status quo.

Baby Girl

I'm Queen, you- may stroke me- now
Purred: Sun Aug 5, '07 1:55am PST 
MOL at the redecorating with toilet paper!!!

My meowmy seems to think that when Gerrard and I are laying on the floor being petted, and we half shut our eyes its our way of saying we love her, and shes right! She will half close her eyes at us, and we do it right back! She can even get us to go to sleep just by doing this over and over, closing her eyes more and more.

She can tell when I am happy, or sad, or if I want feeding, just by the face and sounds I make. And Gerrard is even easier to read. When he is feeling naughty, he will throw his head about, which means he wants to be fussed, but you have to catch him first. Its like he is saying, no no no dont pet me, oh pet me pet me pleaaasssee!!!!

I think the best thing that the orignal poster (sorry dont have your name here ) can do, is just to make sure your little furry friends are purring alot, thats a sure sign they are happy. And yes, my meowmy thinks that past history can dent a cats future, just like positive past can shape how your cat is. Its a natural protection thing, e.g. last time someone swung their leg near me it hurt so I will run away when someone does it in future, but I am sure with time, love and attention, you can ease any fears they may have.