If you're an enthusiastic cat lover who isn't exactly well-versed in speaking "cat," you're not alone. The mysterious language of cats is confusing and will often have you scratching your head for hours, although one thing is definitely for certain -- growling is never, ever a sign of happiness.
Growling is often an offensive stance in felines. When a cat is behaving offensively, he essentially is attempting to look like the tough guy. He wants to threaten and intimidate anyone and everyone who is in his way at the moment. If a cat is growling at you, it's basically a sign for you to scram. Don't stare and don't touch -- just leave the scene pronto.
Growling isn't just a warning for someone -- whether a person or another animal -- to go away. It also can be a precursor to an actual physical attack. If you notice a cat growling, don't be surprised if he also swats, hisses, scratches or bites. These are all very dangerous scenarios, which is why it is important never to provoke an angry cat. If a cat is acting in an aggressive manner, calmly leave the situation as soon as possible.
If you notice a cat growling in a low, almost gravelly manner, it may not be a sign of aggression -- at least perhaps not towards you. In these cases, the cat may be warning you of possible danger he perceives to be on the horizon. If the growl is especially extended, this is especially likely, so stay alert.
Growling is oftentimes also just a sign of abject fear. The cat may not be feeling aggressive at the moment. He may simply be terrified about whatever situation he is in. Growling can also occasionally indicate annoyance. If a cat just isn't in the mood for play time, he may growl as a way to express to you, "I just don't really feel like it now." The vocalization may not have any aggressive undertones at all.
Behave cautiously around a growling cat, especially when children or other animals are around. This is especially important if the feline is stray or feral. Take children and other pets out of the situation as soon as possible. If a cat attempts to attack in any way, seek medical attention immediately. Cat scratches and bites can be very dangerous and lead to harmful infection and other ailments, so don't take chances.