Can Cats Smile?

In a world of increasingly grumpy felines, cats have a reputation for being distant, overly independent, and sometimes downright evil. Dogs on the other hand are known to be friendlier, more loving, and willing to please. But cat lovers of the world must band together to advocate for kitties, proclaiming that these furry friends know how to love, play, have fun and smile ... right? Wait, is it even possible for cats to smile? Let's find out.

Can cats smile?

Sorry, cat lovers! While canines are known to have their own doggy version of smiling and laughing, it is generally believed that cats do not know how to physically smile.

Smiling is a human construct and not a natural part of the animal kingdom. This is probably why we enjoy it so much when we think animals are actually smiling because it's out of the ordinary.

Portrait of a gray cat with blue eyes.
credit: alika1712/iStock/GettyImages

Nicky Trevorrow, behavioral manager of the UK's leading feline welfare charity, explains that cats have evolved to not show emotions in order to survive in the wild. It is possible, however, to get a read on how your cat is feeling through his body language. The closest cats get to a smile is the "slow blink." When a cat closes his eyes slowly and his eyelids reveal just the smallest sliver of his pupils, this usually means he is content. Slowly scratch your cats head or stroke under his chin and you'll see what we mean.

Happy kitten likes being stroked by woman's hand.
credit: NiseriN/iStock/GettyImages

Monitor these other kitty features to get a better sense of your cat's mood. You just might pick up on some kitty smile equivalents!

Purring: Purring is maybe the most common form of kitty communication. A purring cat is happy, relaxed, and at peace, which should make any cat parent smile.

Ears: When a cat's ears are facing forward its a clear sigh of unabashed feline joy.

Tail: Tails are telling. Quivering cat tails can point to distress, but a tail that is down and still points to relaxation and is like a cat smiling with his body. Awww!

Belly: You will know a cat really loves (and trusts) you if he exposes her belly to you. An exposed belly is the ultimate sign of vulnerability for a cat. If she turns his belly to you, she trusts you will not harm her and may even give him a rub. If he could smile, she totally would.

cat hug

That's love.