In a series of recent articles ("How to Make Your Home a Cat-Friendly Place," "'Why Claw Care Keeps Cats Happy," and "Can't We All Just Get Along? Recognizing and Resolving Cat Conflict"), we have talked about all the ways that we can reduce our cats’ anxiety levels, gain their trust, establish communication and get them “working” for us by creating an environment that encourages them to express their unique "telos" (see "Understanding the “Catness” of a Cat") in acceptable ways. Now is the time to ask: Is it working?

How Are We Doing With Cat Care?

We can tell when our cats are healthy and happy by watching them, just like we do for other members of the household, and noticing when they are “doing fine” or “not so good.” When we observe our cat, we are looking for a pet that maintains a healthy body weight and has body postures that we associate with calm confidence. In addition to these general observations, there are a variety of things you can pay attention to about your cat, so if something changes, you don’t miss it. In some cases, changes that are “not so good” may be due to fear or anxiety. In other cases, they may be due to disease. Sometimes it can be hard to tell which. If you are unsure, your veterinarian can help you sort it out. Always remember to consult him or her if you see a change you cannot trace back to a logical cause.

But in the general sense of trying to determine whether things are “fine” or “not so good” with your cat, we've compiled a handy reference (in the table above and on the next page) of things to look for when you assess your feline.

Assess Your Cat's Behavior

If you want to get a detailed picture of how your cat is doing, you can use the following checklist to “keep score” of how frequently your cat is exhibiting the following positive behaviors. You might want to regularly ask yourself, does your cat:

1. Leave household articles (furniture, drapes, etc.) alone?

2. Calmly eat small amounts of food at intervals throughout the day?

3. Calmly drink small amounts of water at intervals throughout the day?

4. Use the litterbox appropriately?

5. Get along with people in the home?

6. Get along with other pets in the home?

7. Remain calm when left alone?

8. Stay relaxed during normal, everyday handling (grooming, petting)?

9. Calm down quickly if startled or excited?

10. React calmly to everyday events?

11. Play well with people?

12. Play well with other family cats?

13. Show affection without acting clingy or annoying?

14. Tolerate confinement in a carrier (including travel)?

15. Groom entire body calmly?

16. Use scratching posts (instead of furniture)?

17. Play with toys?

Determine whether your cat exhibits these behaviors a) all of the time, b) most of the time, c) some of the time, d) a little bit of the time, or e) none of the time. If your assessment is that your cat is doing these things mostly a) all of the time, then you can feel pretty confident that your cat is happy and healthy and you are doing a good job of understanding the “catness” of your cat and making her home cat friendly. If your answers are a little further down the spectrum, then take another hard look at things. Review the article series we’ve put together for tips on how to keep your cat happy and your home cat friendly, and if necessary, consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health concerns.