8 of My Favorite Feline Phrases in “Cat-ese”


Since cats can’t (or perhaps won’t) use words to tell you how they’re feeling, they communicate through their face and body language. It’s a language of brush strokes and hieroglyphs as performed by a living being, and it’s a fascinating subject to study. As a lifelong cat caretaker, I’ve become quite fluent in cat-ese as spoken by gestures and expressions. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. "I’m in a state of utter bliss."

Snuggled together with half-closed eyes, gently hugging with their front legs, Thomas and Dahlia demonstrate this phrase beautifully.

2. "Really. REALLY?"

Sin├®ad has finally had enough of my picture taking, and if that flashy thing goes off one more time, there will be claws-out swats. The narrowed eyes and the sideways stink-eye glance say it all.

3. "Aren’t I adorable?"

I’m convinced that kittens are born knowing this gesture: the shy "aww, shucks" look, front paws placed ever so closely together, those big blue eyes — and just the tiniest touch of a smile — tell you exactly what they mean. This little foster kitten almost found a home with me through the repeated use of this phrase.

4. "Kill! Kill! KILL!"

Look at Siouxsie’s crazy eyes, lashing paws, and teeth in full-on ready-to-deliver-the-death-bite mode. A word of advice: Do not try to take the toy away when your cat is in this mode.

5. "Hi there. Would you be my friend?"

When Peanut climbed on my shoulder and started purring and rubbing against my face over and over again, I knew exactly what he was saying.

6. "Ommmmmmmmm …"

Tucked into a half-loaf pose for stability, front paws crossed in a gesture of prayer, half-closed eyes: Yup, Siouxsie is meditating! Be kind and don’t disturb a cat when she’s in this pose.

7. "Play with me! Oh, please, play with me!"

Look at Bella with her upside-down head, closed eyes, waving paws and a big goofy smile. Nothing says "I want to play" quite like this pose.

8. "I love you SO MUCH …"

Kissy is hugging me and making biscuits on my chest. The smile on her face, wide-open eyes and relaxed and forward-facing ears say she feels totally safe and loved. If I’d taken a video rather than a photo, you would have heard her purring like crazy, too.

What does your cat tell you with her body language? What cat phrases make you melt from the sheer cuteness? Do you have photos of your favorite feline expressions? Please share your stories and pictures in the comments.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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