Cats can be very subtle with body language and facial expressions when they are starting to feel stressed, which is why sometimes, they can almost seem bipolar. We had a great example to share with you when some Sphynx kittens came to see us! Here are 3 signs your cat or kitten might be telling you they are scared.
1. FLATTENED EARS
Dogs and cats are different than humans in that their ears are a part of their overall facial expression. Here, you can see the ears are slightly flattened. Sometimes, this can indicate a cat is listening behind them but combined with other facial and body cues, they’re starting to show signs of being afraid. This can be a very quick, and subtle movement. Kittens especially will do this during play times too, so take into consideration the environment they are in as well when assessing their body language!
2. FURROWED OR LIFTED EYEBROWS
So cats don’t actually have obvious eyebrows defined by the hair like we do, but they do have facial muscles that work in a similar way. On the left, this kitten is showing a very tense facial expression, accentuated by furrowed eyebrows. On the right, he has “raised” his eyebrows, making his eyes express a worried look. Both of these can be very small changes, but if we don’t look out for those – they could lead to more obvious signs of heightened fear.
3. TENSE OR TIMID BODY STANCE
When a cat is fearful, they can initiate a fight or flight response which can start to impact their overall body stance. This kitten is showing a tense body frame. When holding this cat, the technician may be able to sense a subtle tension of his muscles. In this picture, you can see his shoulder muscles tensing up. If they are considering flight, they might tense their muscles and cower backward. This little guy could consider a warning swat if we don’t recognize his body language.
Cats can be very complicated with their behavior, and it isn’t always easy to see when they are feeling afraid. Have questions about if your cat is stressed or other signs to look for at home? Call our office, or set up a behavioral consultation appointment with Dr. Hayes or Dr. Graves!