All Things Pets

How to Know If Your Cat Is Happy

Observe and learn to speak cat

How do I know if my cat is happy?

Adam Christman, a New Jersey-based veterinarian, gets this question all the time.

“Cat parents want to make sure their cats are content,” he said. “It can be confusing [to tell if they are] because cats are so good at giving you ‘resting cat face.’”

Resting cat face often has cat owners wondering if they are doing enough to make the lives of their precious felines all that it can be.

Understanding How Cats Communicate Is Key to Knowing If They Are Happy

I happen to agree with Tracey Anne Duncan, who says folks don’t understand how to speak “cat.” Oh yes, kitties have ways of communicating their likes and dislikes, if we humans would learn the language! Here are some tips to do just that.

How Cats Indicate Whether They Want Affection

First, know that cats do want affection. It’s just that the way they want it may be different from what their owners have been doing. It needs to feel good to your cat, not you.

For instance, kitty may like a certain kind of petting, perhaps only on her head, chin, and ears — but not the whole body. Or maybe she prefers a nice scratch at the base of her back where her tail starts.

If your cat nips or bites at you, she is letting you know not to pet her the way you are, so listen. If she rubs her head against you, kneads at your lap, and doesn’t leave the space, she’s a happy girl. Some cats love-bite, though, so do your best to learn the difference!

How to Make Your Cat Happier About Its Food

“We can replicate the satisfaction cats get from catching their food by playing with them before they eat,” Duncan says. “We can let them catch something, like a toy, before we feed them. That recreates their predatory instinct and releases stress.”

By the way, two small meals a day is plenty. Please don’t overfeed!

Pay particular attention to kitty if she isn’t eating. Cats are very good at masking unhappiness and illness. If they go off their food for 24 hours, then something’s not right. Also, notice any unusual hiding or lack of engagement with you.

Some Signs that Your Cat Is Happy

  • If kitty comes to greet you with her tail straight up with a little curl at the tip, she’s happy. Cats typically express curiosity with widened eyes and a swinging tail from side to side.
  • Ankle rubbing is a way to get your attention, mark you as hers with the glands in her cheeks, and show you affection.

Indicators Your Cat Is Unhappy

  • Sometimes cats will move into areas they usually wouldn’t. This may be a sign of unhappiness.
  • “Losing interest in self-grooming is a sign that a cat is unhappy,” said Angie Krause, a Boulder-based veterinarian. “Also, the litter box is a big giveaway. A cat pooping outside their litter box won’t necessarily indicate a medical problem, but it more likely means they’re unhappy about something.”
  • Tail twitching means there is a conflict inside her at that moment. So, observe the environment and watch for what may cause distress in her.
  • Flat ears mean stay away! An excellent way to engage your cat when you are both just hanging out is participating in the slow blink.

You and kitty are looking at each other. You start a slow blink. Watch how she will respond in kind! It’s a way of saying, “Hi there, I see you, I feel safe, and I like you!”

So, listen to your cat. She will tell you much about her needs. Respect them! Once you can speak cat, your family will never wonder if she’s happy, again!


Laura Sutherland

Laura Sutherland is the owner of WAG-n-TRAIN pet services, East Dallas’s premier pet care provider. Laura is insured, and a member of the Professional United Petsitters (PUPs).

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