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Franny Syufy

How Can I Tell if my Cat is Happy?

By December 20, 2009

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In a recent discussion on the About.com Cats Forum, a member asked if her cat is happy. This is an interesting question, which first calls for a definition of "happy." Does it mean "never angry or upset," "never a little blue or even depressed," or "never sad over a loss of a friend or a friendship?" Where humans are concerned, those seem to be unrealistic expectations at best. I've run into very few Pollyannas in my lifetime, and to tell the truth, would be a little suspicious of some who seemed that cheerful all of the time. I suspect cats are the same as we in the regard of happiness.

Yesterday, my son told me an amusing story about our Jaspurr. He had put down two paper plates in the feeding area, as usual. Then he emptied a small can of food into one place, then absently-minded went back to a computer project. A short while later he had that strange feeling we sometimes have that we're being watched; looked up and saw Joey chomping away at his breakfast, and next to him, Jaspurr, sitting there in front of his empty plate, positively glaring back at him. Chastened, Lance hurried to open Jaspurr's can, and Jaspurr happily hunkered down to chow. This little story demonstrates that there is a definite cause= effect involvement in temporary unhappiness, which was easily reversed by the administration of food.

A more serious problem arises when a cat is depressed over ongoing inter-cat conflicts. A popular forum member, Pat (PhillysMom), was faced with that problem recently. Last year, Pat had rescued a mother cat and her kittens from a barn on her property (detailed with photos in Project Jersey Kitties. Ultimately, Pat adopted Tiger Lily (the mother cat) and Piper, a gray tabby female kitten. Although they both originally melded into the household fairly well, recently Tiger Lily and Molly, found themselves at odds. Pat could see that Tiger Lily was becoming increasingly depressed, exacerbated by a medical problem. The other cats were upset too, and continuing to keep Tiger Lily seemed to be an insurmountable problem. Pat made the difficult decision to find TL a new single-cat home. Thanks to E (of the Vowels), Tiger Lily is now happily adopted to a nice couple who intend to keep her as a single cat.
Photo Credit: © Pat Hollenack

I wonder how many of my readers have been faced with similar problems, or have resolved similar problems. How did you go about solving the problems? Is your cat overall a happy cat?

Comments

December 20, 2009 at 11:16 pm
(1) Randy says:

It’s difficult NOT to ascribe human emotions to your pets, especially a cat like my Maggie. But I think I can tell when she’s happy, especially if you define happy as interested, curious, engaged, etc.

I can tell my cats know when I’m not happy. And thy usually try to cheer me up.

December 21, 2009 at 1:28 am
(2) E says:

I hope the vowels are happy. I know they still get soooo scared sometimes, and that means that sometimes I have to make them unhappy. But I believe they know they are loved and, most of the time, they feel secure.

December 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm
(3) Pat says:

As difficult as it was for ME to rehome Tiger Lily, I knew for her it was the right thing to do. Many friends had to remind me it was the right thing, as my heart hurt so badly to let her go.
The difference of my remaining four cats, Philly, Kit, Molly and Piper, is amazing. They are all much more relaxed and my ‘hide away’ girl, Philly, is blossoming and becoming much more social. They are all playing together, being in the same room together with my husband and I. It’s amazing and wonderful…and a bit bittersweet at the same time.
I am grateful that I was able to find out that Tiger Lily was adopted into a wonderful only-cat home.
And I’m forever grateful to E for helping out yet again!

December 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm
(4) Shanna says:

This s a subject that I’ve been quite concerned about lately. One of my cats, Mr. Boo, passed away a week ago, leaving my other cat, Elvis, alone. Mr. Boo and Elvis weren’t particularly close; Elvis made it clear he was boss and Boo had better stay out of the way. Now that Boo is gone, Elvis is behaving especially needy and clingy. I don’t know if he’s reacting to the family’s grief, or his own grief, or what. Is he lonely? Or is he just bummed because you can’t be the boss without someone else to be the boss *of*?

So along this line, I’m wondering, what’s a reasonable amount of time to allow to pass to see if Elvis is going to work this out for himself, or if I really need to get another cat for him to truly be happy?

