Common cat behaviours explained

Posted by Argos, 17 June 2014, last updated 15 June 2023.

Cats occupy the hearts of millions of pet owners in the UK. This fascinating companion can be a pleasure to live with, providing hours of entertainment, but at the same time, they can frustrate their owners with their mysterious behaviours.

As with any relationship, communication is key – but for those who don’t speak fluent feline, it’s easier said than done. Here are  some of the most common cat behaviours and what they mean  to help you communicate with your precious kitty.

Young woman and cat

1.  Cat headbutting

It would come as a surprise to many cat owners that a head-butt from a cat isn’t a sign of aggression, but instead one of affection. The technical term is ‘bunting ‘ and is a way of your cat saying: “you are my human”.

With scent glands all over their heads, rubbing and head-butting is a way of leaving their scent behind to mark what is most precious to them and what is their territory – all so that other cats know not to interfere. Read our blog on why cats headbutt to find out more.

2.  Cat slow blinking

So, what does slow blinking mean to a cat? No, as many Internet memes would suggest (probably created by dogs), it’s not a sign that your cat is plotting something evil against you. Rather, it’s a sign that they trust you. Squinty eyes and slow blinking suggests a content kitty.

3.  Cat kneading

What does it mean when a cat is kneading? Kneading is a sign that your cat is very happy, very content and very relaxed. It’s a cat behaviour that comes from the kitten stage, where kneading the mother’s teats produced milk flow. When a cat does this to you it means they’re very relaxed with you – much like a kitten with its mother.

4. Cat tell ‘tail’ signs

Cat tail language can tell a lot about how the cat is feeling. For example, a swishy tail means they are extremely aroused or angry and are probably ready to pounce, so leave them alone or make sure they have toys to relieve some stress.

If a cat comes towards you with its tail up, they are greeting you and giving you a warm welcome. The tail stands upright like a flagpole because they want you to notice them.

When your cat lifts its bottom in the air, it’s asking you to scratch that harder-to-reach area at the base of the tail, this is a sign of great trust since they have put themselves in a vulnerable position.

Discover more about what your cat’s tail is telling you in our We Talk Pet blog.

5. Cat on its back

So, why do cats lay on their back? If your cat is on its back, it’s most usually a sign of trust and contentment. But it is important to take into consideration all of your cat’s behaviours, if their ears are down and eyes are wide, it can mean they feel threatened rather than happy.

cat 2

6.  Cat tucking itself into a ball

It can be charming, cute and utterly adorable when your cat tucks itself into a little ball but once again the reason for this is completely dependent on its other behaviours. It can be an indication of stressed cat body language and show that your cat is afraid or it can also mean that they are content and feels safe. It has also been suggested that it is a way for your cat to conserve heat. It’s important to assess your cat’s surroundings to be wary of anything that could be causing your cat to feel anxious or uncomfortable, if not it is likely they are feeling content.

7. An anti-social cat

It’s a common misconception that cats are independent creatures who want to spend time alone – they’re actually very social creatures. If your cat suddenly starts avoiding people, this can be a cause for concern.

An owner will know their own cat’s usual behaviours so if they show any sudden change then you should take them to a vet for a check-up. If they are physically healthy, look for a change in their environment that could be causing stress.


Now you understand the common behaviours of a cat, remember it’s important to protect yourself from unexpected vet bills with Argos Pet Insurance provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Explore our cat insurance policies today.

Argos Limited is an Appointed Representative of Home Retail Group Insurance Services Limited (HIS). HIS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 314050). Registered office: 489-499 Avebury Boulevard, Milton Keynes, MK9 2NW (registered in England and Wales, no 04109436). HIS act as an introducer to Pinnacle Insurance plc, who sell, administer and underwrite the policy and who are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register number 110866). Registered office: Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 2XX (registered in England and Wales, no 01007798). HIS and Pinnacle Insurance plc are not part of the same corporate group.

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