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Do Cats Smile? What Owners Need to Know

Understanding a cat’s emotions can be trickier than understanding a dog’s. While it’s easy to spot when a dog is happy with their wagging tail, open mouth, and bright eyes, cats express happiness differently, making it harder for those unfamiliar with their behavior.

We all want to make our cats happy, but cats, more often than not, look annoyed, especially towards us. You may even start wondering, do cats smile at all? We suspect they do, but their version of a smile is not what we typically expect. 

So how do we know when our cats are smiling at us? For now, let’s delve deeper into whether and how cats smile and explore ways to bring a smile to your cat’s face.


Image by Christiane from Pixabay 


When a Cat is Smiling But Not Smiling

Do cats smile when happy? In their way, yes. But most cats have a naturally funny face that looks like a smile. Their mouths turn up at the corners, making them appear happy.

Although some cats may look grumpy, most cats have a slightly smiley expression even when not showing any particular emotion. Some even call this “resting smile face” for laughs. 

Kitties can also make funny faces that look like cat smiles, but they’re not actually smiling in the true sense. Cats and many other animals have scent receptors on the roofs of their mouths. So when they do what looks like open-mouthed sniffing, it helps them get a stronger smell of what’s around them.


Image by Jhon Jorge Ramos Asencio from Pixabay 

Side note: Grumpy cat? Here are 13 scents cats hate.  

The behavior is called the Flehmen Response or “stinky cat face.” It’s when cats open their mouths and sniff urgently. They’re not smiling or grimacing, though. It’s just a way for them to smell things better. 

How Do Cats Smile?

Cats have a special way of showing happiness that is similar to a human smile. It’s called a slow blink. A cat is content and relaxed may give you a slow, intentional blink. And interestingly, if you do the same back to the cat, it might respond to you.

Should You Smile Back? 

The short answer is yes! There are a few things to be aware of when it comes to a smiling cat, though: 

When it comes to cats, a smile can make a big difference in how they perceive and interact with you. The intention behind your smile matters as much as the act itself. 

If you have a secure and comfortable cat, it may not react strongly to your facial expressions, whether you’re smiling or frowning. However, you can try a special trick: smile and give your cat slow blinks. 

In response, your contented feline companion might return the slow blinks or even come closer to rub against you. These behaviors indicate that your happy cat recognizes you as their trusted person and completely trusts you. It’s a heartwarming experience that strengthens your bond with your feline friend.


Image by husnerova from Pixabay 

Timid Cats May Need More Patience

If you have a new or timid kitty, try to approach them calmly and carefully. Smiling yourself may remind you to do this, provided you project a happy, calm demeanor. Cats who haven’t formed a strong bond with someone or don’t feel completely safe can easily get startled by loud voices and sudden movements. 

By maintaining a smile, you consciously project a gentle demeanor as you get to know your cat. This can encourage them to come out of their shell gradually.

Remember, a smile benefits your cat and contributes to a positive and harmonious relationship between you.

tabby cat with smile sign

How to Keep Your Cat Smiling

Why do cats smile? Because they can! Making your cat happy may seem like a project. It’s pretty easy to follow the basics, assuming all is well with your cat health-wise.  

Social and Playtime

Playing with your cat every day is not only beneficial for their physical health but also provides mental stimulation. It’s a great way to satisfy their natural hunting and playing instincts while deepening their bond as playmates. 

Interestingly, playing with cats can even release dopamine in the human brain, making it a win-win situation for both of you. So, prioritize some playtime with your feline friend every day. Invest in some quality cat toys, too.


Image by tookapic from Pixabay 

Good, Healthy Food

To ensure your cat’s well-being and happiness, it’s essential to choose a nutritious cat food diet and establish a proper feeding routine. You’ll promote a vibrant and content feline companion by prioritizing your cat’s health and activity levels.

A well-balanced cat food diet supports your cat’s overall health. Look for high-quality cat foods with essential nutrients like proteins, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are vital in maintaining your cat’s energy levels, immune system, and overall vitality. 

white cat smiling

In addition to a nutritious diet, establishing a consistent feeding routine is equally important. Cats thrive on routine, and having set mealtimes helps them feel secure. Designate specific times for feeding and try to stick to them consistently. This will provide structure for your cat, regulate its appetite and prevent overeating.

When creating a feeding routine, consider dividing your cat’s daily food portions into multiple smaller meals throughout the day. This emulates a more natural feeding schema for your cat, if it were in the wild. Additionally, interactive feeding toys or puzzles can greatly stimulate your cat mentally and physically during mealtime.

Remember always to provide fresh water, as hydration is vital for your cat’s overall well-being. 


Image by photosforyou from Pixabay 

The Odd Treat Will Help

Treat time can be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your bond with your beloved cat while boosting their happiness. After all, who can resist the joy of a delightful treat or a relaxing space-out session? Healthy cat treats or a taste of catnip will usually do the trick. 

ginger cat do cats smile

Can Cats Smile? Final Thoughts

Although cats may not display facial expressions in the same way as humans, they do have behaviors that can be seen as a form of smiling. However, it’s important to note that cats’ facial expressions are more understated compared to humans and dogs.

To truly understand a cat’s emotions, it’s essential to consider more than just their facial expressions. Observing their overall behavior and body language is key. By attentively noting these cues, you can better understand your furry friend’s needs and respond accordingly.

Check out this in-depth piece to learn more about cat behaviors or green eyed black cats or curly haired cats.

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