Do cats have the ability to smile?

Smiling cat a chartreux
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Photo copyright Helmi Flick

This isn’t the first article on PoC of smiling cats. Michael tackled the topic back in July with this article. Today I’d like to introduce you to some smiling cats I’ve photographed, and the story behind the photo.

I’ve done a bit of reading on the subject of cat smiling, and many don’t believe a cat has the ability to produce a smile. I believe the photos of my cats show cats can indeed produce a smile. This isn’t just an accidental positioning of facial muscles-no way!

I would like to say it’s very rare for me to be honored with a smiling cat photo. They’re few and far between, and usually occur when the cat is either asleep or getting away with something they’re not supposed to be doing. Or sometimes a bit of both. It’s difficult, but a necessity to keep my camera within a hands reach. If not, then I may miss a priceless moment.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

My cat Furby has always been a lot of fun to photograph. He doesn’t smile for his photos, and it’s rare I get one of him when he doesn’t have a guilty expression on his face. Unless he’s asleep. The same holds true for our boy Sammy, who definitely enjoys his naps, smiling optional.

Henry is a solid white beauty who knows a good thing when he has it. Rescued from being eaten by coyotes, he’s adjusted to life well, and once in a while he honors me with a smiling photo. I doubt he had much to smile about as a stray abandoned by his family.

Cat smiling

Handsome Henry smiling?

Oozy is perhaps the best model I’ve had in my life. He was named after an oozing abscess, and the name just suits him. Oozy is a mischievous little toe biter who thinks he’s king of the castle. He always jumps into the cages after the cats on special diets are fed. He loves getting any leftovers.

Cat smiling

Oozy smiling

Oozy also enjoys a jog from the floor to the trunk to the kitchen bar and across to the sink area where most of the food is prepped. Don’t turn your back on this little guy or dinner will be gone! Oozy even smiled when he was a sick kitten, which is surprising. The one time he doesn’t smile is when he’s very sleepy. He’s almost sad in those photos, making his expression all the more endearing.

I caught one of Oozy’s first smiles when he was napping in a basket with clean laundry. I called his name, he opened his eyes and grinned up at me. He clearly thinks he has the best bed in the house. He’s perfected his heartbreaking expressions over time. For some reason, he believes it will get him more treats. Which it does. He’s the one cat I’d love to take to the bedroom at night, but he knows how to rattle a door harder than Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I don’t know how he learned a very noisy, shaking door would earn him exit from a room, but he has learned it well.

Cat smiling

Mia smiling?

Our cat Lucy was a smiler, but I only managed to catch a few smiles from her. Mia smiled a lot, but she had a soft, kind smile rather than an “I’m up to no good” smile. I miss those cats we’ve had for awhile before they went on to practice this ability on their unsuspecting new families. I hope it earned them lots of treats.

Do any of you have cats who smile? What are the circumstances? Asleep, guilty, proud of whatever it is they’ve accomplished? Please leave a comment, and a photo if you have one.


Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Elisa Black-Taylor

Elisa is an experienced cat caretaker and rescuer. She lives in the US. As well as being a professional photographer, Elisa has been a regular contributor to PoC for nine years. See her Facebook page.

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18 Responses

  1. Elisa says:

    I LOVE Walter and Jozef! I try to read everything on them even when I don’t have a chance to comment. I’m thinking of getting voice software to use with the computer so I can get more done. LOL.

  2. kylee says:

    hi, i do believe they do as im sure tiger/suckles likes to do that often esp when he want suckling. u can actualy see his lips.. Or with the others when they are enjoying a nice pat or cuddles.

  3. From DW: Marvin chilled out and smiling:

    • DW says:

      That’s m’boy. He keeps me smiling too with his antics. Never knew a cat could be a clown. And perfect timing. He brings a light to my life.

      I love all of the above cats as if they were my own! Yours too Jo.

  4. Jo Singer says:

    Our cats smile a LOT! I totally believe they are “smiling-friendly”.

  5. Jozef says:

    I smile up there too

  6. Walter says:

    oops posted wrong photo last time

  7. Walter says:

    I’m smiling on my sun roof Auntie Elisa

  8. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    Your cats are beautiful Elisa and yes some cats do look like they are smiling and why not when their brains are very similar to ours.

  9. Elisa says:

    A sleepy look for both of them. I woke them up. Oozy isn’t happy when I do this and Sealy did the tongue thing. They’re best buddies.

    • Marc says:

      What a pleasure to see Sealy looking so good. You did amazing things for him Elisa.

      I think cats do smile. I think Michael is right in that they do all these things on a more subtle level, still noticeable to other cats perhaps but not humans. Either way – I think it’s important to learn these expressions to understand better your cat. I think to really see them smile it’s easier from the side so you can see the side of their mouth where it goes up to make a smile.

      Here’s my next question on this interesting subject.

      Do cats understand approximately our facial expressions. I wonder if when we smile they think we are in pain or some other thing because our facial expressions are so much more extreme. I often make silly faces at them but they know instantly I am not being serious.

      This is my theory – humans are so much more extreme and demonstrative in our expression. So much so we probably are like cartoons for cats. Humans are used to all of this and therefore not trained to the subtlety and nuance of cat expression and communication. So therefore we don’t know what we are communicating outside of our normal awareness. The way that cats can read us makes me think that on a more subtle cat level humans communicate and reveal alot about themselves. In other words the cat sees and understands us in a more immediate and direct way. Maybe if we could see the way cats do we would know a load more about the people around us as well as the cats.

      Just a thought.

      • Elisa says:

        They were SO sleepy in this one. Both had been curled up in the cage napping. Sealy takes lots of naps in his cage. He doesn’t care who sleeps with him, as long as they leave him room to stretch out.

  10. Elisa says:

    You can tell Oozy is smiling when you compare his photos with those where he was rudely awakened by yours truly. He looks sad in those. Here’s one made yesterday and he also has his own page at with a smiling album.

    He does look like the cat in the top photo. His eyes keep changing color. They appear green some days and gold on others.

  11. Good topic, Elisa. I am not sure but I favour the idea that cats do have expressions that are more subtle that human facial expressions. I believe cats can look depressed and if that is true they should be able to have an expression that tells us they are happy and content. This may produce a faint smile but the jury is out on that.

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