As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
If you own cats, you’ve probably felt like your cat laughed at you at least once. Maybe you tripped and fell in front of them, and their reaction convinced you they were laughing. Even worse, maybe your cat slowly and deliberately knocked a drink off the table while staring at you the whole time.
Cats don’t have a physical reaction to laugh. Cats did not evolve to show their emotions because showing too much emotion decreases their chances of survival. Typically, when people think their cats are laughing, they anthropomorphize another expression onto their cats and try to relate it to human emotion.
If you’re not a cat owner, these reactions may seem completely absurd. After all, cats are an incredibly stoic creature. They don’t show their emotions with the same intensity as dogs or other people, and it can be easy to think that cats can’t laugh because they don’t have a sense of humor. Yet your cat has mood indicators and facial expressions that you can read.
Do cats have a sense of humor?
This one is harder to answer. Cats may have a sense of humor, but chances are they won’t find your favorite joke funny. However, when something moves unexpectedly or a toy does something they’ve never seen before, cats may seem surprised and amused.
Some cats will even look like they’re laughing and try to make the thing that amused them happen again.
It is difficult to say whether this reaction is a manifestation of humor, which is difficult to read and evaluate, or curiosity, which cats have. Chances are that most of the time when your cat engages in something, it wants to know more, doesn’t quite understand it, or satisfies some of its instincts.
Why don’t cats show emotions?
We mentioned that cats don’t show much emotion because it can hurt their chances of survival in the wild. This is a fairly typical response for many animals, but it is not an indication that the animal is not feeling.
Cats must have consistent behavior to catch prey and ensure they have a safe place to sleep. They should also appear strong and confident, especially if they encounter other cats and competing predators.
A cat that displays emotions like fear and anxiety is a cat that tells other predators that it is weak. A cat that shows it is excited and curious is a cat that tells other predators that it is not very experienced.
All cats will display some emotion from time to time. Some cats are more excitable than others, which may reflect their trust in you and their surroundings. But most of the time, cats are going to be relatively calm and steady.
Calm behavior keeps feral cats alive, and while your average house cat doesn’t need those survival instincts, they don’t know it.
Ways to tell your cat is happy
Of course, this is not very useful for human companions of cats. If you’re a cat owner, you want to know what your cat is thinking and feeling to make sure you’re providing them with the right environment. Fortunately, cats To do have subtle clues that can tell you how they are feeling.
Here are some signals that you are happy, or at least satisfied, with the way things are going.
Your cat is very vocal
Meowing is a cat behavior that they display specifically when they want your attention. Cats don’t meow at each other except when they learn to do so after meowing at people.
Cat-to-cat communication in the wild is not audible to humans. Meowing is a kind of kitten communication that they use until their vocal cords can produce inaudible cat-to-cat sounds.
Since humans don’t hear these sounds, cats quickly learn that meowing is a more effective way of communication. So when your cat meows, it’s trying to tell you something. A cat that talks a lot is a cat that feels that this communication is effective and that it gets what it wants.
Usually this means that your cat is quite happy.
Of course, cats will also meow to yell at you or let you know they’re upset. Usually these types of meows are more serious than happy communicative meows. A high-pitched meow is a happy cat meow.
There are two main reasons your cat purrs. If your cat is unwell or injured, he may purr because he is asking for your attention and care. They do this in the wild both to seek attention from other trusted cats and to comfort trusted cats.
But most of the time, your cat purrs because he’s happy and content and wants to share that feeling. Purring is a comfort mechanism, so a happy cat may purr to make other cats (and humans) around it happier.
Cats that blink slowly are often mistaken for tired cats. Indeed, in another person, a slow blink would be a great way to tell that person is tired. Your cat may blink slowly when tired, but she’s more likely to do so just because she’s relaxed.
Between two cats, slow blinks are a sign of trust and confidence. The flashing cat signals to the other cat that it is comfortable and not feeling aggressive.
If your cat blinks slowly, he’s saying the same thing. It’s a sign that they trust you, are comfortable with you, and are unlikely to behave erratically at the time.
Another thing to look for in your cat’s eyes is that they appear “shiny” or slightly shiny. Some of this is just an indicator of their health, but just like human eyes tell you a lot about a person, cat eyes tell you a lot about them. Bright eyes are generally happy, healthy and relaxed cats.
Your cat’s food is much more expressive than its mouth. So, while you watch to see if your friend is smiling, you should watch to see if your cat’s ears are forward and relaxed. Both expressions indicate very similar emotions.
Relaxed and forward is a happy cat. Leaning on his head, there is usually an attentive, angry or frightened cat. Or, if your cat is actively/tensely moving their ears all the way forward, they’re probably trying to hear something better, like a mouse. It means they are paying attention.
If you talk to your cat and their ears stay forward and relaxed, or forward and alert, your cat is relaxed and happy. Even in the alert position, it just means your cat is engaged with you and paying close attention.
Much like mange, a cat’s tail posture can be a great indicator of its mental state. Since their faces aren’t as mobile and expressive as yours, their tails can largely serve that purpose.
A tail that straightens without puffy fur or that is straight until a slight curve at the end is usually a sign of a very happy cat. Some breeds of long-haired cats will not erect their tail straight, but it will lay quite straight over their back, this posture means much the same thing.
Upright and not moving much, this is your cat’s relaxed, happy posture.
A curled tail that is always high is another sign of a happy cat. Curled tails usually mean your cat has a lot of energy and is feeling playful.
But you should still be concerned about puffy fur or a tail under your cat’s hind legs or around its belly. These are signs of restlessness or fear in your cat and a sign that he is trying to protect himself.
Some people call it kneading; for others, their cat is happily baking cookies, whatever you call it, kneading the paws is usually a good sign.
This is a kitten behavior that adult cats occasionally use. It’s a good sign that your cat is relaxed, as long as they don’t show other signs of distress.
The main theory behind kneading is that it is a rest from nursing when the movement of the paws on your cat’s mother’s belly encourages milk production. If your cat kneads you, a nearby blanket, or just about anything soft, he’s happy and relaxed. The kneading reminds them to be happy like a kitten.
Pranks and games
A cat relaxed enough to play with a toy in front of you is a cat that really trust you. This is because play is one of the most expressive and vulnerable things a cat can do. If they play, they feel very safe.
A particularly happy cat might bring you toys or ask you to play too. If you play with your cat, you signal to him that you are also happy and relaxed with him.
Of course, not all cat games are fun and games for their owners. When your cat knocks a drink off the table or a favorite decoration off the shelf, it can be more annoying than endearing.
The thing is, your cat isn’t just destructive for no reason. Your cat tries to engage with you and demands attention. They may not really want to draw attention to themselves, but turning things around, especially with eye contact, is kind of like playing a joke on you.
They don’t expect you to be happy, but they want a reaction and know this is one way to do it.
It is also a sign that he is happy and curious, as well as a sign that the cat trusts you. After all, you wouldn’t play a prank on someone you didn’t know well and didn’t like, would you?