Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Happy: 9 Signs to Look For

Misty Layne Profile Picture

By Misty Layne

happy cat outside

When it comes to communication between cats and humans, things are often lost in translation. Cats don’t think or communicate the way we do, making it challenging to figure out how they are feeling. But, as cat owners, we want to know if our cat is happy or not! So, how can we tell?

It turns out that the key to knowing whether our kitties are happy campers is all in their behavior. Cats have plenty of ways to let us know their feelings, from body language to bathroom habits. Following this step-by-step guide will allow you to decipher what your pet is telling you, so you can know if they are happy or not.

hepper single cat paw divider

The 9 Ways To Tell If a Cat Is Happy

There are many ways one can figure out whether a cat is happy or not. It only takes some patience and a bit of sitting back and watching them. Here’s what to keep an eye on.

1. Look at their health.

Healthy cats are happy cats! How your cat is physically feeling is a good indicator of their happiness levels. When it comes to figuring out their health, you should look at a couple of things.

  • Appetite: Happy kitties will have a healthy appetite. If they’re excited to eat each meal, it’s good news. And, if your cat is the type to lead you to their food bowls via meows or nudging, it means they know you as the food-giver and trust you. However, if your pet’s appetite is veering towards the overeating side of things, it could be an indication that they are lonely or bored. And, if your cat is eating less than usual, it could be a sign that something is physically wrong with them.
  • Regular healthcare: If your cat isn’t feeling well, they aren’t going to be happy. But, if you’re bringing them into the vet regularly for checkups and needed shots, they’ll be healthy and happy!

2. Listen to them.

The sounds your cat makes can be a huge indicator of how they’re feeling. Happy cats make all sorts of noises to let you know they’re pleased. Listen for these sounds when you want to know if a cat is happy.

  • Purring: While it’s true that cats will purr not only when they’re happy but when they’re stressed, the circumstances in which your pet is purring can indicate happiness. If you’re petting your kitty or snuggling and they start up with the constant purring, it’s typically a sign that they are content.
  • High-pitched chirping: Sometimes, you might hear your cat make a noise that sounds like it’s mid-way between a meow and a purr. Most often, it will be high-pitched. That noise means they are extremely happy (or want to play). When this occurs, they’re letting you know things are good.
  • Greeting you with meows: When you’ve been gone at work all day, does your cat meet you at the door with high-pitched meows when you return home? That’s their way of saying, “Hello, I missed you!” and “I’m happy you’re home!”

3. Look at their behavior.

How your cat behaves is probably the easiest way to tell how they’re feeling at any given time. Cat behavior is a large part of how cats communicate. Knowing what to look for will help you easily read this behavior and see whether they are happy.

  • Relaxation: When cats are happy, they’ll let their hair down—so to speak—and relax. How can you ascertain if your cat is stress-free and happy enough to be chill? One thing to look for is your pet sitting with their feet tucked beneath their body and eyes half-closed. Another way to tell a relaxed kitty is one that is lying on its back with its feet in the air. Showing their belly is a strong sign of not only relaxation but trust.
  • Playtime: Happy kitties enjoy playtime immensely. This is because cats who are happy have the energy to engage in playtime (and energy is always a good sign that they are happy and healthy!). And playing with your cat is a great way to keep them happy. If your cat isn’t into playing as much as it used to be, it could be a sign of stress or illness. It could also just be that they’re getting older and are prone to playing less. You should still see a spark of playfulness in older cats who are happy, though.
  • Marking their territory: When you have a cat that’s happy, you’ll find they enjoy rubbing up against you and marking you as theirs. This is a sign that your pet is pleased to have you around.
  • Kneading: Making biscuits (or kneading) can be both a sign of relaxation and a good mood! This kneading behavior dates to kittenhood when kittens knead their mama cat to get the milk flowing. It’s believed that kneading continues as a comforting behavior when they’re relaxed and content.

4. See how they interact with the world.

Looking at how your kitty interacts with not only you but other people, other animals, and the world around them can signal their level of happiness.

  • Friendliness: Happy cats will be friendly with others. That’s not to say you should be concerned if your cat is somewhat aloof; after all, felines will do what they want, when they want, and that includes interacting with others. But, if your cat is friendly rather than aggressive, it’s a good indicator of happiness.
  • Confidence: If your kitty is confident, curious, and takes an interest in the environment around them, you can guarantee they’re happy!
cat playing with owner
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

5. Look into their eyes.

Have you ever wondered whether your cat was smiling at you? Sometimes it looks like they are, but the truth is that cats smile with their eyes. If you’ve ever seen your cat looking at you while giving a slow blink with narrowed eyes, they were smiling. And you can return that smile by doing the same. Nothing is a better indication of happiness than a smile!

6. Check their tail.

Cats use their tails to convey their feelings quite often; it’s part of the whole body language communication thing. If you notice your cat’s tail is upright and resembles a question mark, then in cat language, they’re communicating happiness and interest!

7. Look at their sleeping habits.

When your cat is happy, you’ll find them sleeping the amount of time a cat their age should be, rather than oversleeping or undersleeping. If your kitty is sleeping more than it used to or less than usual, it could signify that they are ill or depressed. Where your cat sleeps is also a tell when it comes to happiness. You’ll find content kitties curled up with other cats living in the home or next to you in bed.

Cat sleeping near woman's head
Image Credit: Marina mrs_brooke, Shutterstock

8. Check for cleanliness.

Cats are incredibly finicky when it comes to keeping themselves clean, which is why you’ll find them grooming themselves often. Felines who are happy will keep up with their grooming (and may even groom you!). If you see that your cat’s coat looks a bit unkempt, it can be a sign of unhappiness or illness. Likewise, if you see that your cat has started overly grooming themselves, there could be an issue.

9. Look at the litterbox.

Surprisingly, the litter box is an excellent place to check if you want to tell whether your cat is happy or not. That’s because cats who are happy will use the litter box as they should, while cats who are unhappy could start going to the bathroom outside the litter box. This unhappiness could simply be because of the litter you’ve used or because the box is dirty, but it could be something else as well.

british cat inside litter box
Image By: Natasha Zakharova, Shutterstock

hepper cat paw divider

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are several ways you can tell whether a cat is happy or not. From body language to kitty smiles, our feline friends can communicate how content they are quite well! Now that you know what to look at, you’ll be able to tell whether your cat is happy at any given time.

Featured Image Credit: islam zarat, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database