Hints for Having Happy Cats

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September is Happy Cat Month. It’s a special celebration created by—who else?—the CATalyst Council. The organization’s purpose is to help spread education and awareness about the health, welfare and importance of our companion cats.

Is your cat happy? We talked to an expert, as well as several cat-loving humans, about how to know if cats are happy and what makes cats happy.

In general, we know cats are happy when they show a relaxed body posture—sprawled on their back, for instance. Their eyes are a normal shape and the pupils aren’t dilated. Ears are alert, not laid back or to the side.

“If they’re walking toward you, their tail is straight up like a flagpole,” says Debbie Horwitz, DVM, a veterinarian who specializes in pet behavior. “Those are generally happy kitties.”

Every cat is different, so what makes him or her happy can vary. Some cats like to sit on your lap, while others snuggle next to you. Playful cats enjoy engaging in interactive games, such as batting at a fishing pole toy or chasing a ball that you toss down the hall.

“I think they like us being around,” Dr. Horwitz says.

Cat lovers agree. Their cats all have different activities that they enjoy and different ways of expressing their happiness.

Moo, a three-year-old Exotic Shorthair adopted by Dee Dee Drake, is a fan of being talked to.

“She loves conversation,” says Drake, executive director of Calaveras Humane Society in California. (One of the things that makes Drake happy is the grant that CHS received from BISSELL Pet Foundation® to help offset the cost of the spay/neuter assistance program for low-income Calaveras residents.)

Basil, a therapy cat and BISSELL model in Oregon is owned by Tina Parkhurst. Basil loves breakfast and making visits to nursing homes and hospitals. Making people happy is what makes this orange-and-white tabby happy.

Katherine Williams of Albuquerque says feeding time is important to her cat Lucy, and so is having a lap to sit on and a sunny window seat. Williams’ other cat, Lilu, enjoys chasing a feather, having a perch where she can observe birds and chilling in a box that is just the right size for her.

A box might seem boring to us, but to a cat it’s something new and different.

“A lot of cats like novelty,” Dr. Horwitz says. “Being inside something different makes them happy. Climbing and exploring makes them happy.”

If you’re not sure what makes your cat happy, simply watch and learn. You might be surprised to find out what she loves.

To celebrate Happy Cat Month, the CATalyst Council suggests spending some quality time with your feline. Here are some suggestions:

  • Fill a food-dispensing toy with part of her daily food allotment and show her how to use it. Letting cats “hunt” for some food is a good way to exercise their brain and body.
  • Teach him some tricks. Contrary to popular opinion, cats enjoy the challenge of learning. Sit, high five, come, and jumping through a hoop are all fun tricks to teach cats.
  • Establish at least one predictable playtime each day. Just a couple of minutes at the same time each day will have your cat looking forward to your special time together.

“Every cat is a little bit different,” Dr. Horwitz says. “I have two kittens who are litter mates, and it’s amusing to see how different they are in their approach to novelty, what they like, how much attention they want, how much petting they want. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules for making cats happy.”