Do our cats feel happiness? How do they show it?


Research shows that cats have emotion systems that trigger certain emotional and behavioral responses.1 While cats and humans don’t experience the same range and depth of emotions, happiness is an emotion that cats experience.

Cats may not express their feelings the way humans do, so it’s important to identify signals that indicate specific emotions. Learning how cats show happiness can strengthen the bond between you and your cat and make your life together even more enjoyable.

Signs of Happiness in Cats

How happiness is expressed varies from cat to cat, and cats can also show different signs of happiness depending on the situation they find themselves in.


A common sign of happiness and contentment is purring. Although there are some instances where cats may purr out of fear or injury, cats purr mostly because they feel content. So if you see your cat lying down or in another relaxed position and purring, that’s a sign that he’s feeling very happy.

purring white cat
Image Credit: AleksDaria, Shutterstock

Slow flashing

Happy cats can too blink slowly to indicate that they feel contentment and affection towards you. If your cat is in a relaxed position, makes direct eye contact with you, and blinks slowly, take that as a compliment. Your cat feels happy and also lets you know that he loves you.


Some vocal cats can also engage in “conversations” with their owners when they feel happy. If your cat meows and looks at you, it’s a good sign that he wants to talk to you. Some cats seem to appreciate their owners calmly responding to them, and they will meow in response.


Another sign of happiness is when a cat begins to knead with its front paws. This behavior is often called “baking cookies” because the action resembles a cat kneading dough. It is not known exactly why cats start kneading when they feel happy. Some experts think it’s because the action is related to how the kittens will knead on their mother.

bengal kneading blanket
Image Credit: K Lim, Shutterstock


If your cat feels satisfied and comfortable with you, he may begin to interact with you more. Your cat may start to approach you and rub your face. A gentle nod can also indicate affection.

Remember that your cat may start to bother you and want to play out of boredom. So make sure he gets plenty of exercise and stimulation throughout the day. If you’ve got those basics covered and your cat still wants to play with you, it may be because he loves you and just wants to hang out with you.

Observe how your cat expresses happiness

In my experience with cats, I noticed that my cats expressed their happiness in their own way. I had a cat that talked a lot when it felt happy and excited and would often meow if I said something to it. She was also very shy but playful. So if she wanted to play, that was a clear sign that she wanted to hang out with me and have fun.

Another cat showed happiness just by being in the same room. He usually lounged nearby, but he preferred not to have pets. I knew he was especially happy whenever he made an appearance and started kneading a rug or a blanket.

I also had a few slow blinks, but these are rarer behaviors I see in my cats. Sometimes I watch them slowly when I notice them relaxed and lounging nearby. Every once in a while, they’ll respond by blinking slowly, and that’s so rewarding.

cat playing with owner
Image credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

How to Promote Happiness in Cats

Although you can’t force cats to feel a certain way, there are things you can do to help them feel safe and content. These are some things that have helped me create a happy home for my cats.

Establish a consistent routine

As creatures of habit, cats thrive on routines. Knowing what to expect can help them feel safe, and many will prefer and appreciate the predictability.

Although you don’t have to have a routine with strict time slots, you can start to engage in activities in the same order. For example, my morning routine is pretty much the same, although I may wake up at different times. After I wake up, I start making my morning cup of coffee. Then I’ll start making breakfast and cooking my cat’s first meal. I’ll get ready for work while my cat eats. Before I start work, I’m going to give her a treat-dispensing toy to play with so she gets some morning exercise.

Once my cat got used to this routine, I could see him anticipating every activity. She’ll be waiting by her food station while I cook breakfast, and she’ll also be looking at me eagerly when she knows I’m about to work because she knows I’m going to give her a treat.

After establishing a consistent routine, I noticed my cat felt more relaxed and less likely to interrupt me when I was working. She knows I’ll eventually take a lunch break and play some more with her before heading back to work.

Create vertical spaces

Cats love cozy hiding places and ride in safe spaces where they can perch and observe. Many cats will appreciate having a large cat tree that they can climb. However, you don’t have to install multiple cat trees to create vertical spaces in your home.

I cleared spaces in the cubic shelves and laid rugs on them for my cat to sleep in. I also have relaxation areas placed near the areas I frequent the most in the house. There is a filing cabinet near my desk and I placed a cat bed on it so my cat can rest nearby while I work.

domestic cat climbs on the cat post
Image credit: vershinin89, Freepik

Provide fun playtime

Different cats have their own playstyles, and learning about their preferences can increase their happiness immensely. I had a cat that preferred to play alone and was perfectly fine playing alone with a treat-dispensing toy. Another cat enjoyed playing with cat wands and was happiest chasing feathers tied to a string.


Many cats are food-motivated and can’t resist certain treats. Getting to know your cat’s favorite flavors and giving them occasional treats is a great way to boost their mood.

You can also add a little more happiness to a cat’s life with catnip and catnip toys. The smell of catnip can trigger “happy” receptors in a cat’s brain. However, not all cats react to catnip. I had a cat that couldn’t care less about catnip, but I’ve had better luck with it. silvervine. Silvervine is a completely different herb that also has similar effects to catnip. Cats that don’t react to catnip may react to silver vine instead.


Cats can express their happiness in different ways. Knowing more about cat behavior and being observant can help you determine how your cat expresses happiness and what makes them happiest. I will be the first to say that cats can be very emotionally expressive. It may take some time to understand how your cat shows joy and affection. However, once you do, it will only strengthen your bond and increase the appreciation you have for each other.

Featured Image Credit: Boyloso, Shutterstock

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