Cats have some general cat behavior patterns that can help you tell if they are ill or having other problems. While behavior varies between animals, breeds, and social situations, there are still some common elements that one can rely on. These elements include body language, vocalizations, and social traits.
Cat behavior as displayed in body language can covey a number of moods. A cat that is shaking it’s paw or paws coupled with laid back ears and a swishing tail is usually relaying disgust at whatever it is encountering, most often this is something wet. A swishing motion with the tail or even a thumping motion with it can indicate agitation (or just the desire to hear the thump). A kneading cat is a content cat, and the kneading can be accompanied with vocalizations like a purr or be silent. When a cat is relaxed, they will sprawl. If they feel safe, they will even lay on their back. Cats nuzzle, head butt, rub, and even lick to express affection. An affectionate greeting can be seen with a hooked tail. A cat that wants to be left alone will often lay on its side, in sort of a graceful fall. This is a submissive position. Ear position indicates how interested a cat is in what is going on around it. To demand attention, a cat may rub on or paw at a person.
Vocalizations as part of cat behavior include a wide range of sounds. The most distinctive sound that a cat makes is the “purr”. This sound can indicate pleasure or pain, but for the most part applies to cats that are happy and content. One form of purring that is combined with a meow or chirp is a greeting vocalization. When a cat is distressed, it will make one of three types of sounds, a loud frantic mew, a high-pitched mew, or a panicky repeated meow. When a meow or mew is given in a commanding tone, this is often a demand for attention, food, or access to the outdoors. A whining toned meow is often a sign of protest. Cats will sigh or snort when they are frustrated. A loud three toned, low/high/low, meow is usually given when a cat is happy. If you have ever noticed a cat that is intent on watching something, you will hear them making a chattering or chirruping sound.
Cats have a wide range of social traits that are part of cat behavior. This ranges from scenting and spraying to complex courtship habits. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that cats are not as social or trusting as dogs are and need time to alone as much as they need to be with their human companion. They are smart animals however, learning to adjust to humans and each other to ensure long-term harmony within outside imposed limitations. Many cats, if spayed or neutered at a young age, never develop the more annoying social traits.