How do you know when you have a happy cat? Purring and kneading are pretty good indicators that you have a content kitty, but not always (cats are complicated).
Here are the top 10 signs of healthy, happy cat behavior:
Her Coat is Shiny
Good health is one of the keys to happiness. If your cat has a shiny coat, clear eyes, pink gums, fresh breath, and ears free of discharge, she’s probably healthy and mostly pain-free.
Your Cat Has a Pleasant Temperament
A cat that feels safe with her humans and home has a secure foundation for exploring and interacting with her environment. Keep stressors, such as noise or other pets under control, and your cat will be more outgoing and confident.
She Has a Playful Attitude
Happy, secure adult cats are curious about their environment and willing to expend energy in play. Some cats are more outgoing than others, but even shy cats will happily interact with their environment, be friendly with people and explore new things if they feel safe.
Your Cat’s Maintained Her Weight
A healthy cat’s weight shouldn’t vary too much once they reach adulthood. Weight gain can be indicative of an injury that’s inhibiting movement, or stress from changed circumstances such as a new family member or new house. Weight loss can indicate health issues such as diabetes, kidney disease, gastrointestinal or thyroid problems. Keep an eye on your cat’s food bowl as well as her water intake and schedule a visit to the vet if your cat hasn’t eaten for more than a few days and/or if her thirst and urination has increased or decreased dramatically.
Your Cat Purrs
Purring is the classic sign of a happy cat. But purring can also be a sign that she’s in pain, is stressed or is soothing herself. The frequency of purring has therapeutic effects for both cats and people. You can sometimes see your kitty purr at the vet. It is likely from nervousness rather than contentment in this instance. If your cat’s normal purr is a soft rumble that suddenly gets loud and choppy, it could be a sign that she’s self-soothing with a higher-frequency purr.
Your Cat Kneads
That rhythmic flexing of paws echoes the movements of nursing kittens and prompts the release of the same endorphins that bond a mother cat to her babies. If your cat is kneading you, it means she feels safe, secure and loved. People enjoy that oxytocin rush as much as cats, so let her knead away!
She Engages in ‘Head Bunting’
Cats have scent glands on their heads, and when they greet you by bumping their head on you, it’s a way of marking you as an accepted part of their colony and a sign of affection.
Your Cat Vocalizes
If you live with a talker, you can probably distinguish the differences between your cat’s “I’m glad you’re home” meows, impatient “Where’s my food?” yowls and excited “Look at those birds outside!” chirps. Cat vocalizations are highly individualistic, and the important thing is to know what’s normal for your cat. If your cat starts making unusual noises, check to see what has changed (physically or environmentally), and take her to the veterinarian for a checkup if the atypical vocalizations persist.
Your Cat Has Healthy Litter Box Behavior
Most cats don’t appreciate an audience when they’re in the litter box, but it is important to monitor the health of your cats bowel movements. If you hear yowling when your cat uses her litter box, see blood in her urine or stool or notice that your cat is missing the litter box altogether, it’s a sign of trouble. Get your cat to the vet so she can be checked for urinary tract infections or other problems.
She Shows You Her Belly
A cat’s body language can tell you a lot about her state of mind. Happy cats will regularly sleep out in the open (not tucked under the bed or hidden in a dark closet), and their faces, eyes and whiskers will be soft and relaxed. A cat that shows her belly means that she has no fear of being attacked when showing her most vulnerable parts.
Pro tip: Look but don’t touch, as rubbing a cat’s exposed undercarriage will almost always result in a scratch, a snarl and a bolt.
Now for the big question: “Does my cat love me?” It can be hard to tell, as cats are very subtle communicators. But in spite of their reputation for being aloof and enigmatic, cats are quite capable of forming strong bonds with their humans. You just have to listen a little more closely to how they say “I love you.” And remember, they are always in charge.
A graduate of The University of Chicago, Melanie worked in academia and finance for many years before joining the companion animal community. She believes that a good education fosters compassion, informed advocacy, and a deeper understanding of animals as they really are. She is passionate about effective communication, and in addition to her freelance writing and editing gigs she has a burgeoning career as an instructional designer. Melanie lives in Chicago with her overlords—a flock of super-smart companion parrots and a Chi-Puggle mix named Hattie.