When was the last time you saw your feline friend beaming a real ‘Cheshire Cat’ grin at you?
We’re pretty sure the answer to that is going to be, “never”. That’s because cats lack the expressive facial features of many other animals and have even fewer facial muscles linked to expression.
While this is probably a defence mechanism from their ancestral days on the Savannah (a ‘never let ‘em see you sweat’ trait to keep predators guessing), it does mean that it can be tricky to know if your cat’s living their best life on a day-to-day basis.
Every responsible cat owner wants their feline companion to be happy and upbeat. So, here are a few tell-tale signs of a happy cat to be on the lookout for...
1. Relaxed body language
Cat body language is a complex topic. As a rule of thumb, though, ‘relaxed’ body language generally means you’ve got a happy and contented kitty on your hands.
When your cat is relaxed, they may seem uninterested in what’s going on around them. Their body won’t show any obvious stiffness or tension. They also won’t be in ‘high alert’ postures, such as crouching down, ready to pounce or flee.
Expect to see a relaxed cat lounging around on their back or side, like they haven’t got a single care in all the world.
2. A healthy appetite
One of the clearest signs of a distressed or sick cat is a loss of appetite, or a disruption to their usual eating patterns.
Your cat may end up eating less than usual for several different reasons. Because they’re stressed about a new person or animal in their environment. Because they’re sick. Because they feel threatened or confused by something you’ve done. Because the weather is unusually hot.
Whatever the reason, a happy and contented cat should have a good appetite, a real appreciation for their food, and a soft spot for tasty treats.
So, if your feline friend seems to approach life like a true gourmand, they’re probably feeling quite upbeat.
3. A playful spirit
A happy cat is a playful cat, whether that means playfully pouncing on other cats, tossing around a ball of yarn, or trying to get your attention for something like a game of ‘fetch’.
Stressed cats, on the other hand, usually outright ignore or refuse opportunities for play. Instead, they’ll tend to withdraw themselves from interaction and seek out safe and secluded hiding spots.
No cat’s always in the mood to play, but the more playful your cat is, as a rule, the happier they likely are too.
4. The ‘Social Roll’ and other greetings
When your cat rolls over onto their back, they’re actually giving you a very clear message that they like and trust you. Part of this seems to be a sign that they trust you not to ‘attack’ them where they’re most vulnerable… so going in for a tummy rub counts as a betrayal of that trust (and is likely to earn you a few bites and scratches).
If your cat is regularly doing the ‘Social Roll,’ it’s a sign they’re feeling pretty positive and don’t mind having you around, either.
Other greeting gestures, like your cat hopping up onto their back legs and putting their front paws on you, are also hints that your resident feline is feeling good.
5. Good hygiene standards
When we humans are having a difficult and stressful time, we may end up letting our usual self-care standards slip. Unfortunately, cats are the same.
Our feline companions are normally very mindful of maintaining good hygiene. They will typically spend a lot of time grooming themselves and each other, and will get irritated if they become dirty.
If your cat is suddenly looking scruffier than usual, or if they begin to smell, this might be a sign of stress or low mood.
On the other hand, if your cat’s keeping themselves photoshoot-ready round the clock, that’s a good sign. It’s an even better sign if they’re comfortable with grooming themselves in front of you – as it shows they’re relaxed and confident.
6. Slow blinking
One behaviour that all cat owners are likely to recognise, is a cat half-closing their eyes and blinking slowly.
Why exactly do cats do this? Well, it’s not totally clear. It might be as a way of showing peaceful intent (since an unblinking stare could be seen as a threat), or it might just be that they’ve noticed that humans find the expression endearing.
Either way, researchers have found that when cats and humans slow blink at each other, the cats become warmer, more receptive, and more likely to approach the humans’ outstretched hands.
For whatever reason, a slow-blinking cat seems to be a relaxed cat in a good mood, who’s ready to make friends.
What should you do if your cat seems stressed or upset?
Cats are often quite particular about their living space. If left to their own devices, they’ll tend to want to keep things familiar and relatively well organised.
If your cat is showing the opposite signs to the ones you’re hoping to see – and seems tense and withdrawn – your first step should be to ensure they have a comfortable and consistent living space. Make sure they have a tidy sleeping area, cosy alcoves and niches to retreat to if they’re anxious, and regular mealtimes.
If your cat needs some extra emotional support, or is going through a particularly stressful time, giving them YuMOVE Calming Care for Cats may really help to take the edge off and get them back to living their best lives.
Of course, if your cat is acting unhappy for a prolonged period of time and you can’t figure out why, we recommend getting in touch with your vet. They may have an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed.