You buy comfy beds. The house is stocked with treats and toys. You carve out time each day to play and cuddle. As a pet parent, you do everything possible to ensure your furry friend is happy. But how do you actually know when they’re enjoying themselves? Body language and behavior can tell a lot about your pet’s mood. So let’s look at some key indicators that your dog or cat is happy and relaxed.
Signs of a happy cat
Does anything beat the sound of a kitty with their motor running? Purring is one of the most well-known signs that a cat is content. Though there are instances when a cat might purr to express fear or pain, if the purring is accompanied by relaxed, friendly behavior, it’s a clear indicator that your cat is enjoying the moment.
Kneading, a.k.a. "making biscuits," is a natural behavior for cats. They use their paws in a push/pull motion against soft objects for several reasons. If your cat is kneading you, it may be a sign that you are their preferred human. They may also use the scent glands in their paws to claim you as their own. Either way, it’s a sign that your cat has great affection for you and considers you part of their family.
Can kneading hurt a little sometimes? Sure. Is it worth it knowing your cat is relaxed and happy to be in your lap? We think so. Still, you can minimize any discomfort by keeping your cat’s nails trimmed. You can also put a blanket or towel between you and your cat to keep their claws from touching your skin.
A head butt from your cat, followed by them rubbing their cheeks against you, is another way to transfer some of their scent to you. They do this to designate you as a "safe space," and it’s a sign that they trust you and want to be near you.
If your cat looks at you with soft eyes followed by slow blinking, it’s their body’s way of letting you know they are happy and content in your presence.
Curiosity and playfulness
A happy cat feels comfortable and confident in their surroundings. If they regularly approach to see what you’re up to and try to engage you in play, it means they feel good about their environment and are happy to spend time with you.
Yep, we said drooling. If you’re petting your cat in your lap and they start to drool, it may be the ultimate (if messy) sign of relaxation. However, if your cat is drooling when you’re not cuddling them or they seem stressed or in pain, that could be a sign of an underlying issue and may be worth a chat with your veterinarian.
Signs of a happy dog
Tail wags (sometimes)
Dogs use their tails to communicate various emotions, including anxiety, stress, and yes, happiness. Typically, a happy wag is one where the tail is held in a neutral or slightly raised position and moves in a relaxed manner from side to side.
Does it ever seem like your dog is smiling? Sometimes you’ll see your pup relax their face, turn their mouth slightly up, and rest their tongue on their exposed teeth (but not in a curled lip, warning sign kind of way). This is often a sign that they feel content and happy to see you.
If your dog is wiggling, bouncing, or prancing around the room, it means they can barely contain their excitement. This is a sign that they are happy, playful, and ready for a good time.
Taking a bow
Bowing down in front of is not a sign of worship. But it is a sign that your pup is ready for a good ol’ fashioned play session. Happy dogs—especially young ones—have a playful attitude and love to have fun with other dogs or their favorite humans.
Sometimes, being close just isn’t enough. Happy dogs want to be physically touching their person. So if your dog leans into you, consider it a sign of love and affection.
Showing their belly
When your pup shows you their belly, it’s a sign that they trust you and feel comfortable in your presence. And if their overall body language is relaxed and inviting attention, take this as a cue to give them a little scratch on their tummy. They’ll be even happier with you for it!
These behaviors are just some ways you can tell if your dog or cat is happy. Every pet is different, and as your bond grows, you’ll start to recognize other indicators that your pet is happy and content. Familiarizing yourself with dog and cat body language and paying attention to the individual signals your pet gives you will help you understand all of their moods. And that will help you ensure that you’re providing a happy, healthy environment for them at all times.