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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kneading or 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. It makes cats feel good to recreate this infantile behavior.
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.
Show Me the Belly
When your cat lies on her back and shows her belly, it’s a sign she’s content and relaxed.