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Can Cats Tell When You’re Sad? Feline Senses & Emotions Explained

Many cat owners will attest that their cats can tell when they are sad and claim that their pets will comfort them in times of distress. But can a cat actually sense how you are feeling, or are they just behaving normally and you are trying to see something that isn’t there?

While science has proven that cats form attachments to their owners, it has not been proven that cats can detect our feelings. If you are interested in learning more about your cat’s behavior and whether or not it has psychic powers, keep reading while we look at this question and some of the reasons people might believe it to help you better understand your pet.cat face divider 2

Can Cats Tell If You Are Sad?

Many people think that cats are self-absorbed with little concern for others and usually point to dogs as the family pet that cares about its owners. However, many people that own a cat will tell a different story that suggests that while most cats like their personal space, they are often more friendly and compassionate than some might admit—especially when their owners are going through a rough time. They will often snuggle and sit by you when you are sad or sick and seem to tell when you need a friend, but what is the reason for this behavior?

Image Credit: Evan Abram McGinnis, Shutterstock

Cats Are Naturally Curious & Routine Based

One argument against cats knowing when you are sad is that they tend to stick to a strict schedule and are very curious. Animals with a routine, like a cat, will quickly notice when something is different, so if you have been happy the last few days at this time, but today you are sad, your cat will be able to tell. However, it might be detecting your change in routine and not sensing your sadness. If you come home and immediately cook dinner on most days, but today you are sitting down and crying, your cat’s curiosity will get the better of them, and they will investigate. If part of your daily routine included giving your cat a treat, it might try some snuggling tactics to convince you to follow through.

One Study Suggests Cats Don’t Form Strong Attachments

One study published in 2015 suggests that cats do not show signs of secure attachment to their owners and do not require them to survive. The suggestion here is that since cats do not form a strong attachment and would prefer a life in the wild that they are not concerned about your feelings and would be unlikely to try to comfort you, even if it could sense your sadness.

Other experts suggest that while many people like to compare cats and dogs, they are two very different animals, and not just in appearance. Dogs are pack animals that often live in groups in the wild. This lifestyle requires them to find ways to communicate with each other and is likely a large factor in why they can show affection so easily. On the other hand, cats are solitary hunters that often spend all but the mating season alone with little need to communicate with others. This lack of communication has prevented cats from being adept at expressing themselves the way dogs can, but it does not necessarily mean that cats don’t have the same range of emotions.

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Photo credit: ArtHouse Studio, Pexels

Another Study Suggests Cats Do Form Some Attachment

Another study meant to indicate how cats feel about humans showed that cats can experience anxiety while the owners are away that subsides when reunited. This study shows that cats form bonds with humans, though it does not go as far as to say cats love us or have the same feelings for us that we have for them.

What The Public Says

Anyone that has owned a cat for several years will agree that cats could use better communication skills. However, there is little doubt that the cats care for us. They tend to stay in the same room, if not on our laps, and they purr and make plenty of vocalizations that are purely for our benefit. If you let them outside, they often return in a few hours, and if you are feeling sad, they tend to give you a little more attention. It will lay by you when you are sick, and there is some evidence that they can sense death and attempt to comfort you during your last hours.

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While there is evidence pointing both ways, scientists need to complete many more studies to be sure if your cat can tell when you’re sad or is just curious about your strange behavior. Most owners already know cats are much more compassionate than people believe them to be, and for them, there is strong evidence your cat knows when you need some cheering up and will attempt to do so, even if it doesn’t have the skillset.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this short guide and have learned a few new facts about your cat. If you feel your cat has more feelings than it can express, please share this look into if cats can tell when you’re sad on Facebook and Twitter

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Featured image credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock