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Figuring out your finicky feline

Figuring out your finicky feline
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Sometimes, stereotypes exist for a reason. Case in point: cats. Even with the most affectionate cat breeds, it can be difficult to tell whether your cat loves you, likes you, or just kinda, sorta tolerates you – or indeed, whether your cat is happy cat or not. But we have some good news: most of them love you, and science proves it. According to a study from Oregon State University, most cats do, indeed, bond with their caretakers. Researchers looked at 70 kittens between three and eight months of age and found that the majority (64%) had secure attachments to their owners. So, how can you tell if your cat is happy – with you and with life, in general? We got the lowdown from pet experts on how to decode feline behaviour.

They rub against you

They rub against you
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Are cats marking their territory when they rub against you – or are they just happy to see you? It’s a little of both, actually. Cats that live together and have a strong social bond typically groom and rub on each other, according to pet behaviourist Professor Wailani Sung. “It has been theorised that they do this to promote a colony scent since this action leaves behind oils from the scent gland on their head, cheeks and chin,” she explains. “When they rub on people, they leave behind oils to mark us, but it is also a sign that they like us and are happy to see us.”

They knead or ‘make biscuits’

They knead or ‘make biscuits’
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You might have noticed your kitty making a strange kneading motion on blankets, pillows or even you. It’s completely adorable, but it’s also a sign that they’re in a very good mood. “Cats are feeling content and safe when they knead,” says veterinarian Shelly Zacharias. “You may also notice they purr and have their eyes half-closed, which are often other signs of feeling safe and content.”

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They blink slowly at you

They blink slowly at you
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Blinking may seem like the most common and mundane motion to us, but for cats, it’s a sign that they trust you. That’s because when they’re blinking, their guard is down, and that shows they’re content and happy. “Direct eye contact is considered a challenge or threat,” says Dr Sung. “If a cat is looking at another cat or person, they want the other party to know that it is a friendly look and not a hostile stare or glare. Therefore, the blink conveys the cat’s intention to be friendly.” If you return the slow-blink, you’ll communicate the same.

Grooming remains a top priority

Grooming remains a top priority
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Cats are fastidious when it comes to their grooming, and a well-kept coat is a good sign that all is well in your kitty’s world. “Keeping up with a healthy, pristine coat is an activity of a cat who is feeling good, healthy, and has an overall feeling of positive wellbeing,” says Dr Zacharias. “If your kitty is not keeping up her grooming habits and appears unkempt, make an appointment to see your vet.”

Trying to decode your cat’s behaviour? Here are 17 things your cat would love to tell you.

They’re eating well

They’re eating well
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In the same way that grooming is an indication of good health and happiness, having an appetite is also a sign that your feline is feeling fine. If they’re eager to eat at every meal, that’s good news for everyone. Conversely, cats who aren’t eating may not be feeling well or may be under stress.

Something off with your cat’s appetite? Here are a few reasons why your cat may not be eating.

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They purr

They purr
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“Cat purrs during interactions with people, greeting familiar cats, or while nursing kittens. This can mean they’re feeling happy and content,” says Dr Sung. “Cats may also purr when they are sleepy or drowsy or when they are in warm, familiar environments, when soliciting food from the owner, and kneading.” You can generally interpret purring as positive if your kitty also exhibits some of the other telltale signs of contentment on this list.

They emit a high-pitched purr or chirp

They emit a high-pitched purr or chirp
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Have you ever heard your cat make a high-pitched purring or chirping sound – kind of like a cross between a purr and a meow – but had no idea what it meant? We have the answer: They do that when they’re in a great mood or when they want to play. It’s their way of saying, “I’m a happy cat!” and letting others know. “This is a form of communication and a self-soothing mechanism for the kitty,” says Dr Zacharias. “They want other animals, and us, to know they come in peace.”

Now discover 14 common cat ‘facts’ that are actually false.

They greet you with meows

They greet you with meows
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In addition to chirping, cats that greet you with quick and high meows can also be a sign that they’re in good spirits. “When the owner is gone for the day and is greeted by meows at the door, this vocalisation is a greeting. It may also be an expression that the cat is happy to see the owner,” says Dr Sung. “Sometimes cats come up and meow to solicit attention. In this situation, the cat may want the owner to interact with him in some manner, whether it’s to pet the cat, give him or her food, or perhaps play with the cat.”

Their tail is in the ‘question mark’ position

Their tail is in the ‘question mark’ position
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Cats use tail positions to tell us how they are feeling. “It’s their way of letting us know when they are happy and playful, feeling threatened, scared or even not feeling well,” says Dr Zacharias. “Happy, confident cats hold their tail in a question mark position. These cats are in a good mood and usually ready to interact.”

Conversely, here’s how you can tell if your cat has anxiety.

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