Do You Have a Happy Cat?
An outdoor cat has a life of her own, filled with chasing mice, frolicking in the grass and basking in that backyard patch of sun. But an indoor cat’s happiness may be harder to notice—and achieve. To ensure your fur baby is a happy cat, here’s how to tell if she’s content in your home.
Signs of a Happy Indoor Cat
Notice Her Tail
One of the signs of a happy kitty is the way in which her tail moves, explains Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, staff doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center. “If her tail is very straight but the tip is making curves to the left and right, she’s feeling rather good,” she says. But if the tail is puffed out like a bottle brush, she’s definitely upset, and a tail that swishes back and forth quickly means she’s angry and might be ready to attack.
Observe Her Potty Habits
Dr. Hohenhaus explains that an unhappy cat will be more likely to eliminate outside of her designated area. “She might not use the litter box, choosing instead to mark another spot with her urine, like the walls,” she says. A dirty cat litter box or one that’s overpopulated could also cause your cat to do her business elsewhere. If you have trouble keeping up with the litter box, you can try an automatic litter box to help keep up with daily maintenance.
Look for Snuggling
Does your kitty wrap herself around your ankles the minute you walk in the door? Dr. Hohenhaus says this is another sign of a happy pet. Your cat might also paw at the ground as if she’s kneading dough or offer you her belly for a good rub—both of which are good indications of a happy cat. If you’re out during the day or can’t snuggle your cuddle-loving kitty as much as she’d like, try the Smart Pet Love Snuggle Kitty Behavioral Aid Cat Toy to keep your cat satisfied. This plush cat toy recreates a heartbeat and physical warmth to help with symptoms of separation anxiety and quell your kitty’s craving for love and affection.
Check Her Head
If your kitty starts to bump up against you, it’s a sure sign she’s a happy cat. And if you notice that she’s arching her back, it means she’s a happy camper—but only if her fur isn’t raised. A cat with puffed fur on her back and tail is likely stressed or upset.
Gauge Her View
A kitty who leaps on the back of the couch or tries to perch on your windowsill to get a good look at the birds on the grass is likely pretty glad to live with you. A bored kitty isn’t a happy kitty, so do all you can to enhance her surroundings. “Staring at the living room walls is no fun, but if you can offer more ways for your pet to gaze outside, she’ll be much happier,” Dr. Hohenhaus says. A window cat perch, like the K&H Pet Products EZ Mount Window Scratcher, is the best way to allow your pet a better view of the fun happening in the neighborhood.
Look in Her Food Dish
Got a voracious eater or one who picks at her kibble? A kitty who enjoys mealtime and usually finishes her food is probably a happy cat. But if you notice your cat is ignoring her food or if you think she’s overeating, check in with her vet to be sure there’s nothing wrong. Ask the doctor about your breed’s nutritional needs so you know you’re feeding her the right food and the proper amount.
Listen for Purring
This sign is a tricky one because cats purr both when they’re happy and when they’re under stress or anxious. If your fur baby purrs when you scratch her ears or stroke her belly, it’s an indication she’s in a good mood. But if her purring seems out of place or it happens more frequently than usual, have a chat with your veterinarian.
Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a New York City writer/editor and the mom of two teenage girls. She’s also the devoted owner of a rescue pup named Django, a temperamental Shepherd mix. Geddes has worked for Food & Wine, Parenting, Seventeen and Airbnb magazines and creates content for dozens of sites, including Care, Fisher-Price, the National Sleep Foundation and Realtor.