What it Means When Your Cat Looks at you With His Mouth Open and More

Cats are known to give their owners some odd looks and body movements. Listed below are 5 looks and body movements your cat will give you and what they mean.

The Gape

Your cat gets a far-away look, allows the bottom jaw to drop, and looks as if it’s grimacing in pain. What he’s doing is savoring certain pheromonal odors on the breeze.

Open Mouth with Lips Retracted

Your cat stares, bares his teeth and hisses. This indicates intimidation and aggression.

The Yawn

Yawning indicates stress, ambivalence, or sometimes preparedness for action.

Head and Body Position


A cat on the offensive often walks directly toward the subject of his angst with his head held low and moving slowly from side to side, with his eyes fixed on the target. When in this mode, your cat will swivel his ears sideways, and his body will appear wedge-shaped as his rear legs stiffen. Watch out for this cat, he means business.


When your cat is on the defensive, he will hunker down while backing up and lean away from the threat. His head is sometimes deflected to one side giving the appearance of a sideways glance and he will vocalize (hiss, growl, or shriek). Other signs of defensive aggression include extension of claws in readiness for a fight, and piloerection (hair raised) making him appear larger and thus more fearsome. A cat in this posture is less likely to attack than retreat because he is afraid.

Tail Positions

Tail tucked is a fearful and defensive position.

Tail held at half-mast and moving slowly from side to side, indicates mild interest.

Tail vertical or straight up indicates anticipation and/or greeting.

Tail vertical but curved to one side indicates playfulness.

Tail curved over the cat’s back indicates expectation or monitoring a situation.

Tail held low with the tip twitching indicates a stalking, predatory stance.

Tail frantically switching in wide arcs indicates heightened affect and aggression.

Tail puffed up (piloerection) indicates fear and aggression.

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