Recognizing when your pet is happy may seem challenging, but there are many telltale signs that you can use to determine whether or not your animal companion is content.
“Each species has its own way of communicating,” says Dawn Merton Boothe, DVM, PhD, DACVIM and professor and director of the Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Auburn University. “However, most pets tend to display similar behaviors that we associate with happiness.”
Gaining insight into what makes your furry friend tick can help you be a more responsible pet owner and ensure that she enjoys a long, healthy life.
Here are 10 signs that your pet is happy:
- They sleep soundly
Is your pet sleeping soundly? “The most obvious sign is sound sleep,” says Dr. Zay Satchu, co-founder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet. “When pets are comfortable, relaxed and content, there will not be any distracting movement or noise.”
That doesn't mean that your cat should snore, though — in fact, if they do snore, it might mean that their airways are narrowed in some way. If this is the case, it's best to make an appointment with your vet to get the issue sorted out.
- They show interest in food
Another sign that your pet is happy is they show interest in food. A hungry cat will seem stressed, and a stressed cat may be a cat who feels like its not cared for properly. Feeding your cat three times a day is good for their health and lets them know that you're there for them when they need it.
But feeding your cat should always be done with proper care and consideration. Pet food has expiration dates on it, so be sure to check the label before you feed it to your pet. Food that's been sitting out for too long might make your cat sick, and no one wants that.
Additionally, if you're trying to take care of an obese cat, you should always keep in mind that cats need food just as much as they need water to stay healthy and hydrated. This means keeping them on a strict diet will only serve to weaken their bodies and make them feel more stressed out.
- They seek out affection
One of the signs that your pet is happy is they seek out affection. If your pet comes up to you and wants to be petted, snuggled, or scratched then you know they're happy with their life. They might even come right up to you and rub against your leg or arm if they want attention!
If they're feeling particularly lonely they will also want to spend more time with you, so if this is happening then that's another sign that they're happy.
- They purr
There are many signs that your pet is happy, including purring and tail wags. But there are also some not-so-obvious clues, like a relaxed tongue and licking you.
Vocalizing means that your cat or dog is feeling some type of emotion. When you hear purring, growling, yelping or barking, those sounds are your pet's way of communicating with you. If it's purring, it's probably content; if it's growling or barking, something may be wrong.
When your dog or cat licks you, they're trying to show their affection. Some experts believe they do this because they recognize the salt in our sweat and associate it with something good to eat. When a puppy licks its mother after she has eaten, she will regurgitate her food for the pup. Plus, when dogs and cats lick each other, they're showing submission and friendship and fostering social bonds among their pack members.
When your dog's tail is high up in the air and wagging back and forth quickly, it usually means he's happy to see you or another animal (or at least wants to play). A low-to-the-ground tail wag can mean he's tired or submissive
- They play with toys
A happy and healthy pet will have lots of energy, which they'll need to burn off by playing with their favorite toys. When choosing a toy for your pet, pick one that's appropriate for the size of your animal. Regardless of the toy you choose, keep in mind that aggressive play could lead to an injury.
- They groom themselves
Happy cats or dogs often groom themselves. The action is called self-grooming and it's something animals do to maintain cleanliness and health. While grooming themselves, they can also be making a statement to other animals that they're very happy in their environment.
When an animal grooms itself in front of another animal or person, it's a sign of trust and happiness. They believe that the other animal isn't going to harm them, so they don't need to be on high alert.
Of course, this doesn't mean that if your pet is grooming itself regularly that it's always happy, but it's a good sign when you notice this behavior if you're trying to figure out how your pet is feeling.
- They maintain good hygiene
While some people believe that cats and dogs don't need baths, it's important that you keep your pet clean. Healthy animals will take care of their own grooming needs, keeping their coats clean and free of debris, but most pets also benefit from a good bath every now and then.
While cats tend to be more fastidious than dogs, they still may need you to step in. Sometimes older cats have mobility issues that make it difficult for them to groom themselves well, so an extra bath can help keep them clean and prevent matting.
When your pet has a healthy coat and skin — with no irritation or wounds — it's a sign that they're feeling fine. And having a clean coat means less chance of picking up fleas or other parasites.
- They show normal behaviors for their species and breed
Dogs and cats can act out when they're not feeling well. So it's important to be able to tell if your pet is sick or happy.
One of the Signs That Your Pet Is Happy is They show normal behaviors for their species and breed, like a dog wagging its tail or a cat purring. For example, a cat might lick themselves clean, stretch and lie in the sun. If you notice any changes in your pet's behavior, contact your vet for an appointment.
Happy pets will also have bright eyes that look alert. Their body temperature should be normal, and their breathing and heart rate should not be elevated. Keep an eye on the rhythm of your pet's breathing, as it can indicate pain or fear.
If you notice anything unusual or if you have any concerns about your pet's health, give your vet a call.