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Cat Body Language: Angry or Scared

Lori Waters

Lori Waters

Animal Expert Extraordinaire! at The Litter Sitter, inc.
Lori Waters is the author and voice behind Thee Inside Poop as well as the owner and operator of The Litter Sitter, a local dog walking and pet sitting company in Miami Beach, FL. When she's not busy blogging and taking care of clients' pets you can find her running around with her german shepherd Zoey or having in-depth conversations with her two fur balls, Michi and Oakley!
Lori Waters

Do you speak cat?

Although cats can’t communicate using words like we humans do they are in constant communication with us by means of their body language and vocalization. Their facial expressions and body postures can tell us exactly how they are feeling internally or towards us, other people or situations.

Knowing how to read a cat is extremely important especially when said cat is angry or scared. The last thing you want to do is handle a cat that is angry or scared and end up in a situation where you can potentially get yourself hurt.

Here are 5 red flags to look for in an angry or scared cat:




Ears back or flat against the skull are a sure sign that this kitty is terrified or very angry. Cats will typically flatten their ears to their skulls in order to provide protection for their ears in a fight because no one wants a chewed up or missing ear in a brawl, right?



Large pupils are another facial expression of anger or fear in cats although enlarged pupils can also be interpreted as a playful expression depending on the situation. If you have a kitty that has enlarged pupils because he sees a toy that’s being tossed around than that would indicate a playful expression but if a stranger or a dog were to approach and you had the enlarged eyes in combination with the flat ears than this kitty is scared or upset.



If the fact that your cat is growling very low, deep and for prolonged periods isn’t any indication that they are angry or scared then when they start hissing and spitting at you that is definitely a red flag! You should not be messing with a cat that is this upset because chances are they will attack you and you will probably need a trip to the ER for some serious antibiotics.



Cats that are angry or scared tend to bristle their hair and tails (in either the up or down position) in an attempt to appear larger to their opponent. The thought behind that is the bigger they are the more intimidating they seem. I see this particular body language a lot in young kittens. But do keep in mind that this behavior can also be used in play between other kittens/cats. So again it all depends on the situation they are in.



This behavior goes hand in hand with the bristling of the hair and tail and has the same concept applied to it: the bigger you appear the more intimidating you seem to the opponent and the less likely you are of getting beat up… sort of.

(First rule of a cat fight: always be sure to size up the competition before getting into the cat fight!!!)

Understanding cats body language in general can be pretty tricky and it takes time to get to know your cat and fully comprehend what it is that they are communicating to you. You have to be sure to take into consideration the entire scenario: their facial expressions, body postures and their surroundings to get a good grasp as to what it is that may be setting your kitty off, but the more you study them, the more you’ll understand and the better your bond will be with them!

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