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The Danger Zone

The Secret Language of Cats

Is My Cat Happy?

Signs of a content cat

By: Rose Frosek


Like us, cats express their mental state through body language and vocalizations. Though each cat is an individual and expresses itself in unique ways, there are general cues to watch for that will let you know how your cat is feeling. Look for these traits to ensure your cat is feeling fine.

Signs of a Happy Cat

1. Vocal Clues: Your Cat is Talking To You. Are You Listening?

Your cat’s vocalizations have meaning and can let you know how they’re feeling. Adult cats mainly meow to humans, and seldom to other cats so your cat is definitely communicating with you! Meows can be assertive, plaintive, friendly, bold, welcoming, attention soliciting, demanding, or complaining, sad, or even be silent, notes Swedish phonetics expert and cat sounds researcher Dr. Susanne Schötz. 

High-pitched meows and the “prrrrupttt!” sound many cats make is a good indication of a happy cat. Trills, chirrs, chirrups, grunts, and murmurs are used during friendly approach, greetings, and play. Grunts and murmurs are usually more low-pitched, while trills or chirr(ups) are more high-pitched. Remember that though purring is often a sign of contentment or even bliss, it’s not always a sign of a happy cat. Cats purr to self-soothe in stressful situations or even when in pain. Dr. Schötz says purring probably signals, “I do not pose a threat.”

2. The Eyes Have It

Wide open eyes and dilated pupils indicate an alert, trusting, happy cat.

The slow blink: if your cat looks at you with sleepy-looking eyes and slowly blinks, this a sign of great affection. Try looking at your cat with a relaxed gaze and blinking back.

3. Ears To You

Happy ears face forward and are tilted back just slightly.

4. The Head-butt

Cats that head-butt you are showing trust and perhaps even love.

5. Relaxed Body Language

The ultimate sign of a relaxed, happy cat? An exposed belly. Similarly, sleeping with paws tucked under is a sign of a cat that feels at home. Your cat’s tail is an excellent barometer of how she is feeling. A happy cat’s tail will be held straight up with the very tip crooked to greet friends.

6. A Tidy Appearance

Cats that feel good keep themselves neat and tidy. If your cat has ceased grooming herself and her coat looks unkept, it is often a sign of depression, illness or pain. See your vet.

Allogrooming, the technical term for when cats groom each other, is a sign of well bonded cats. If your cat licks you, it’s a sign of trust and affection. 

7. Play Time! 

Willingness to play (with you and other cats in the household) indicates happiness, trust, and bonding.

8. Sleep Spot 

Note where your cat chooses to sleep. If your cat’s chosen nap spot is with you or other cats, this shows positive, happy relationships. Cats sleep a lot but a depressed cat may sleep more than usual.  

9. A Healthy Appetite 

A good appetite generally shows your cat feels good. If your cat wends around your ankles, meows, and tries to lead you to their bowl to be fed, this shows they know who provides the good stuff (you!), that they trust you, and that they’re great at manipulation. Smart cat!

By: Rose Frosek

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