Does My Cat Know When I’m Sad?
And what other emotions can he pick up on?
When you’re having a bad day, you might wonder if your cat can actually tell that you’re sad. (Or is he extra cuddly because he's waiting for you to feed him?)
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian with Pumpkin Pet Insurance, to find out if your cat knows when you’re sad and how to tell if your cat’s feeling sad himself.
Can cats sense emotions?
Cats can sense how people are feeling, so your cat actually can tell when you’re sad.
“Cats can definitely sense when you are sad because they are highly attuned to your normal behaviors and moods, and if there is a change, they sense it,” Dr. Wooten told The Dodo.
Studies have shown that cats use visual and auditory cues to recognize how people are feeling, and they even change their behavior based on human emotions. They’ve basically developed “social skills” to relate to their owners, likely as a survival skill as cats became domesticated.
You’ll be able to tell if your cat’s responding to your emotions by watching what he does. If he comes over to you every time you’re crying or moping around, he’s probably learned that cuddling with you will make you happy.
“The only way to know if your cat senses this for sure is to observe your cat’s behavior over time,” Dr. Wooten said. “If they consistently demonstrate the same loving behavior when you are sad or upset, then you can safely assume that they know you are feeling down and need an emotional pick-me-up … and that’s awesome.”
Do cats get sad?
Cats have a broad range of emotions and can feel many of the same emotions that people do. But since cats can’t talk, we don’t really know how their feelings compare to human emotions and if they experience them in the same way.
But cats can definitely get depressed. Lots of things can make your cat depressed, like switching up his schedule, for example. Cats like to know what to expect, and they get stressed out when things change, which can make them upset.
“Cats can experience depression after loss of a loved one, either another pet or a person, moving, changes in routine, or changes in health,” Dr. Wooten said.
How to tell if your cat is depressed
Cats are good at hiding their emotions, but you can learn to tell when your cat’s feeling down so you can help cheer him up, just like he does for you.
“Depression in cats can manifest as decreased interest in activities they previously enjoyed, hiding more, loss of appetite, decreased interest in going outdoors, meowing or acting clingy, litter box problems, sleeping more, and decreased grooming, resulting in greasy dandruff and matting and a general unkempt appearance,” Dr. Wooten said.
A lot of these depression symptoms can also mean that your cat has an underlying medical condition, so if you notice any of them in your cat (or if your cat’s just acting a little strange), you should definitely contact your vet to get him checked out.
You should also try to figure out why your cat’s feeling depressed so you can get to the cause of the problem and find a solution.
Some ways you can make your cat feel better are by playing with him, spending some extra time with him, petting him and giving him his favorite treats. You can try giving him catnip toys to play with, since smelling catnip gives cats a sense of euphoria or happiness and entices them to engage. If nothing works, your vet or a cat behaviorist can come up with a plan.
So your cat probably does know when you’re feeling sad, especially if you’ve had him for a while and he’s gotten to know you.
And you can learn the signs that your cat’s feeling sad so you can comfort him, too.
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