10 Things Your Cat Needs to be Happy: An Essential Guide

Key takeaways

Sometimes, trying to figure out what makes our cats happy can be difficult. And, naturally, as pet owners, we want them to be as content as possible.

We've put together a list of 10 things we think are key to being a good pet parent.

If you can tick off all 10, you can rest assured that your cat is probably very happy!

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. 1. Fresh water
  3. 2. Wet food and dry food
  4. 3. Mental stimulation
  5. 4. Space to climb
  6. 5. Space to run
  7. 6. Veterinary care
  8. 7. Good pet insurance
  9. 8. Litter box
  10. 9. Attention
  11. 10. Grooming
  12. FAQs
  13. Final thoughts

1. Fresh water

While you may think you don't see your cat drinking, they have to regularly to keep healthy. More than 24 hours without water will start to put stress on their internal organs. This is why it's important they always have access to fresh water.
However, we know our cats are fussy creatures. So, to encourage them to drink, try the following:

Keep their water bowls clean and change the water every day

Try a water fountain bowl (instinctually, they trust moving or running water more)

If you have more than one cat, make sure they each have their own water source

A cat drinking from a water bowl

2. Wet food and dry food

Diet is very important in keeping your cat happy and healthy. A nutritious diet will help them maintain energy, keep their coats healthy, and prevent many health issues.
Each cat is different and will need a specific set of nutrients based on their needs. Consider:

Your cat's age

Your cat's breed

Your cat's health issues

Do your research or chat with your vet for advice on what your cat needs. For example, elderly cats need much more protein than younger kittens to help maintain their muscle mass (source).
It's also good to balance wet and dry cat food. High-quality wet food often contains plenty of important nutrients, but dry food will have a cleaning effect on your cat's teeth, helping prevent the build up of plaque.
Top Tip: If you have more than one cat, make sure they have separate food and water bowls to avoid any unnecessary fights!
Cat sat next to a food bowl outside

3. Mental stimulation

It's no secret that cats are intelligent beings. Cat toys are a great option to keep your kitty entertained. It keeps them engaged, stimulated, and interested, and it provides an opportunity for you to bond with them.
Some toys cats love include:

Laser toys

Wind up mice

Remote controlled toys

This will help satisfy their high prey drive and practice their agility and speed. If you want some peace and quiet, but don't want to neglect your kitty, try puzzle feeders. They're a great way to encourage cats to solve problems for a tasty treat.
Not only does this help training efforts by rewarding good behavior, but it's also a fun way for your cats to exercise their brains!
a cat exploring outside

4. Space to climb

Cats naturally like to be up high. For wild cats, It allows them space to survey their territory and look out for any potential predators or threats. Unfortunately, many cats can't do this in the home. So, it's important you provide areas where it is safe for your cat to climb!

A cat tree

Cat trees are a good option for those who can't install climbing blocks on the wall (so, most of us!). They don't take up too much space but can make your cat's territory more interesting.
While giving your cat space to climb safely, instead of ruining your furniture, it also gives them a place to rest, sleep, and feel comfortable in their environment.

A scratching post

An important part of a cat's life is scent. They will mark their territory so they feel safe within it. This often results in scratch marks on rugs, sofas, and chairs.
This is because they have scent glands on their paws. So, to allow them to feel comfortable and act naturally in their home, introduce a scratching post. Aside from leaving their scent on it, they'll likely end up trying to climb it!
A cat climbing a tree outside

5. Space to run

Similarly to climbing, cats are built to run. They are incredibly fast and agile, and it's how many kitties like to spend their day.

Indoor cats

It can be difficult for indoor cats to find the space to run, but it's important you consider this and try to improve their situation. If you have a small apartment with no secure outside space, then owning a cat might not be the best idea.
If you own an indoor cat, try to limit the amount of furniture or obstacles in the house. You should also try to avoid lots of clutter. This will make the space feel bigger to the cat and give them the space they need to run and chase their toys.

