Can Cats Smile?

Most of us remember the grinning Cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but while some cats look like they are smiling, they don’t in fact smile to show they are happy.

Facial features

Can cats smile?

Some cats have a mouth that curves upwards, which gives the impression of a smile. The British Shorthair (pictured above) has a smiley face which is interesting because the Cheshire Cat is based on a British Shorthair.

In contrast, Grumpy Cat (real name Tardar Sauce) earned fame because of her downward pointing mouth, which gave the impression she was grumpy, by all accounts, she was a sweet and affectionate cat.

Grumpy cat

Flehmen response

Flehmen response in cats

The flehmen response is a biological mechanism used by several animals, including cats, to investigate scents. Pheromone-rich odours, particularly those associated with cats can trigger the flehmen response. The cat curls the upper lips in what appears to be a sneer, in doing so, it opens two small ducts (nasopalatine canals) on the roof of the cat’s mouth behind the incisors which join up with the Jacobson’s organ. The Jacobson’s organ, an is an olfactory organ which plays an important role in the perception of certain pheromones and scents.

Panting

Cat panting

Panting is the open-mouthed, rapid breathing; it is much more commonly seen in dogs than cats. Some cats are more prone to panting than others. In some circumstances, panting can be normal, but it may also be a sign of an underlying problem.

Panting after exercise or play can be normal, increased activity (during exercise) requires more oxygen, which your cat obtains by breathing more rapidly (just as we do when we have been running) and helps to lower the cat’s body temperature.

Pain

Cats are masters at hiding pain, but give off subtle cues. Recent research has looked at the facial expression of cats who are in pain. One indicator of pain is a grimace, with the lips closed and pulled back, which could possibly be confused for a smile.

Other signs include head down position, pulled back whiskers, squinting, tense body, hunched up, aggression and avoids being petted.

If cats don’t smile, what are the signs that they are happy?

While cats don’t smile to show they are happy there are many other ways he does show his feelings with his body language.

Upright tail

Happy cat with upright tail

The cat’s tail communicates a lot to other cats as well as humans about how he is feeling. An upright tail which is relaxed and slightly curved at the tip is a sign the cat is happy and content.

Purring

Cat purring

Purring is one of the most obvious signs that a cat is happy, and will often accompany head butting (below). Although associated with a happy and contented cat, cats can purr when they are in pain, giving birth and even when they are dying. It is thought that purring may comfort the cat during times of stress or pain.

Head butting

Cat rubbing against a human's leg

A cat who rubs their head or tail on a person is the ultimate compliment. These locations contain scent glands, which transfer pheromones when they rub to mark you as their own. You are a part of their kin.

Slow blinking

Cat slow blinking

Cats view a direct stare as intimidating, particularly from strangers or dominant animals. This explains why cats are sometimes attracted to non-cat-lovers, as people who don’t make eye contact with a cat are seen as less of a threat.

The slow blink is reserved for people the cat trusts and loves. It is a sign that the cat is comfortable and content. If your cat gives you a slow blink, return the compliment with a slow blink yourself.

Kneading

Video courtesy Mish, YouTube

Kneading is a throwback to kittenhood when kittens knead on their mother’s belly when they nurse. Some cats continue to knead into adulthood and may knead on blankets or their chosen human. It is often accompanied by slow, loud purring, drooling and with partly closed eyes. Kneading is one of the most recognised signs that a cat is happy.

Relaxed posture

Happy cat showing a relaxed posture

A picture is worth a thousand words and this photo perfectly demonstrates a happy and content cat. The eyes are relaxed and closed, the whiskers and ears are forward and the cat is lying on his or her back, and allowing the belly to be stroked, which is a sign of trust.

