Animal behaviour experts have worked with Cats Protection to produce a guide to help pet owners know what their cats want.
It helps explain often contradictory behaviour by these precious animals – like why they often scratch and bite when they appear to want their stomachs rubbed.
The guide also includes advice about how to respond to these signals and common misinterpretations made by cat owners.
Nicky Trevorrow, Cat Protection’s behaviour manager, said: “They are quite complicated and subtle in their behaviour, much more so than social species like ourselves and dogs.
“When a cat throws itself on its side and shows its belly, most people misinterpret this behaviour and think that it wants its belly rubbed but will get grabbed by their hand and the cat will bite them.
“What the cat is actually doing is showing a greeting behaviour and showing trust. It is actually an abuse of that trust to stroke its belly. What the cat would rather you do is to give it a slight head rub.
“When a cat comes towards you with their tail upwards, it is a sign of their greeting. The best thing to do is to acknowledge their greeting and give their head a rub.”
The charity produced the short three minute video guide after conducting a survey of 1,100 cat owners to see what they thought their pets were trying to communicate.
Three quarters of those asked did not know that the cat’s upright tail meant it was pleased to see them, while a third thought a cat wanted its tummy tickled when it lies on its back.
A third of owners also failed to recognise a slow-blinking cat as meaning they were content and 65 per cent thought a purring cat means it is always happy, but it can also be a sign of pain.
Half of owners were unaware that cats show stress by licking their lips and a quarter thought cats shed hair intentionally to mark their territory.
Mrs Trevorrow added: “If a cat is stressed it is really important to give them a place to hide and to get up high.”
I have a cat that loves having her belly brushed – but only in the living room while laying in front of the sliding glass door to the back yard.
They missed a few signs too. One is when a cat is staring at something and it’s tail is slashing back and forth from side to side. I call this the angry cat.
Another sign is when the cat gets on a table or counter and start knocking stuff off onto the floor. This is an attention seeking device.
Last but not least is when the cat jumps on your bed in the morning and starts poking you in the head with its paw while purring or meowing. This means “Get up and fix my breakfast!”