Any cat owner could tell you that your pet cat has gone through the motions of displaying different moods. My cats have certainly sulked in a corner before! Whilst we’ve seen them display some moods, I’m sure you’ve asked the question: What emotions do they actually experience and how do they portray them in a way humans can read them?
Do Cats Have Emotions?
The simple answer to “Do cats have feelings” is yes! They certainly do, but we only tend to understand them in comparison to our own emotions and it’s quite unlikely that they are one and the same. Human emotions are incredibly complex. We do so many things that portray our current mood, from our choice of words and body language to facial emotions and how forceful our smile is!
A cat’s emotional response is not designed to be read by humans but in fact, other cats. This is why we struggle ourselves to understand a cat’s current mood and leads us to the question, ‘Do cats have feelings or emotions?’.
Do Cats Feel Love?
A common question owners wonder about, is “Do cats love their owners as we love them?” Cats display affection differently to humans and other pets by forming positive connections rather than outright displaying love. This positive connection comes in a form of trust that is improved upon by feeding them and petting them. Over time, this display of affection gradually presents itself.
Your cat will begin to purr around you, become more vocal as you talk to them and “Bump” their heads on you (They’re actually marking you with their scent. Your cat owns you now!). There are occasionally exceptions to this rule when you have a cat who is very trusting in nature, but you will often see this behaviour promoted towards their owners.
Which Emotions Do Cats Experience?
Cats actually display a variety of emotions like we do. Some of these include:
There are various signs that display happiness within a cat. Vocal cats are a prime example of this. If they like to chat with you and purr around you, this can be taken as a very good sign and you may often notice they have a relaxed and happy expression on their face! Cats that play are in a very content state and have enough trust around the people playing with them to join in. The total opposite of a playful cat is one that is relaxed! If your cat chooses to relax around you or chooses you as a bed buddy for example, then this is another sign your cat is happy and has a positive relationship with you.
We suggest taking a look at something such as the Feliway Classic which can help to calm and comfort your cat at home. This can help to ensure that if your cat is feeling uncomfortable or is suffering from separation anxiety (as below), this can help to support them.
Cats certainly can become sad or depressed and this can be caused by a number of things. If something has changed in their daily life that breaks their habits, this can cause them to act in an unusual manner and display odd behaviour. A change of environment can be quite stressful for a cat, including say, a move to a new house or the loss of another human or animal they had a close bond with. Pets that grow old together can form this incredibly close bond and become depressed when the other one passes away.
Cats also can suffer from separation anxiety, so it’s important to show them love and care as you nurture them from kitten to adult. If you have to go to work, ensure they have toys to keep them occupied and easy food such as kibble so they don’t go hungry until you get back.
Studies have in fact shown that cats can anger much faster than dogs, and you’ll have most likely seen this behaviour at least once! Cats who don’t like their belly being rubbed can be quick to begin attacking your hand, or potentially having to hold them in an awkward way to clip their nails can promote this behaviour.
The signs for an angry cat are fairly easy to spot and they may well show these signs to other animals and not just yourselves. A quick telltale sign a cat is becoming angry is when their ears begin to point backwards and swish their tail rather aggressively. Tail wagging is a happy sign for a dog, but not generally for cats! Following on from this, they may begin to hiss, howl, bare their teeth or their fur may begin to stand up on end. If you find your cat is showing these signs, take a step back and give them some breathing space. Antagonizing a cat further at this point can very quickly destroy the trust and bond between owner and pet, so it’s best they were left alone to calm down.
Jealousy is an incredibly complex emotion. Whilst they can promote some form of jealousy, they cannot explain it or show it like a human would, so it’s very difficult to understand. Some owners have stated that they have recognized jealous traits in their cat! Perhaps one of your cats is playing with you and the other hears the toy, they may well come running in and either jump in to play in front of them or sit on the sidelines waiting for you to acknowledge them. Sometimes, the jealousy could manifest in an anger state. There is no hard proof of how cats are jealous, so there is no definitive way to actually tell.
Fear and anxiety
Fear is a natural instinct that all animals and humans experience in order to avoid danger, but there are occasions where this may also present itself as anxiety, even if there is no direct threat. Loud noises are a prime example of this and you may well see this during a fireworks show, for example. Some simple signs to look out for when your cat is afraid or anxious will be a tail tucked between their legs, often in a form of crouching position ready for fight or flight. Their ears will be tilted backwards and you’ll often see dilated pupils. Fear is difficult to manage in a cat as even the simple sight of a cat carrier can be unpleasant for them if it reminds them of trips to the vets that haven’t been enjoyable in the past.
Do Cats Respond to Human Feelings?
Did you ever wonder if cats sense sadness or happiness in humans? Studies have shown that cats are actually able to respond to facial cues and body language! They may be able to associate what your current mood is and link that to how it will affect them. It’s not likely that they’ll know you’re feeling sad though!
Cat emotions are incredibly complex, but there is a strong amount of evidence (and still growing) to suggest that they do at least feel basic emotions. You can begin to learn and understand your cat’s emotions by paying close attention to them. As you begin to bond and love your cat, you’ll start to notice any telltale signs to their mood and be able to act accordingly. Cats are beautifully smart creatures, so cherish them no matter the mood!
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