Grumpy cat is not necessarily grumpy, she was born looking that way but cats do get stressed by events or environment. Feline body language alerts other cats to what is going on and avoidance is usually the strategy employed to avoid conflict. When conflict does occur there is usually a territorial issue at the root. Because fighting is costly from a biological standpoint; the conflicts are usually about increasing distance and the vocalizations and body postures usually accomplish more space from at least one if not both cats. Exit routes are necessary as well as places to escape to.
Take a good look at what is going around the cat and what happened before the present postures and behaviors. It is vital to look at the whole cat; body tension, postures, vocalizations, etc. in order to get an accurate read on the scene. observing only one body aspect is not sufficient Context is key to determining why you see the response you do. What then are some of the signs of stress are in a cat? Keep reading to find out:
– Ear position. Cats ears swivel independently and orient towards sounds in their environment, this is natural behavior. Cats hearing is far superior to humans (and dogs) and even as you may not be hearing anything the cat certainly is. Ears that start to flatten or are totally flattened against the head (“airplane ears”) are typically signs of stress and functionally protect the inner ear as well.
-Eyes. There is a whole spectrum of pupil size and eye width and a whole spectrum of behavior to correlate it with. Use what you are seeing with the eyes as part of the whole picture and remember pupil size also responds to light and can be indicative of veterinary conditions.
– Whiskers. Pulled back or pushed forward, whisker position can indicate arousal or be functional (pulled back and protected/protective).
– Eyes. Lip licking out of the context of food or being hungry (you see this one with dogs as well).
– A swallow that is pronounced or exaggerated.
– A rapidly swishing tail moving from side to side. Tail movement in cats is a useful indicator a tail flick or swish may signal some internal conflict while a raised vertical tail is usually an affiliative sign, especially if the tip is bent towards the affiliate.
– Hissing. This vocalization is the lowest on the totem pole as warnings go but requires paying attention to all the same.
– Spitting. This vocalization is a stronger warning and next up is:
– Leaving or fleeing the scene or voting with one’s paws.
– Muscles rippling along the back.
– Cuffing or patting with claws out.
– Displacement grooming, usually for a short time and usually on the shoulder.
If you are interacting with cat that is exhibiting signs of stress the best remedy is to simply stop interacting. Leave the cat alone and allow it to settle. Make sure your environment is cat friendly and offers enrichment like toys, cat towers, cat scratchers and soothing classical music. If another cat is involved it is best to allow one of the two to retreat again making sure there is both a place to retreat to and an escape route. If physical conflict breaks out never ever use your hands to separate fighting cats, if a raised voice or clapping hands do not immediately separate the two think of physical interventions like a piece of cardboard or a pillow you can place between them.
The author is an animal behaviorist, for more information or to contact her visit http://www.animalbehaviorist.us