December 24, 2009 at 1:58 pm
(5) Scott S says:

I recently adopted a stray that was sick(imagine that?) After patching her up she seemed to be on the mend but a few days after comming home, Smokey refused to dring and eat. I was terribly saddened in that I thought I might lose her (after $350.00 and 2 trips to the vet). As I help Smoke in my lap in the bedroom, All three saw that I was physically upset(yes, a 50 yr old male crying over a cat) Durng this time I noticed that all three and especially the alpha females’ whiskers drooped straight down towards the floor. I have never noticed this physical reaction from any of the cats I have had in the past 20 years.

Now just a few weeks later and another trip to the vet(and another $160.00), she’s been accepted by all three adults and the 5 yr old male is having a blast with a cat that has tons of energy and a playful spirit.

Playful cats are happy cats. Cats whose wihskers droop are sad cats.

December 24, 2009 at 2:48 pm
(6) Edil says:

When Chiquitina died on 9/9/09 Tutifruti became very stange ,her mewws al over the aparment were terrible to hear.then sudenly Tutita started to come to sleep over me as she did with her adoptive mom Chiquitina.Chiquitina was a pomeranian recued dog that just used to love cats ,Tutifruti was rescued by her when she was just a couple of days old .They used to sleep eat and bath each other ,the dog also teach herself to use the kitty litter.I do mised Chiquitina alot and I Know that tutita does also ,she is now more closed to me ,before she was allthe time with her doggy mom and never tried to be close to me as she does now.

December 24, 2009 at 3:17 pm
(7) margaret moreno says:

i keep reading that some cats wake up their masters real early so they can eat. i solved this problem by leaving food on my cats plate the night before and she always has food. she never wakes me up. she is a very good kitty and i love her very much. she is a tabby calico 3 year old female.

December 24, 2009 at 4:04 pm
(8) Leann says:

We currently have a problem, with a 3 yr old male and his harassment of the 15 yr old Matriarch of the house. This started just recently. Maggie has always ruled the house, insisting on having first dibs on the food and the litter boxes. Now, Alfie chases her away, swats at her, nips at her, and is generally nasty! I’ve noticed that he has also taken a sudden dislike to another older cat, Rose, and chases her about if she’s around.
We never had such problems before, but wondered if perhaps there is possibly something wrong with Maggie that the other cats sense. She has always been and indoor/outdoor kind of gal, often staying away for several days at a time in warmer weather. Now, for the first time ever, she has decided to spend the winter indoors, which is just sensible for an older lady! There are no other signs of distress in her.

December 24, 2009 at 5:09 pm
(9) Leigh Arrathoon says:

Three of my cats are extremely happy. They love me and sleep with me – all three of them. They groom each other, sleep together, eat together, and play together. Since I had occasion to see them extremely unhappy, I feel pretty certain that those cat smiles mean joy. They were unhappy when Grandma Misty died – she was 19, and all the young cats worshipped her. They would sit around her in a circle while she told them everything they needed to know about the house. She also instructed them in games. When she died, Muffie cried and Biscuit was a nervous wreck. Muffie cried real tears for six weeks, until a friend sent him a tunnel. He was so delighted with the tunnel that he stopped crying, but he wouldn’t “sing” anymore. He used to go around the house singing. Biscuit, Muffie’s brother, had a heart murmur. It went from 3-4 that summer Misty died. I was worried. When Désirée came (and I am sure she is Misty reincarnated, by the way), Muffie began to sing, and Biscuit’s heart murmur totally disappeared. These are the three cats who spend so much time together. As for Cinder, she is another story. She has always gone around picking fights with everyone, and she’s a lone wolf. I decided that it was my job to give her all the love she could stand. The result of this “program” of mine has been that she is no longer surly, and she will tentatively join the group, but she still scratches the other cats. One of them finally (after two years of this nonsense) took a big piece out of her ear, but she still hasn’t learned. I think she would have been happier as an only cat, but I have never been able to give her up because she loves me and revels in the attention I give her. She also likes two of the other three cats. I actually think the one with whom she gets into scrapes is a cat to whom she would have been attracted, had she not been spayed. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the first three cats are happy and well adjusted. Cinder is not well-adjusted, so only happy some of the time. And that is my take on it. Leigh

December 24, 2009 at 5:28 pm
(10) gerald doherty says:

my cat just smiles and jumps about when he is happy
I have no problem when knowing when he is content
He is a wonderful little guy.