Socialisation Window For Kittens

Socialisation window of kittens

The early weeks of the kitten’s life are essential for them to learn about their environment, become socialised with people and learn species-specific behaviour. This socialisation window (also known as socialisation period) occurs between 2-7 weeks when the kitten is most receptive to a wide range of stimuli that can lay down the groundwork for how the kitten responds to people and situations for the rest of his or her life. During the socialisation period, the kitten should be exposed to situations which will be a part of their everyday life. This includes interactions with people, pets, veterinarians as well as environmental enrichment. Kittens who are socialised during this critical period have a better chance of growing up into well-adjusted adults.

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Why Do Cats Have Elongated (Elliptical) Pupils?

Why do cats have slit pupils?

The pupils are the black hole in the centre of the eye, which dilate (widen) and constrict (narrow) to control the amount of light which hits the retina at the back of the eye.  A study published by Science Advances explains why pupil shapes can range in shape from vertical, horizontal and circular and their ecological niche. The study looked at 214 species of land animal and three pupil shapes; vertical, horizontal and round.

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All About Ginger Cats

Ginger Maine Coon

Also known as orange, red and marmalade, the ginger coat colour is sex-linked, which means it occurs on the X chromosome and is symbolised by the letter O (for orange). O is dominant over non-orange (o), and O determines whether a cat will produce eumelanin or not (dominant epistasis). In cats with orange fur, pheomelanin (red pigment) completely replaces eumelanin (black pigment).

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Cat Lifespan – How Long Do Cats Live?

Cat lifespan, how long do cats live?

The average lifespan of a cat can range from 11 – 15 years, but many factors determine just how long a cat will live. One survey which followed 118,016 cats attending 90 practices in England found the average lifespan of a cat is 14 years. The most common causes of death in cats under five was trauma, followed by viral disease and respiratory disease and the most common cause of death in cats over five years was kidney disease.

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Cats and Laser Pointers: The Pros and Cons

Cats and laser pointers

Laser pointers are a popular addition to the feline home; the laser mimics an insect or animal on the move, which stimulates the cat’s predatory response to stalk and chase the target.

Cats in the wild spend a large chunk of their day hunting. Domestic cats have the luxury of food on call, but those wild instincts remain. Inactivity can lead to boredom and obesity, which is linked to many health risks. Interactive play is a great way to provide both physical exercise as well as mental stimulation for our cats. This is especially important for indoor-only cats.

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International Homeless Animals Day – 3rd Saturday of August

International Homeless Animals Day

August 17th is International Homeless animals day, which is held on the third Saturday of August. The day was founded by the International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR) to bring attention to the pet overpopulation epidemic.

Life on the streets is not kind; homeless animals risk disease, attacks, traffic and the elements. Animal shelters do what they can to shelter and find homes for unwanted and homeless animals, but there is never enough space. As a result, hundreds of thousands of healthy kittens, cats, puppies and dogs are euthanised every year.

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Black Cat Breeds: 17 Black Breeds of Cat

Black British Shorthair cat

At a glance

  • Bombay
  • British Shorthair
  • Scottish Fold
  • Oriental
  • Persian
  • Exotic
  • Devon Rex
  • Cornish Rex
  • Norwegian Forest Cat
  • Maine Coon
  • Don Sphynx
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • LaPerm
  • American Curl
  • Selkirk Rex
  • Sphynx
  • Turkish Angora

 

The beautiful sleek black coat colour occurs in a variety of cat breeds as well as domestic (mixed breed) cats. Only Bombay is the only breed of cat who can only be found in black, but many other breeds of cat come in black as well as other colours.

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Environmental Enrichment For Cats

Cat running on cat wheel

Environmental enrichment has become an important focus for pet owners as more and more cats become indoor only. What is environmental enrichment and how does it help cats?

Benefits of environmental enrichment

An indoor cat who is not provided with a stimulating environment will become bored, and that is where issues start.

Left to their own devices without physical or mental stimulation, a cat can look for non-healthy ways to relieve stress and boredom, most often in unhealthy ways such as developing obsessive-compulsive disorders.

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