10 signs of a happy cat: How to know if your kitty is content

happy cat being petted under the chin
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s nothing better than a happy cat, and while our feline friends may not yet have mastered the art of speaking in a language that we humans can understand, they’re nevertheless constantly communicating with us about how they’re feeling. 

While yowling and hissing are often clear signs your cat isn’t getting what it needs to be happy, the cues for happiness and contentment are often subtler. But if you pay close attention, you may notice your kitty purring when you put down a bowl filled with the best dry cat food or chirping when you give them affection. 

Whether it’s sounds, behaviors, or body language, cats have a variety of modes through which they communicate happiness. By carefully observing all of these different communication styles, you’ll be able to tell if your kitty is content and enjoying life.

Below, you’ll find some of the most common ways that your cat will express to you how happy they are, including playfulness, kneading, and slow blinking. If you notice any or all of these behaviors, that’s a good sign that you have a very happy kitty on your hands!

1. They rub up against you

Why do cats rub against you? Well, one reason is to show you how happy they are to have you around, but rubbing behavior isn’t just a sign of affection. It’s also their way of marking you with their scent so that other cats know that you belong to them. 

Cats feel happy when they have strong social bonds with those they consider a part of their tribe - and that includes you. According to pet behaviorist Dr. Wailani Sung, our feline friends rub up against us to create a colony scent.

“When they rub on people, they leave behind oils to mark us, but it is also a sign that they like us and are happy to see us.” 

2. Kneading

Have you ever noticed your kitty engaging in a rather strange behavior where they spend what seems like forever making a kneading motion on beds, blankets and sometimes even your lap?

Also known as ‘making biscuits’ because the motion looks like they’re working dough, kneading is a surefire way to tell that your feline friend is in a good mood. Vet Shelly Zachrias explains that “cats are feeling content and safe when they knead.”

The height of contentment, it’s thought that kneading makes our furkid’s feel so happy because it’s a behavior that harks back to kittenhood when they would knead their mothers for comfort. Check out our guide to ‘why do cats knead?' for more information. 

3. Purring

Cat lying outside with eyes closed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s nothing more soothing than the gentle and rhythmic sound of a cat's purr and if your kitty is curled up next to you and their motor gets started, rest assured that you have one very happy cat on your hands indeed.

According to Dr. Sung, cat purring is almost always positive. “Cat purrs during interactions with people, greeting familiar cats, while nursing kittens, or being pet can mean they’re feeling happy and content.”

There are some rare instances where purring can be a sign of stress, so if you suspect that’s the case, our tips on how to calm a cat during periods of high anxiety will help you get your feline friend back to their old self again. 

4. Slow blinking

One of the sweetest and most endearing of cat behaviors, if a cat slow blinks at you two or three times in a row, they’re signaling both trust and contentment. 

“Direct eye contact is considered a challenge or threat,” says Dr. Sung. “If a cat is looking at another cat or person, they want the other party to know that it is a friendly look and not a hostile stare or glare. Therefore, the blink conveys the cat’s intention to be friendly.”

If you’d like to send your cat’s happiness levels through the roof, try returning the compliment by slowly blinking back at them.

5. They make conversation

Why do cats meow? While it can certainly be a sign of stress, for many cats, it’s their way of engaging with their humans. Not all cats will converse with you, quiet cat breeds tend to prefer to show their happiness in other ways, but when it comes to highly outgoing kitties, expect plenty of vocalization when they’re in a good mood. 

6. Normal eating, sleeping and grooming habits

A great sign that your cat is happy is if they go about their usual routine. Whether you feed them the best wet cat food or the best dry cat food, if your feline friend is eating their normal portions of food each day that’s one indication that they’re in a good headspace.

Cats are also fastidious groomers, so another thing to be on the lookout for is whether or not they’re keeping their coat looking its best. “Keeping up with a healthy, pristine coat is an activity of a cat who is feeling good, healthy, and has an overall feeling of positive well-being,” says Dr. Zacharias.

A content kitty will stick fairly closely to a schedule, eating well, sleeping up to 20 hours a day and keeping their coat well-groomed and shiny. If your furkid is going about their business as usual, that’s a great indication that they’re mentally fit. 

7. Their tail is in the question mark position

Cat with tail in the air

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s important to observe what your cat's tail is telling you when you’re trying to figure out whether or not they’re happy. From feeling content or playful to threatened or scared, one of the primary ways a cat communicates their state of mind is through their tail. 

“Happy, confident cats hold their tail in a question mark position. These cats are in a good mood and usually ready to interact,” explains Dr. Zacharias. 

8. Chirping

Cat chirping is one of the most adorable sounds our feline friends make and it’s something they’ll only do when they’re in a great mood. A cross between a meow and a purr, a chirp is a high-pitched noise that communicates a message of happiness. 

Just like with meowing and other forms of vocalizations, not all cats will chirp, but if you do happen to catch them making this sweet sound in your presence, consider yourself very lucky indeed.

9. Spending time with you

When is a cat at their happiest? Why when they’re with their favorite human of course! Although we often think of dogs as being people-orientated and cats being more independent and solitary, our feline friends are actually highly social and enjoy being in the presence of those they love - whether it’s simply near you or curled up on your lap.

10. Playfulness 

A kitty engaged in a play session with the best cat toys is undoubtedly one very happy kitty indeed. Whether it’s solo play with a toy they can use independently or time spent having fun with a family member, playfulness is a sign of joy. 

Kathryn Rosenberg
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past three years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with a very mischievous Cocker Spaniel and a super sassy cat, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.