December 24, 2009 at 6:04 pm
(11) Sandy says:

Definitely the right thing to do was find TL a home where she was the only baby.. Years ago I did cat/kitten rescue from my home and I had kitties in and out like a swinging door. Sadie was my first rescue and we decided to keep her as part of my family, however, with the constant influx of new kitties she became very agitated and my male cat refused to leave her alone and was attacking her every chance he got. I was forced to find her a wonderful home with my sisters friend and to this day she still has a fat, happy Sadie. She sends me photos every year at this time and it brings me great joy.

December 24, 2009 at 6:36 pm
(12) Sheila Joyce says:

Both my boys can read me like a big tree, with one tiny bird hidden therein…
They do have their moments of trying to show me they’re not pleased with me going out, especially if I’m gone for more than 2 hrs…!
But, as a new Widow, I love ALL their expressions, as most of them sooth my torn heart, as they never ask for the truck keys, money, video games, girlfriends etc.
Perfect children, truly !
Blessings to all readers & your furry felines !

December 24, 2009 at 6:45 pm
(13) Marie says:

I have 3 cats, 13, 8 and 2. In general they are well behave and well adjusted, so I believe happy. They have all the elements to keep them that way, visual diversions, play time, loots of food and water and scratching posts and each other. The one thing that sets the balance off is when I am out of town. They all seem to require one-on-one time with me. Even though there are other people in the household, I am their person and they are willing to share with each other. If I raise my voice or get upset, one in particular freaks out and rns to m ewhere ever I am. It’s not hard to measure an animal’s contentment, they are excellent communicators, if we listen.

December 25, 2009 at 9:32 am
(14) Vanessa says:

My 4 year old,Dolly ,is a very happy young lady. I always kiss her goodnight on her cheek,as one would a person[she is like a persom certainly!]So sometimes when I am sitting down,Dolly will jump up on her hind legs to reach my cheek to give me a cat kiss.
When she goed to sleep for the night,she waits until I cover her with her little baby blanket and then puts her head down on her tiny pillow
and purrs.
When I am on the computer,she will sit on the floor and meow until I pick her up and then proceeds to lie across the keyboard. She then will not budge!
She is truly happy. She makes me happy and makes me laugh as well at all her little antics.
She is truly an angel-cat.

January 24, 2010 at 10:48 am
(15) Miriam Felt says:

I’ve had my baby for 8 years. He had been abused when I got him and was always afraid. In the later years he became content and seemed happy until my neighbors moved and asked me to care for the partially feral cat they had. I agreed, and started caring for this cat back in July. Before that my baby would go outside under strict supervision and always paid attention to me. (more like a dog.) After I started taking care of the Partially feral cat he would ignore me a lot and express his distate whenever the cat came in the house by turning his back on me. He became much less affectionate and seemed to be always testing me. He didn’t like the other cat either. He didn’t hiss at it but you could tell by the way he acted. He got more and more disgruntled with me and I didn’t know what to do. The feral cat is old. A few nites ago my baby was with me until 12 pm and when I woke again at 2pm he had gotten out. Somehow I knew he was gone. Whenever he went out he always returned within 10-15 minutes. I had planned on getting him a companion because he showed a lot more activity when the partially feral cat was around. I picked up his companion kitty who is sweet and friendly. The companion kitty and the feral cat seem to like each other. My baby has not come home. I hope he comes home. I think he got very angry and jealous because I brought in the partially feral cat after 8 years of him being my only companion. I worry about him and I am afraid for him. Sometimes I regret taking in the other cat and disturbing the house. At times I find myself being angry with the poor old cat because my baby has left me. Right now I am glad I have the kitty. He is very affectionate and comforting. If my baby comes home I do not know how he will respond to the new family addition. I am heartbroken that he isn’t home and I hope an animal didn’t get him or a car. I hope some very nice person is feeding him and loving him.

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