Is your cat happy?
A happy cat is a healthy cat. Find out whether or not your kitty is happy, and how you can help her feel better.
Your cat trots towards you, chirping a greeting, tail straight up in the air. Later, she sits in a sunny windowsill eagerly watching and chattering at the birds outside. These are all clear signs of a happy cat. But given the somewhat elusive nature of cats, the signs of a contented — or discontented — kitty may sometimes be more subtle. Find out if your own cat is happy, and how you can improve her well-being if she isn’t.
Although the above signs of happiness are quite obvious, other indications are more subtle. A cat with her ears erect, whiskers forward, and eyes wide open is a happy cat engaged with her surroundings. Conversely, a cat that isn’t feeling well will be lethargic and uninterested in what’s going on. So it’s important to know what’s normal for your cat, and be alert to subtle changes in her behavior or demeanor (see sidebar on next page for signs of feline depression).
YOUR CAT’S PERSONALITY PLAYS A PART
A good gauge of your kitty’s happiness is her personality.
Is she shy or gregarious? Does she startle easily? Does she interact with others in the home or keep to herself? Is her personality compatible with your household? If you have active kids and other animals, with lots of coming and going, is your cat comfortable with all that busy-ness or does she seem overwhelmed by hiding or showing signs of aggression?
Conversely, a more adventurous and outgoing cat in a quiet household might get into “trouble” due to boredom — climbing curtains, getting into cupboards, or trying to dart out the door when you open it. She could benefit from more playtime or a companion, especially if she’s alone all day.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR CAT HAPPIER
Instilling happiness in your cat involves creating an environment and lifestyle that makes her feel safe and comfortable, and being aware of the body language and behavior that reflect that level of comfort. Cats may not want constant attention, but they thrive on comfort and safety. They like knowing you’re nearby to say hello when they walk into the room.
• If you have a busy household and your cat seems stressed by it, make sure she has a safe haven to retreat to for peace and quiet — this could be a spare room or low-traffic area with a comfy bed and some favorite toys. Make sure her litter box and food and water bowls are also in a quiet spot, where she won’t be disturbed by kids or other animals.
• For unhappiness arising from boredom, add some environmental stimulation to your cat’s surroundings. Cat trees, interactive toys or feeders, access to windowsills, regular play sessions, and extra attention can all help her feel happier and more contented.
• Cats differ in how much attention they want from their people, which means too much or too little interaction can negatively impact their level of happiness and contentment. Here’s how to ensure your cat is getting just the right amount of human interaction:
Let her take the lead. Acknowledge her presence and offer pats, but don’t force her into an interaction.
Give her a choice. When you stop petting her, does she want more or walk away?
Learn her favorite areas for petting. Chances are, you can’t go wrong with head and neck scritches, or a gentle stroke along her back.
Talk to her, and use her name. Cats are known to mostly vocalize around humans, so respond in kind, either by echoing her meows before asking questions: “Really? Tell me more!”• Never punish your cat for unwanted behavior. Instead, reward good behavior with praise or a treat, such as when she uses her scratching post.
Consider clicker training or agility training
if you have a high energy, easily bored kitty. It can help diffuse unwanted behavior problems and deepen your relationship.
Leash training is a safe and fun way for your kitty to enjoy the great outdoors. It may take some patience — let her get used to wearing a harness and leash indoors before exploring outside.
Let your cat simply hang out with you, whether she’s on the desk while you’re working or beside you on the couch in the evening. Just your presence can be reassuring.
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