Deciphering Your Kitten's Behavior & Body Language

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Too often, pet owners resort to punishment when they believe a pet has stepped out of line. Punishment is a poor tool for shaping behavior in most situations. Physical corrections and harsh scolding are likely to bruise your relationship and can lead to more serious problems, such as aggression.

Never hit, shake or yell at your kitten. If you need to interrupt a behavior, such as scratching furniture, use a spray bottle or make a sharp noise by tapping a tabletop or clapping your hands loudly. Avoid doing anything that makes your kitten act frightened or reluctant to approach you.

Understanding your kitten's body language

Cats are good at letting you know what they want, either vocally or with their bodies. It won't be long before you understand what your kitten is trying to tell you.


As your kitten grows up, you start to hear distinctive "meows" from her. Low-pitched meows usually mean your cat is uncomfortable or unhappy. High-pitched meows mean she's happier, and if she keeps repeating them, she's wanting your attention. Maybe she feels it’s time for her favorite kitten food? With a little practice, you'll soon get to know what your kitten's trying to say.

Interestingly, meows are hardly ever directed at other cats, nearly always at humans. So listen up, she's talking to you. Learn more about a cat’s meow.


Purring is usually a sign of contentment, although it doesn't always indicate happiness. A cat that is ill or anxious will sometimes purr as a comfort. However, most of the time if your kitten is rubbing against you and purring loudly, it's a sign of affection or she's asking for something, such as food.

Hisses and growls

If you're hearing these, you've got one frightened little kitten. She's trying to puff herself up to sound scary so she can protect herself. You'll usually hear her hiss and growl during tense encounters with other animals.


When your kitten rubs her face up against you, it means she's really comfortable in your company and is showing she likes you.

Rolling over

If your kitten rolls over onto her back and stretches her legs, she is indicating complete submissiveness and trust in you. She's also asking for attention. And when she hops onto your lap and snuggles down contentedly, there's no doubt how she views her new environment.


A cat's tail is an excellent indicator of her feelings. A happy kitten will hold her tail straight up; if she's frightened, she'll tuck it between her legs. The broad swishing, of an adult cat's tail shows annoyance or impatience. If she's really agitated, her tail will move rapidly from side to side — this is clearly threatening behavior. A twitching tail is a sure sign of your kitten's excitement and curiosity. Learn more about the cat’s tail.


Pricked ears are an indication of interest in what's going on around her as well. Ears held erect and inclined forward, she's relaxed and friendly. But when a cat's ears go down, flat against her head, it's a sign of aggression; this is done to keep them out of the way should a fight erupt.

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