Outdoor cats

Most outdoor cats will be getting the exercise they need. They will naturally be walking and running long distances by surveying their territory and hunting.
It is still important to make enough space for them inside the house, but they'll likely use the indoors as a place to rest and recover from their great adventures!
Outdoor cat relaxing in a garden

6. Veterinary care

Taking your cat to the vet is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. It's never nice to see our furry friends distressed, and it can put us off getting them regularly checked.
However, professional advice is always the best advice. If you notice any changes in their behavior or fur, it's worth asking your vet so you can catch any potential health issues as early as possible and get them the help they need.

7. Good pet insurance

Another reason why many pet owners may put off going to a vet is because it can cost a lot. We may dread the bill at the end of the appointment, but we have to remember to put our pets first.
A way to help reduce the cost is with good pet insurance. This will also help in accidents or emergencies. If your kitty needs surgery or ongoing medicine, then your insurance will be able to cover a portion of the cost. Hopefully, this means you'll never find yourself in a situation where you cannot care for your furry friend.
A cat being seen by a vet

8. Litter box

Litter boxes are essential for cats. Even if they are outdoor/indoor kitties that mostly do their business in the garden, it's important to have a backup for rainy days.
Keeping litter boxes clean is really important for your pet's wellbeing. Unhygienic conditions can distress our cats and lead to messy accidents!
Top Tip: Why not invest in a self cleaning litter box? This means even if you forget, or go away, your cat will remain happy and healthy.

9. Attention

To build a bond between you and your kitty, they need to feel loved. The best way to do this is to give them attention. Cats, while being naturally independent, are still sociable creatures.
If you find it difficult to find the time to interact with your cat, try setting a specific time aside each day. You could:

Play with them

Groom them

Cuddle them

Talk to them

A cat owner on their phone next to their cat

10. Grooming

We may think our cats are pretty low maintenance. And while that is largely true, it doesn't mean we don't need to groom them. In fact, there are plenty of things we can do as owners to make our cats more comfortable and to prevent any health issues in the future.


It may come as a surprise to many of us, but cats should have their teeth brushed at least weekly, if not daily. Depending on your cat, this just may not be feasible. However, if you have a kitten, try introducing it as early as possible so they become accustomed to the routine.
You can also care for your cat's teeth by:

Feeding them dry food

Feeding them dental chew toys

Taking them to a vet


It's important to keep your cat's claws clipped. There's no need to do this daily or even weekly, but just when they become noticeably too long.
Clipping their claws will help avoid:




This is because it will prevent their nails from going too long and piercing their pads.


You may notice that your cat naturally sheds when the weather gets a little warmer. You can help this process by brushing them regularly.
If you have a long-haired cat, then you should brush them daily. Whereas short-haired cats will only need the occasional brush.
This can also help:




We may think our cats are pretty low maintenance. And while that is largely true, it doesn't mean we don't need to groom them.

A cat owner cuddling with their cat


What are the basic needs of a cat?

The basic needs of a cat are food, shelter, and care. However, to keep a cat happy, you will need to ensure they are mentally stimulated, getting enough exercise, having a nutritious diet, and getting the love and attention they deserve!

What do cats need to be happy?

Cats need lots of attention and love to be happy, alongside a nutritious diet, a safe home, and exercise.

What do indoor cats need?

Indoor cats need lots of cat toys to keep them stimulated and prevent boredom. They will also need plenty of attention and enough space to run.

What do I need to own a cat?

To own a cat, you need to have enough space in your home, enough time to give them attention and love, and be able to afford good pet insurance and veterinary care.

What do cats dislike the most?

Cats dislike many things, but some of the worst include a dirty litter box, going to the vet, being left alone, and loud noises.

How do you tell if a cat is happy?

You can tell if a cat is happy by reading their body language. A relaxed posture, blinking or winking eyes, and purring are all signs of a happy cat!

How do you cheer up a cat?

You can cheer up a cat by offering them their favorite treats, cuddling them, spending quality time with them, and feeding them.

Final thoughts

So, whether you're researching ready for a new cat or if you're a seasoned pet owner who wants to make their kitty extra happy, we hope this guide has helped you.
Despite cats being a great low-maintenance pet in comparison to dogs, it doesn't mean you can forget about their needs. A happy cat means a happy owner!

Written by

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Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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