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15 Signs Your Cat Is Secretly Mad at You

Think your cat is purring because she's happy to see you? Not always! Cats are the queens of mixed messages—here's how to understand your fickle feline.

Red cat sitting on a light couchTigrushka/Shutterstock

She watches you from afar

It can be hard to tell if your cat is keeping her distance because she’s upset or if she’s staying away because, well, she’s a cat and cats are weirdos. But if your furry friend actively avoids you when she’s normally playful or keeps away for longer than usual it can be a sign she’s mad, scared, or anxious, says Michael Rueb, cat behavior expert and operations manager for the National Cat Protection Society. Angry cats will keep their distance when they get confused by, say, a sudden loud voice, quick movements or even an unfamiliar smell on your jacket, he explains. The solution? Let her have her space, she’ll come back when she’s ready.

angry cat at the hands of the mistressArtem Sokolov/Shutterstock

He growls at you

Think it’s just dogs that growl? Then you’ve never seen an angry cat. Angry cats can make a wide variety of noises that signal their displeasure, including a throaty growl, Rueb says. If your bestie is vocalizing his feelings, start by giving him his space and then slowly do things that will create a positive relationship, like feeding, playing with toys, grooming, or speaking softly, Rueb says. Learning the truth about these little things that make your pet tick will also help replace growls with purrs.

Moody ragdoll cat with angry lookanahtiris/Shutterstock

She gives you “the look”

What look? If you’re a cat owner, you don’t even have to ask—cats are masters of showing their feelings through their eyes. “Cats especially become perturbed when their routine is messed up, like if you’re late feeding them or during daylight savings time,” says Kac Young, PhD, author of The One Minute Cat Manager. The solution is obvious: Schedule your life around your feline overlord, or find yourself dealing with a very angry cat. We’re kidding—mostly: Cats will do better on a regular, predictable schedule, so do your best to stick to one, she says.

Close Up Portrait of Orange White Long Hair Bi-Color Traditional Doll Face Persian Cat with Orange Eyes Laying Down on Suitcase Looking Into CameraLight Hound Pictures/Shutterstock

He gets huffy when you bring out the suitcases

Cats can tell when you’re getting ready to leave them. They may act like they don’t care what you do but start packing your luggage and you may notice your angry cat scowling and glaring at you, Young says. “This is easy to fix: Leave a T-shirt or some article of clothing with your scent on it in their bed,” she says. “And make sure your pet-sitter gives them extra attention while you are away.” All will be well when you return home.

British shorthair cat lying on living room fllor with toy mouse, low angle viewAndreas Krumwiede/Shutterstock

She avoids her favorite mouse toy

Toys can actually be a major source of irritation for a cat, Young says. “They get bored with the same toys so it’s important to mix them up or refresh them with catnip,” she explains. “Cats need lots of stimuli because they are natural hunters and love the game of chase and capture.” That has to do with their hunting instincts, which is also the reason behind why cats sleep so much.

cat hiding under couchchrishumphreys/Shutterstock

He hides under the couch and refuses to come out

Hiding is one of the first signs your cat is unhappy or fearful with you or the situation, says Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant and the author of ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems in Your Multi-Cat Household. Resist the urge to try to drag your angry cat out of hiding—it’s a protective reflex and if you force him to socialize before he’s ready he may become aggressive, she explains.

Naughty KittenTobyanna/Shutterstock

She suddenly gets very fluffy

The very stereotype of an “angry cat” is a kitty crouching with an arched back, fluffed out fur, and a bushy tail, Shojai says. This gives the animal the appearance of looking bigger and more intimidating—which often backfires with enamored owners. But no matter how cute or funny you find this posture, now is not the time to try and pet her. Give her space or she may swat at you or bite, she says. This ability to “fluff out” when afraid is just one of 17 cool things you never knew about your cat.

