Body language of dogs and cats
The social behaviour of cats is incomparable to that of dogs. This is reflected in their body language, which is based on age-old instincts and habits. We humans have learned to appreciate the enthusiasm of dogs when they wag their tails, which we consider a “friendly” sign.
This sign is to be differentiated from the irritated wagging of the cat’s tail. Dogs and cats therefore react instinctively. Learning “foreign languages”, each other’s languages, is relatively difficult for them. They must first understand that their cat or dog roommates belong to other species and that they do not communicate like them.
While dogs are able to make themselves understood with their facial expressions, the cat’s face remains relatively neutral. Cats communicate with the movement of their tail, ears and eyes. These weak signals are easily overlooked by both dogs and cats! Most of the time, cats meow when they wish to communicate with humans, but do not use their voice to communicate with their fellow cats.
Dogs use clearer signals to make themselves understood by a whole pack or by humans. A cat will interpret this differently, knowing that its body language works totally differently. While a dog shows kindness when its tail wags, a cat’s wagged tail indicates aggression, just as when it takes the shape of a brush and has a round back.
A cat with its tail wagged and lifted upwards wants to appear as big and dangerous as possible: it is reacting to a threat. Exactly as with dogs, a fixed gaze is a sign of dominance. Cats can’t stand it very well. A dog inexperienced in living with cats can quickly confuse these signs, neglecting or ignoring them.
In addition, there is a detail that makes all the difference: dogs are on average much more imposing than most cats. Being licked in a friendly manner or receiving a paw as an invitation to play will quickly be perceived by the cat as aggressive gestures.