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How Do Cats Express Happiness?

Updated: May 14, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

We love cats. But most of all we love happy cats. That’s when they’re the most fun and the most rewarding to have around. A happy cat means at least one happy human. And healthy if you think about the latest studies on how cat purrs make us healthier. But how can we know if our cat is happy? How do cats express happiness to begin with?

It’s true that every cat is unique and that they all have their own personality traits that differentiate them from every other cat out there, but there are still some clues that give away the mood of our purring little friends. So let’s find out more about how to read or interpret these signs.

How Do Cats Express Happiness

First and foremost, you should learn to pay attention to your cat’s clues and signals, so be sure to spend some time around your furry friend before you start trying to understand his or her signals. Do that enough and you’ll soon be able to interpret most of what they transmit to you, being it sounds, body language or behavior.

Vocal and Sound Clues

One of the first things cat owners notice is their cats vocalizing. Depending on the pitch of those ‘meows’, they can transmit different messages. While not always vocalizing when happy, when they are, they have a higher pitch in their voice. In general, lower pitched sounds mean that they’re unhappy or that they want something, so when you hear them in a high pitched voice, well, they’re mostly happy.

Another sound that cats make and it’s almost always associated with a cat’s happy moments is purring. But the latest research shows that cats don’t purr only when happy, so be sure to assess that particular situation overall. If your furry little friend starts to purr while rubbing his or her head against you when you just got back from work or when she sits on your lap while you watch your favorite series, well, that’s a clear sign that your cat is content with you around.

Body Language

Now this is a complex theme, but if you pay attention enough, you’ll recognize the main clues of a happy cat. They communicate all these with their eyes, ears, body positions and last, but not least with their tail, which is considered a cat’s emotional barometer.

For example, if your cat is sitting with her front paws gently tucked underneath looking sleepy and she blinks at you, that’s a clear sign that she’s content. If her pupils dilate when you are about to feed her, well, that’s a no-brainer that she’s very happy.

Also, if her tail is relaxed, the cat is content. When they put their tails straight up with the tip slightly bent, that means greetings. We’re sure you’ve noticed that when you get back home and your cat quickly jumps to welcome you. If not, pay attention next time.

You can read more here on how to interpret the clues of a cat’s tail.

In the next part of this post we’ll explore how cats express happiness through behavior.


In the first half of this post we’ve talked about how do cats express happiness and more precisely about the sounds and the vocal clues they give and the body language that shows when a cat is feeling happy and content.

This second post will show you how cats express happiness through several behavior related cues. So let’s find out which are these clues.

How Do Cats Express Happiness Through Their Behavior

Like humans, cats will express their moods right through their behavior, but you’ll have to observe them for a while before managing to correctly interpret those signs.


A happy cat is always confident. She’s super interested by whatever she’s doing at the moment or by anything new in the house, meaning that she’s comfortable in those surroundings. Engaging in finding out everything that’s new in your home or simply calmly analyzing what’s happening from a distance are clear signs of a confident – and therefore happy and content cat.


Playfulness is probably one of the best indicators for a happy cat. Just watch kittens. Everything they do all day long is play and be happy. But that applies to adult cats as well – and humans nonetheless. Adult cats will play a lot less often than kittens, but if they play, that’s a good sign of feline happiness. They can play with anything, even other little – or larger – furry friends, which means that they like and trust that company. And trust translates into happiness.


The place where our furry little friends choose to sleep is another indicator of happiness. As is company. If something changes in where a cat chooses to sleep, you’ll know that something’s wrong, but if your feline friend chooses to sleep or nap in your lap for example, that’s a sign of trust on her behalf and nonetheless a sign of her happiness. When a cat is always looking for her preferred companion to share her sleep or nap time with, it indicates a happy relationship with that person or fellow cat. Or another fellow furry friend – dogs and mice included.


In general, a cat that keeps herself well groomed signals that her happiness levels are normal. Poor grooming is always the result of unhappiness or health problems. Also, grooming another fellow cat, signals a positive and happy relationship. Sometimes that other fellow cat may even be the owner, as it’s known that cats regard their owners as just other fellow – and larger – cats. So be happy when your furry friend starts licking your nose. She’s only trying to say that she’s happy with you. Or with your nose at least.


Last but not least, you should always look for signs of happiness or lack of it on a cat’s eating habits. Normal healthy appetites usually show a happy and content cat. If something is wrong, their appetite changes as well.

Together with the vocal clues and body language we talked about in the first post, these are the main ways through which cats express happiness.

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