Angry striped cat of a gray colorElya Vatel/Shutterstock

His ears look like he’s preparing for takeoff

Ears flattened back against the head and slightly sticking out—”like airplane wings”—are a sure indicator your cat is upset, Shojai says. Don’t worry too much but do keep your distance. “An all-out attack toward people isn’t terribly common, and when it happens, may actually be a redirected aggression,” she explains. “Your cat cannot address the real reason for their angst (that darn squirrel trespassing in their yard!), so instead they nail a human hand that tries to pet when kitty is upset.”

Color-point cat lying on a sofa in living room, close upAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

She poops on your pillow

Rare is the cat owner who hasn’t discovered a “present” in a surprising place. “Eliminating on your bed is a typical sign of feline separation anxiety,” Shojai says. Even though it may appear she’s an angry cat taking out her frustrations on you, in reality, she is using her own scent as a way to cope with her anxiety. “That they target the bed is sort of a back-handed compliment because it smells the most like their beloved—you,” she adds. As if that’s not enough of a reason, here are 8 more reasons you should never let your cat sleep on your bed.

gray cat grabbed the hand claws and bitesOleg Troino/Shutterstock

He bites your hand when you pet him

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! Has your cat ever begged to be petted and then bit or scratched your hand? This is called “petting aggression” and it’s totally normal (if annoying), Shojai says. “This ‘leave me alone’ bite doesn’t mean he’s angry, but that he wants to control the interaction, and the petting that goes on too long over-stimulates him,” she explains.

Cat's tailCher KFM/Shutterstock

Her tail is all twitchy

One of the first subtle signs that your cat is mad at you is when you see her tail placed low, swishing quickly back and forth from side to side, says Emily Parker, cat behavior expert at Catological. “Whenever you see the tail twitch, stop whatever it is you’re doing that is upsetting her, give her some space, and back off for a while until she calms down,” she explains. Watch out for these signs you have a depressed cat, too.

Small tabby catMaxyM/Shutterstock

He pees on your clean laundry

Your cat hasn’t had an accident since he was a kitten and now all of a sudden he’s peeing all over the house? It’s a sure sign he’s distressed, says Linda Campbell, a registered veterinary technician specialist in Behavior at the Humane Society of Missouri. An angry cat most often urinates on soft surfaces like piles of laundry, sofas, or yes, your bed, she says. It’s important to take care of this problem early before it becomes a habit; talk to your vet if you need help stopping the inappropriate eliminations, she adds.

Beautiful tabby cat sitting next to a food bowl, placed on the floor, and eatingArturs Budkevics/Shutterstock

She refuses her favorite meal

When a cat is upset she may eat less or even refuse to eat at all, Campbell says. Often this is a reaction to a new or unfamiliar situation, a change in routine, or a big event at home, like the birth of a new baby, she says. Keep a close eye on this one, however, as it can also be a sign of illness. If she won’t eat for more than a day or two, take her to the vet—it’s one of the 11 signs of cat cancer.

Top view of a furry tabby cat lying on its owner's lap, enjoying being cuddled and purring. Impact Photography/Shutterstock

He purrs

Cats purr because they’re happy, right? Not always! Purring can also indicate anxiety, fear, or even aggression. If you keep petting a purring cat even after he shows other signs of irritation, your asking for a swipe or a nip, Campbell says. Learn more about why purring doesn’t always mean your cat is happy to see you.

cat ruining couch with clawsCatherine Murray/Shutterstock

She channels Wolverine on your furniture

There’s nothing more infuriating than an angry cat that looks you straight in the eye, extends her claw, and then swipes at your new leather couch. Rather than aggression or anger, this is more likely due to your cat marking her territory, says Karen Miura, an animal communicator at Whispers from Animals. “Cats are very territorial and this is typically the root of almost every cat behavior case I assist,” she explains. “Cats perceive the house and yard as their kingdom, so things like claw marks on furniture and urine spray on walls are simply fresh boundary lines.” She suggests using a cat pheromone spray to help calm things down and save your sofa. But whatever you do, avoid these 12 mistakes cat owners should never make.

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Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.

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