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How Cats Show Their Happiness

By The Daily Cat experts

How Cats Show Their Happiness

We take smiles for granted, but the evolution of these and other facial expressions was a big deal for animals, including humans. Smiles and other expressions allow us to communicate our emotional state to others. Among primates, as social living became more important, the ability to quickly indicate fear, mating status, lack of threat and more helped our ancestors survive in the wild.

Humans, chimpanzees and other great apes even share expressions and other physical indicators of pride, which would appear to be a more abstract emotion. Azim Shariff, a researcher at the University of Oregon, studied facial expressions and found that chimps thrust out their chests, which increases testosterone production and lung capacity, showing others that they are ready to take challengers on. “We seem to share a number of similar expressions, including pride, with chimpanzees and other apes," says Shariff.

Since cats are mammals too, we share many things in common with them. Smiling, however, is not one of them. When a cat shows its teeth in a way that might look like it’s grinning, it is probably grimacing, trying to pick up odors, or is angry and ready to use those teeth to bite into someone.

According to the Arizona Humane Society, when a cat is happy, it may exhibit these facial features:

  • Relaxed cheeks that are not pulled in
  • Open ears that are facing forward
  • Closed, relaxed mouth
  • Wide open eyes that are focused on you
  • Whiskers that are pointed outward and not spread apart much

Humans tend to rely a lot on facial expressions, but cats use their bodies to communicate how they feel. A happy cat will tend to hold its head and tail high, with its tail raised upward and fur lying flat on the body.


Tags: cat behavior

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Posted on May 25, 2012

Diane from Calgary says: My kitten Bandit shows how happy she is by putting her tail straight up & then it shakes a bit, rubs herself on your legs, until you bend down to pet her. She's the kitten of our cat Smokey, even though she's going to be 7 in July I still call her the baby!

Posted on April 11, 2012

Code Charles says: It rises up when happy! =:-)=

Posted on April 12, 2012

Pierre says: I had a female short-hair tabbby cat for 18 years given to me by my former landlord who found her near her cottage in upper NY state. The strange thing about her is that she never meowed. Did not like to be picked up; wary of strangers; never scratched furniture or carpets. Eventually developped thyroid problems but controlled with medication. Also developped kidney problems which took her away. Only cat I ever owned. I have her ashes which reminds me of one of the best periods of my life.

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