Anyone who’s ever had a cat will agree: they’re funny creatures. One minute they’re rubbing up against you, the next they’re hiding in the closet. They love to snuggle, but only on their terms. And they seem to want the most attention when you’re running out the door. But that’s what makes them so great.
With all this mixed messaging, how can you tell if your cat is truly happy?
While all animals are different, the following behaviors and body language signals usually indicate your cat is most likely happy and, more important, healthy.
1/15: They Have a Good Appetite
A healthy appetite means kitty is in a good mood. But if kitty’s appetite is too healthy, it could be a sign she’s bored, depressed, or lonely. Evidence suggests that, just as in humans, eating can be a psychological mechanism to cope with stress and other sources of unhappiness.
You also want to contact your vet if your cat starts showing less interest in food. While not every cat is ravenous, if there is a sudden drop in appetite, there may be something wrong.
2/15: They’re in Good Physical Health
Bringing your cat in for regular checkups can assure you kitty is healthy and happy. Any kind of illness, from intestinal upset to respiratory problems and allergies, can cause so much physical discomfort that it affects the cat’s mental well-being.
Healthy cats are happy cats. If your cat is unwell, make sure you visit your veterinarian as soon as possible to help them feel their best and happiest.
3/15: They Purr
Purring is the feline way of showing happiness.
If your cat purrs while snuggling with you on the couch, it’s likely a sign she’s happy and content. But purring can also indicate something’s wrong. Cats may purr to comfort themselves during a stressful event, like an injury, he explains. Contact your vet if your cat is purring at odd or inappropriate times.
4/15: They’re Relaxed
A relaxed cat is likely free from stress, fear, and anxiety. Signs a cat is relaxed include resting with her feet tucked underneath her body, not being overly startled by sounds or movements, and having an overall calm demeanor.
5/15: They Like to Play
Engaging in play is one of the most reliable signs of happiness. Scientists believe that play is a luxury behavior, only engaged in when all other higher priority needs are met.
Older cats may play less than their younger counterparts. But they still tend to show a spark in their eyes when a favorite or new toy is offered for play.
6/15: They’re Happy to See You
A cat who enthusiastically greets you when you first wake up or when you come home from work is saying she’s happy to see you.
7/15: They Rub on You
When your cat rubs against you, she’s marking you as her territory. She’s claiming you as her possession, which means she’s happy in your presence.
A cat who butts her head against any part of your body is usually showing that she enjoys your company and wants more of it.
8/15: They’re Knead-y
Kneading or “making biscuits” is a sign of relaxation.
When cats knead objects—or people—they are recreating a neonatal behavior. Nursing kittens knead their mother to stimulate the release of oxytocin, which relaxes the mother and facilitates milk flow. I believe it makes cats feel good to recreate this infantile behavior. And when cats knead you, it makes you feel good too.
9/15: They Show Interest in Their Environment
Happy cats are curious. You know your cat is happy if he seems to enjoy exploring his environment and is interested in new things.
10/15: They’re Friendly
Happy cats enjoy positive interactions with their owners and other people in their environment. But, of course, every cat is different. If yours is a little aloof, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s unhappy. Some cats simply feel more comfortable with less social interaction.
11/15: They Like to Sleep (But Not Too Much)
A cat who sleeps an appropriate amount of time for her age is content. When a cat sleeps too little, it may indicate that something—physical or emotional—is causing her trouble and discomfort. Sleeping too much could also be a bad sign. Like humans, cats may use sleep as a coping mechanism for dealing with boredom, loneliness, sadness, or depression.
How many hours a day should your cat spend in snoozeville? There’s no one right answer, as cats’ needs change depending on their age and activity level. The best thing to do is monitor your pet’s sleeping habits and note any changes.
12/15: They Keep Themselves (and Sometimes Their Owners) Clean
A clean cat is a happy cat. When they are unhappy—which can be from emotional difficulties or ill health—they will typically forego good grooming habits.
Licking provides an endorphin release like a runner’s high.
If your cat grooms you, it’s quite the compliment. Grooming indicates a deeper level of bond. Your cat is actively treating you as a member of the pride.
13/15: They Use Their Litter Box
Happy cats use their litter box properly.
And it’s also usually a good sign if they dash out of the litter box after doing their business. Many cats truly enjoy their litter box experience and feel a sense of accomplishment from this release.
Leaping out of the litter box could be a sign of their enthusiasm and pride. But if it happens erratically, or is accompanied by signs of discomfort, it could be time to call the vet.
14/15: It’s All in the Eyes
Your cat’s eyes can tell you a lot about her emotional state. Resting with her eyes half closed shows she is relaxed and doesn’t feel threatened. Steady eye contact and slow blinks indicate she enjoys your presence.
15/15: Show Me the Belly
When your cat lies on her back and shows her belly, it’s a sign she’s content and relaxed.