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Is My Cat Happy? 15 Signs to Look For

Oliver Jones

What could be more relaxing than the sound of a purring cat? We all want our cats to be happy, and purring is an excellent sign of contentment. But cats are mercurial creatures: one moment they are rubbing against your legs, the next they’ve bolted under the furniture. They can spend hours snuggling in our laps or hours perched at the top of their cat tree. Cats seem to love us on their terms, never wanting us more than when our attention is elsewhere—whether working on our laptops or about to run out the door. It is this lively and unpredictable interactivity that makes cats so special.

divider-cat

Figuring Out Your Finicky Feline

Given all this moodiness and mixed messaging, how do you know when your cat is happy? We could simply break it down to eat, purr, love, but body language, posture, and facial expressions can more deeply reveal what your cat is feeling at each moment. Read on to find out all you need to know to read your cat’s cues.

1. Is Your Cat Healthy?

Regular, routine checkups with the vet cat can help ensure your cat is healthy and happy. When we feel unwell, we tend to be grumpy. Cats are no different. Physical discomfort negatively affects their mental well-being, too. Any unchecked illness such as digestive issues, allergies, or arthritis can dampen their joy. If your cat is purr-sistently unhappy, visit your veterinarian.

vet-assessing-birman-cat
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

2. A Good Appetite

Kitties with a good appetite are happy cats. Your cat will show enthusiasm for food by rubbing around your legs and meowing at you until you get their food bowl. If your cat makes it clear when it wants treats and visibly enjoys its food, this is a great sign that your cat is doing well. However, a cat with too strong an appetite might be feeling lonely, bored, or depressed.


3. Lots of Purring

Purring is the main way cats express their contentment, comfort, and love. Holding a purring cat is deeply relaxing for us and it is even said by some to have curative powers. However, it is also known to have healing powers for your cat. If your cat purrs at unusual times, they may be comforting themselves. This can be a sign of distress or injury. Get a professional opinion if your kitty seems to be purring for no reason.

white cat purring
Image Credit: AleksDaria, Shutterstock

4. Your Cat Enjoys Playing

One of the best indicators of cat-isfaction is engaging in play. Older cats may not be as active as their younger counterparts, but they should still show a spark of interest when a favorite (or new) toy is offered for play. A happy cat is eager to have fun.


5. Is Your Cat Relaxed?

In general, a relaxed cat tends to be free of anxiety, stress, and fear. A cat’s way of sitting or lying down is a clear indication of how content it is. Cats that aren’t happy won’t get comfortable with you or rest near you. Relaxed cats will sit with their paws under their bodies and their eyes half-closed. Happy cats have half-closed eyes because they feel safe. A cat lying on its back with its legs up in the air is also a great sign. Relaxed cats do not appear to be frightened by sudden sounds or movements, and they seem calm overall.

ragdoll cat lying relaxed in the garden in summer
Image Credit: absolutimages, Shutterstock

6. Vocalizing & Chirping

Happy cats talk a lot. While we all know that cats meow, they make all kinds of noises to communicate with us, whether asking for food, requesting comfort, or requesting to go outside. When they are feeling happy and content, they also make very specific noises, almost like they are responding to you. The quality of your cat’s noises matters; high pitched sounds are better since lower pitch growls can indicate frustration or unmet needs.


7. Rubbing & Head Butting

Cats rub against you to mark their territory. Rubbing signals that you are your cat’s possession, and it wants to keep things that way. Cats who butt their heads against your body are usually showing that they enjoy your company and that they want more of it.

cat rubbing against owner
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

8. Is Your Cat Happy to See You?

Cats communicate with their bodies. A cat who happily greets you warmly when you first wake up or when you come home from work is saying it’s excited to see you. When they are happy to see you, they will show it with an upright tail, erect ears, and by rubbing their bodies around your legs. If your cat greets you this way, it is happy in your company and enjoying life with you.


9. Does Your Cat Knead Or “Make Biscuits”?

When cats knead things or people, they’re reliving kitten behavior. Nursing kittens knead their moms to release oxytocin, which relaxes them and makes their milk flow more easily. Kneading behavior recalls the mother-baby dynamic so it probably means your cat is feeling safe and loved.

cat claws when kneading
Image Cedit: RJ22, Shutterstock

10. Curiosity Has Got Your Cat

Does your cat run to the window to watch birds? Or check out the front door when the bell rings? If your cat is active in its environment, exploring and showing interest in new things, you can assume it is happy.


11. Is Your Cat Friendly?

Happy cats generally have positive interactions with their owners and others around them. All cats, however, are unique. The fact that yours is aloof doesn’t mean it’s unhappy necessarily. Many cats find that less social interaction is more comfortable. Watch out for any major changes in your cat’s behavior.

owner with her cat at home
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

12. Likes Catnaps

How many hours should your cat sleep each day? The needs of cats vary with their age and level of activity, so there is no single right answer. When a cat doesn’t sleep enough, it could mean something’s bothering it. Oversleeping can also be a bad thing. Humans can use sleep as a coping mechanism when they’re bored, lonely, sad, or depressed—cats can do that too. Monitor your kitty’s sleeping habits and note any significant changes.


13. Why Does Your Cat Lick You?

Grooming remains a top priority for happy cats. It’s normal for them to stop good grooming only when they’re deeply unhappy, for example when they are sick. Cats love to groom and if they groom you, it means you’re part of the family.

cat licking human fingers
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

14. Social Sleeping

When a cat is truly happy, it will curl up next to you on the sofa or sleep with other cats if you have more than one. If your cat sleeps in your bed, while it may not be ideal for you, it’s a wonderful sign that it is very content and trusts you completely.


15. Giving Presents

When your cat gives you presents you know they love you because they’re sharing their hunting successes with you. If you find a dead mouse, frog, or bird it’s a sign that your cat values you. Although it’s not pleasant, when they bring you anything they kill, think of it as a special gift from a happy cat.


Featured Image Credit: islam zarat, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.