The problem with cats, though, is that they’re very good at turning lemons into lemonade, so it can be hard to know if they’re truly happy or just resigned to their lives the way they are.
The CATalyst Council, whose vision is to change the image of cats as aloof and not needing human contact and to raise their level of care and welfare, suggests good health, environmental enrichment and feeling valued all make for a happy cat. That makes sense to me.
How can you tell if your cat is happy? Here are some signs of a cat who is not happy or is depressed.
- Sleeping even more than usual,
- Eating less.
- Not interested in playing or interacting with you.
- Not grooming.
- Hissy and becoming aggressive.
Signs and symptoms are always helpful, of course. But the best way to know whether your cats are happy is to listen to your heart. They’ll tell you if all is not right in their world.
Eight Ways To Make Your Cat Happy
Every cat is an individual, and they all find happiness in different ways. But here are eight things that make most cats happy.
- Respect and the freedom to just be cats. Honor your cats for the intelligent, independent, resourceful creatures that they are. Treating them like cats, not small dogs with attitude, children in fur coats or your “babies,” will make them happier than anything else you do for them.
- Don’t declaw! Paws comes with claws for a reason. If you’re concerned about your cat scratching your furniture, these suggestions will help. If you’re concerned about the cat scratching you, Soft Claws are inexpensive and easy to apply.
- Places to scratch. Cats need to scratch, and providing a variety of scratching surfaces scattered in strategic locations throughout your house will make them very happy. Some suggestions: tall, stable scratching posts; double wide cardboard scratching pads, logs, a doormat or a piece of bare wood.
- Compromise on the rules. Remember, it’s your cats’ house, too. Let them eat where they want to eat, even if it’s not the kitchen. And put their litter boxes in places that are comfortable for them, even if those locations are a bit inconvenient for you. Cats don’t understand why we impose all kinds of rules, and the fewer there are, the happier they’ll be.
- No surprises. Cats are creatures of habit and like to do things at the same time in the same place every day. If you must make a change, try to do it very gradually. Sudden changes can make even the happiest cat very unhappy, and that unhappiness can last for a long time.
- Enough space. If you have more than one cat, make sure everyone has enough personal space. In multicat families, happy cats have places where they can get away from the others and be alone when they want to be. Cats like to arrange themselves vertically, and floor to ceiling cat trees and tunnels provide additional personal space. Make sure your cat trees have large, stable bases and perches big enough for adult cats. A cat tree that feels like it’s going to topple over isn’t much fun.
- Outdoors. Finding a way to get your indoor cats outside will make them healthier and happier. Think about supervised outdoor time or taking them out on a harness and leash. Or, if you’re really nervous about taking them out, consider getting them a kitty stroller.
- A stimulating environment. This is especially important for indoor cats, but indoor/outdoor cats also need interesting things to do when they’re inside. Leave some blinds and curtains open so your cats can see outside. Looking at the same four walls every day is boring and doesn’t make for happy cats. Open the windows, too, if only for a few minutes. There’s nothing like a breath of fresh air to boost the spirit and make a cat happy. Here are some more ways to make your cats’ indoor environment more interesting.
- Give them cat trees to climb and tunnels and boxes to nap in. Nothing makes a cat happier than a brand new box to sleep in and scratch.
- Make a mound of tissue paper for them to crunch around in. Sprinkling catnip on the tissue paper will make it even more fun.
- Hide treats in nooks and crannies around your house and let the cats hunt for food.
- Play! Cats love playing with wand toys when there’s a human at the other end. My cats’ favorite is Da Bird, but even a long shoelace will work.
- Give them interesting toys that do something. Electronic toys, like Under Cover Mouse, can be great fun for cats. My cats love their Turbo Scratchers, too. To get them interested in tiny mice and other bat and swat toys, toss the toy across the room. They’ll chase it and start to play.
As I’m writing, I’m thinking about the cats who live with me. When I listen to my heart, I think they really are happy. Ginger’s mostly outdoor lifestyle doesn’t make me happy. But she loves it, and it’s her life. She should be able to live it the way she chooses. Having choices and the ability to make some decisions themselves makes cats happy.