As a cat owner, it is safe to say that you can sense your cat’s feelings. The look on your cat’s face while she greets you at the door, her body movements as you serve her meal and the tone of her purrs when you cuddle her. But, do cats really feel sadness, happiness, fear and other emotions?
Do cats have feelings?
Yes, cats have feelings and they experience emotions like happiness and grief. According to animal behaviorist Vicky Halls, cats may not think and feel like humans but they have real and complex emotions that motivate much of their behavior. Emotions like fear and anxiety motivate decisions and reflexive reactions.
She also notes that a cat’s inability to show love or affection the way people expect them to has an evolutionary reason. The ancestors of domestic cats competed for scarce resources, thus, they could not afford to consider the feelings of other animals including humans. This was because they are wired for survival rather than on feelings.
However, this seems to be changing since according to a 2015 study at the Oakland University in the USA, there were changes in a cat’s behavior when their owners smiled or frowned. The study found that when the cats saw their smiling owners there was positive behavior such as purring and sitting on their lap. This was not the case when the cats were presented with frowning or smiling strangers.
Scientists conclude that cats can read facial expressions in their owners, which they learn over time. Also, cats tend to associate their owner’s smiles with good things like affectionate head rubs, mealtimes and security.
Dr. John Bradshaw, author of the book “Cat Sense” states that cats do not reflect on the past or plan the future since they live in the present. This means that cats are more likely to be swayed by instinctive feelings and make choices based on emotions just like humans.
Pet behaviorists also note that emotions are essential to how animals like cats learn anything at all and that emotional assessment is used when treating pet behavior problems. Cats feel basic emotions like happiness, sadness, anger and fear just as humans do.
Do cats have feelings for their owners?
Yes, cats have feelings for their owners and they tend to form a strong attachment to their humans. There are many reported cases of cats that show signs of distress and sadness when their owners leave or die. Felines were observed to stay at their human’s bedroom door and meow constantly while others hide and refuse to eat.
Some cats that were perfectly healthy suddenly die after the loss of their owner and the only explanation that cat experts can find is that they died of a broken heart because they were strongly attached to their humans. This means that cats have deep feelings and emotions for their owners.
Can cats have their feelings hurt?
Yes, cats can have hurt feelings, too. They may be hurt, sad or depressed if their owner or a family member they are attached to is away for a longer period. They may also feel depressed when they are not feeling well and if you suspect that this is the case, bring her to the vet for a proper diagnosis.
Cats may also become hurt and upset if there are changes in their routine or if you change the type of litter. Changes in their sleeping patterns may give hints of depression and if they spend less time playing or grooming themselves. Upset or hurt cats also tend to eat less so always check with your vet to rule out health conditions that may cause the behavioral changes.
Felines are very sensitive although they may not verbally indicate it. Nevertheless, they are forgiving creatures so long as you leave them for a while and surprise them with a big cuddle once they start to interact with you again according to their terms.
Do cats feel happy and sad?
Yes, cats definitely feel happy and sad and they manifest feelings and emotions. While they cannot verbalize if they are happy or sad, most cat owners attest that they have an inkling of their cat’s feelings based on their behavior. Felines also feel possessiveness and fear and can get angry and nervous.
While cats may seem aloof they form deep attachments to their owners and some family members and they mourn when their favorite humans pass away. They express grief by becoming listless, depressed and declining to play. They also move more slowly, sleep more than usual and sulk around. Sad felines will also hide under the bed and choose to be alone rather than interact.
Do cats really love us?
Yes, cats really love us although they may not express it fully and are more subtle about their feelings compared to dogs. They think highly of their humans and may express their love in many ways. Felines also do not just think of their humans as food machines but more like parents.
According to a 2019 study, cats show the same attachment for their owners as babies show to their parents. In the said study, the kittens felt distressed and upset when their caregivers left but they expressed happiness when they returned.
Here are just some of the ways that cats show their affection and love to us:
- they sleep on you
- they look at you with half-closed eyes followed by a slow blink, also called cat kisses
- they lick your hair or face
- they knead you and may also put their paws on your face
- they wrap their tail around your leg or place it on your body as they lie next to you
- they rub their cheeks across your face to release pheromones and mark you as a trusted family member
- they head bunt their heads with your head
- they meow and purr softly
We love our cats because they provide companionship regardless if they are aloof or affectionate. They manifest feelings and emotions and they feel happy, sad, depressed, anxious or upset just as humans do although they may express it in subtle ways compared to other animals like dogs.
Image: istockphoto.com / Konstantin Aksenov