How can you tell if you have a happy cat? We know, we know, there are a lot of rumors swirling around out there that the only times “cat” and “happy” can be used in a sentence where one is relative to the other involve ritualistic soul stealing or the sound of treasured bric-a-brac shattering on the floor. But underneath it all, when the iPhones are put away, cats just really want to be happy. So, what’s a cat’s person to do?
First, it’s important to recognize evidence of an actually happy cat.
The most obvious and recognizable indicator that your cat is pleased is its purr. Purring is learned by kittens when they are just a few days old as a way to let mom-cat know it’s there and okay. Later, it appears as the quintessential indicator you have pleased your furry master, and s/he has decided not to scratch your face off and eat you today.
Aside from that characteristic throat-rumbling, your happy cat has specific body language that betrays that famously icy façade of aloof ennui. For example, watch her tail: straight up? Unless it’s fiercely bristling, this is a clear sign your cat is content; a hook on the end or a vibration may mean an especially perky moment of joie de vive. Chances are, in this frame of mind, your kitty will be highly approachable for a session of stroking and scratching around her ears and cheeks.
Speaking of those furry jowls, remember that happy cats have scent glands in the sides of their faces, so when they rub and head-butt you, they are marking you as theirs – which usually makes us come as close to purring as humanly possible (otherwise known as “baby talk” and “smoochy face”)! Your cat may raise the bar on his own amusement by attempting both the head butt and face rub while doing figure-eights around your ankles… in slow motion… in the dark… while you are carrying Stuff and Things. Cats have a sick sense of humor.
One other hint of happiness your cat may deign to show you is the stop, flop, and roll over to show you their belly – but be careful; this could be a trap, luring you in for a sweet belly rubbing which can turn in an instant to a blur of surprised screaming and claws and bleeding. Consider falconing gloves.
So, what can a Good Human do to bring out the best in their feline overlords? Aside from continuing to leave precious breakables out where they can play skee-ball with them, there are several strategies for pandering to the precocious pussycat in your house:
- Keep them amused with a variety of toys and activities. This satisfies your kitty’s need to hunt; keeps their minds engaged (yes, cats get bored, too – and if you have ever found a “surprise” in your bed or favorite pair of shoes, you know the downside to an unstimulated cat); and strengthens the bond between you. Even a shoestring tied around a doorknob or artfully twisted pipe-cleaner can provide hours of entertainment, whether you are home to watch or not!
- Provide stimulating experiences. Placing a bird-feeder outside a window and arranging a comfy perch for your cat to hunker down and watch is always a favorite, as are crinkly tunnels on the floor, and cat-trees for them to climb when they get the zoomies. There are also cat-shelving that can be installed along your walls to satisfy your cat’s natural curiosity and desire to explore.
- Offer cozy nooks for sleeping. Cats need 10-15 hours of sleep a day, and love to curl up in a sunny spot, in a random box, on your clean laundry – you get the idea.
- Offer healthy food and plenty of water. A healthy kitty is a happy kitty – feeding quality food and occasional treats will keep their teeth healthy, coats shiny and their digestive system free of blockages. Avoid feeding cats people food, as many spices and additives are dangerous to felines. Cow’s milk, for example, sounds like a purrfect treat, but it cannot be properly digested.
September is Happy Cat Month – now that you know what to look for, and a few things you can do to enhance the joy in your kitty kingdom, you may now take out your iPhones, and enjoy!