The "Happy Cat" Check-In: 7 Ways to Know That Purr's For Real

Happy Cat Month is coming to an end, and there's no better time for an “Is your cat happy?” check-in! I know that Seren is a happy cat. Just like people, cats show their happiness in a variety of ways. Whether you have a kitten, old fogey feline, pedigreed champion, or rescued stray, there are some basic characteristics that reveal your pet’s happy c’attitude. Here’s how to know your cat’s happy.

7 Ways Cats Say They're Happy

Body Talk: Do you understand cat language? I call it “Felinese,” and your cat speaks it fluently. You can interpret how your cat feels by paying attention to ear and tail position, eye blinks, and even how the fur lies against the skin. While a hard-eyed “stare” indicates a challenge, sleepy eyelids from a resting cat indicate a relaxed and trusting cat. Happy cat whiskers are held slightly forward—as if ready to embrace your petting hand—and a joyful tail is held aloft with the end tipped over in a friendly greeting.

Cat Calls: My Seren talks to me in long conversations and thinks she must have the last word. I know she’s happy because she tells me about her day and complains LOUDLY if something’s not up to her standards. Not all cats “talk” quite so much, and a change in normal vocalization—going silent or getting louder—may in fact signal unhappiness. Typically the happy sounds will be pitched higher and sound more cheerful, while angst-ridden catcalls get lower and lower as demands grow. Purrs aren't always happy, but in healthy cats they usually express kitty bliss. Feline trills are a sound of delight.

Confident C’Attitude: Cats that are happy remain engaged in their world, either supervising from afar or getting in the middle of your business. Cats instinctively may mistrust strange people or situations, but the happy confident cats have the highest happiness quotient and react with caution and not fear. Seren is the original Christopher Columbus Cat and wants to explore everything new. Unfortunately, she stomps up to strangers and demands they leave HER house, since she didn't invite them! The truly joyous felines have never met a stranger and demand their share of attention and love from everyone they meet.

Kitty Style: Happy cats pay attention to good grooming. Healthy cats tend to be neatness freaks, while feeling bad, depressed, or sick can lead to an unthrifty appearance. Cats happy with each other also tend to groom their feline friend. Many of these happy cats spread the love by grooming you with licks and nibbles or even trying to suckle your clothing. You could name some cats "Bubbles" because they get so happy they blow bubbles and drool during grooming and petting.

Eager Appetite: One of my friend's gang-of-cats once raided the refrigerator, stole a thawing turkey, and "amputated" the drumstick after hockey-puck-ing the maimed bird around the kitchen. Of course, they all had a "who me?" innocent expression when she discovered the damage. To help control her cats' over-eager appetites, she ended up using a bungee cord to make the refrigerator more secure. When a cat is healthy, the food bowl becomes a happy place. A healthy appetite is a very important clue about kitty happiness; sad cats often snub their bowl.

Playing Around: Kitten play goes full tilt unless the baby is sick or unhappy. Games slow down as felines mature, but social interaction between cats or with beloved humans—even gentle head-butting of your leg—signals kitty happiness. My friend's cat, Smokey, used to steal socks from the hamper—the stinky kind his owner had worn but not washed—and roll around and toss them with great gusto. Smokey was 18 years young, so the sock addiction was an easy way to gauge wellness and get her to a vet check up if she snubbed the hamper.

Potty Etiquette: As long as your cat continues to show allegiance to the litter box, you’ll know he’s happy. While missing the target can have many reasons, including serious health issues, most toilet mistakes are a sure signal of feline unhappiness or even separation anxiety. When Seren is happy, she'll spend extra time digging around until I fear she'll reach China with her excavations.

Sleep-Aholics: Cats are sleep champs and normally snooze up to 16 hours a day. While that rate may increase when they’re unhappy, your cat’s preferred sleep spot tells you more about the kitty happiness quotient. Seeking out and snuggling with other cats illustrates their happy relationship, while hiding out under the bed could mean kitty feels picked on and sad. Cats that choose to share your pillow declare their trust and happy state of being by putting themselves in a vulnerable position.

Not all cats declare their happiness in obvious ways. Some express happiness in subtle behaviors unique only to the individual cat. That's one reason we love them. But whether your cat has a Q-tip fetish, loves to nap in the cool sink, or feels happiest terrorizing the dog (that's my Seren!), your cat's happiness quotient is connected to your own. After all, the happier the cat, the happier we feel, right? I think that's a cat rule.

How does your feline friend show happiness? Share the love!