Internet memes will have you believe that cats are cold animals who prefer to be alone and do not care about the emotional state of their owner. This representation of cats is a bit unfair, because although cats may not be as outwardly showy about their affections the way dogs are, doesn’t mean that they are aloof. They just have their own ways of showing their emotions to humans.
If you are curious about the unique way cats process their human’s emotions and whether cat’s share our proclivity for sadness, keep on reading.
Can cats sense sadness?
Cats can sense sadness but they have a way of associating the sadness that humans feel into how that relates to them and how they are treated when their human is in a certain state.
Cats are very observant. They have their own way of getting insights regarding their human’s emotions. They may even pick up on habits you had no idea that you had.
Feral cats form semi-matriarchal colonies, where raising kittens and responsibilities in hunting are shared. They may not be the most social creatures, but for a cat to belong to a colony, that cat has to have the ability to recognize emotional cues. A cat who does not have this level of maturity may have a difficult time fitting in.
In your home, you are part of the cat’s colony, you are the one they will try to form an emotional connection with.
Despite us belonging to different species, cats are intelligent enough to understand when we are sad, happy, mad, or sick.
If your cat does not immediately comfort you when you are down, that does not mean that your cat does not care. Not all cats are adept at discerning sadness and acting on it, maybe they do know you are sad but have their own way of processing your feelings and how to react to them.
You should also be respectful about your cat’s past. Maybe your cat was adopted or is feral, they may have had traumatic incidents in their past making them wary of people in general, so do not feel offended if it will take them a long time, or if at all, to warm up to you the same way a well-adjusted cat might.
How does a cat detect sadness?
When a human is locking themselves in their room, crying, and staying in bed for long periods of time, a cat can sense this change in behavior. This could be because these same behaviors are what your cat may instinctively know a sick cat would exhibit. They may see this the same way a cat is nesting and sounding distressed which prompts them to become supportive.
It is also possible that you being in bed all day means the cat has a warm place to snuggle up to when they need it.
Cats respond to a happy smiling human because they associate that with treats and pets.
While your cat may not understand your mood exactly, they do understand what happens to you and what you do to them when you are in a specific mood. This might not seem very romantic, but it does show that your cat cares enough to learn your behaviors.
How does my cat show me that they know I am sad?
Cats may not be intelligent enough emotionally to specifically comfort you because you are sad, but they do know that you give them attention when you are sad, and that is what they gravitate towards. Leading to a mutually beneficial relationship.
They may seek a high perch to look at you from a better view to assess the situation.
They may snuggle up on you to get closer, they may even knead you to comfort you.
A cat can also purr while it is close to you, to keep you calm. A cat’s purr is very soothing to most people and it lessens the body’s stress hormones, reducing your anxiety and other negative emotions. There are even studies that state that a cat’s purr helps the healing process of injuries and illnesses.
Over time, the cat may learn that you being in a sad mood comes with plenty of snuggles and pets, which teaches them to seek you when you are sad.
Can I teach my cat how to sense sadness?
Unfortunately, you can not really teach this. The closest thing you can do to this is by spending time with your cat and creating a tighter bond with them. This way you learn about your cat’s ticks and emotions, and vice versa.
Cats respond to punishment differently from humans and dogs. They do not understand what they did was wrong. So, in order to create a great relationship with your cat, correct her negative behavior in more subtle ways.
For example, to keep your cat from jumping up on the counter, instead of yelling or spraying the cat with water, put a motion sensor spray to do it for you. This way, your cat will not associate the unpleasant consequence with you.
Do not smother your cat with affection, this is not how they work. Let them approach you when they want physical affection. Smothering them may cause them to distance themselves from you.
Spend time with your cat, play with them, have your little games every night to strengthen your bond.
Cat a cat get sad?
Cats do get sad, but not in the same way we do. The scale of sadness for cats are in the extremes. It usually manifests if the cat is ill or has lost an owner or fellow pet. They can show their sadness by being very depressed and lethargic.
If your cat is sad, it is not because you are. They do not have the depth to actually connect with you in that way.
Always remember that a cat’s sadness means that there is an underlying problem you should address.
Image: istockphoto.com / Doucefleur