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How to Recognize Unhappy Cat Behavior

Unhappy Cat Behavior

Cat behavior is sometimes quite obvious. Purring is good and hissing is bad, right? But sometimes your cat might give more subtle signs that it is displeased or not feeling well. Understanding cat behavior is a crucial part of cat care. As pet owners, it’s important to recognize these signs so we can provide the best life possible for our four-legged friends. Read on to learn the telltale signs of an unhappy cat!

Cat Body Language

Cat owners should familiarize themselves with cat body language. Your cat is likely upset if their ears are held back and their fur is standing on end. There’s also a special “cat tail language.” If your cat’s tail is tucked, instead of held high, your cat might be annoyed, angry or scared. And obviously, if your cat is limping, then there’s a chance they’re hurt and you should take them to the vet as soon as possible.


Even though cats don’t talk, it’s still important to listen to what they “say.” Vocal cues like low-pitched yowling indicate your cat might be unhappy. And a purr isn’t always a happy purr. Purring can also be a sign that your cat is trying to comfort themselves. Changes in your pet’s usual vocal behavior is usually the best indicator that something is wrong. If your normally loud cat is quiet or your quiet kitty is loud, then it’s time to call your veterinarian.

Energy Levels

Lethargy is something that uhappy cats share with many unhappy humans. Obviously cats sleep a lot, but cats that sleep even more than usual might be ill or depressed.


Another trait sad cats have in common with depressed people is a lack of enthusiasm in their usual interests. Unhappy cats might demonstrate a loss of appetite or disinterest in their favorite toys. They may also suddenly stop giving you head-butts and other displays of affection.


Just plain old hostility is another indicator that your cat is upset. Some cats just prefer their independence, but if your cat is normally the social and affectionate type, then something might be up. Try giving your cat some space. Then if your cat continues to avoid interaction, it’s time to call the vet.

Daily Routine

Cats, like unruly toddlers, need routine! They tend to flourish when their daily activities follow a consistent pattern and timetable. Cats that all of a sudden deviate from their usual habits might be showing signs of distress. Has your cat stopped grooming themselves? Are they not using their litter box? Have they abandoned their usual sleeping spot? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then something might be wrong.

If your cat’s behavior is showing signs of illness, chronic stress or depression, give your vet a call. They can recommend changes in your routine or medical treatment so your kitty will be happy and healthy. Also be sure to check out our article, “The Telltale Signs of a Happy Cat,” to know when your feline is feelin’ fine!

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