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Do Cats Get Their Feelings Hurt? Causes & Cheering Them Up

Cats can get their feelings hurt. Most cats are interested in interacting with their humans and are sensitive to people, places, and activities that stress their sense of being welcome or belonging. Cats can experience emotions ranging from joy to fear and even depression.

Many behavioral problems, such as aggression, marking, and refusing to use the litter box, are linked to emotional stress in cats, and hurt feline feelings can easily lead to unwanted behavior by cats. But when scientists talk about feline emotions, they’re not discussing conscious feelings but rather motivational systems that tap into instinctive emotions.

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How Can I Tell if My Cat’s Feelings Have Been Hurt?

Behavioral issues are relatively common when cats aren’t feeling their best. Cats that are stressed or depressed often withdraw and show less interest in playing or interacting than they usually do. Some sleep more than usual, and litter box problems are also relatively common. Using the bathroom away from the litter box, decreased grooming, and a lack of appetite are also displayed by depressed cats.

Sick sad cat lying on the bed
Image Credit: Zhuravlev Andrey, Shutterstock

What Causes Hurt Feline Feelings?

Anything that causes a cat to feel unsafe or as if their security is being threatened can cause hurt feelings. However, most cats are quick to forgive one-time problematic events, like stepping on their tails by accident.

Lack of Attention

Schedule changes often prompt cats to feel a bit neglected. Cats are creatures of habit and look for affection from specific people. Many become stressed when the person they’re bonded with suddenly has to leave for work earlier. Because cats cling so tenaciously to routine, it can be profoundly upsetting when they expect to engage with their favorite human and things don’t go as planned.

Some cats can be withdrawn when left with pet sitters or boarded, and many aren’t shy about showing their displeasure. Most cats forgive vacation infractions in a few days.

Moving to a New Home

Cats often have difficulty adjusting when things in their environment change. Many need help making the transition after moving to a new home. Moving is stressful for humans, and cats pick up on human emotions and adjust their behavior accordingly. Because settling into a new home requires so much attention, it’s a time when cats receive less attention than they’re accustomed to, which can lead to hurt feelings.

Cats rely heavily on smell to recognize people and places. They leave pheromones behind that encourage a sense of comfort they identify with being safe and at home. The strange smells of a new house or apartment can cause many cats to become anxious.

Consider keeping your cat in one room immediately after the move so they can settle in safely. It’s often helpful to hold off on renovations until cats have had a few weeks to adjust and get back on their feet. Spending extra time with your cat may help draw them out of their shell.

cat in the window watching the rain
Image Credit: BrittanyNY, Shutterstock


Cats can become depressed after the loss of a companion, whether human, canine, or feline. They often grieve when beloved people leave for extended periods or die. Many cats recover from these sorts of losses with a bit of time and loving support. Consider spending extra time with your pet to bring light to their day.

Inappropriate punishing

Cats are sweet creatures that don’t react well to harsh punishment. Yelling and other aversive methods often cause them to become frightened, which can negatively impact the feline-human bond.

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How Can I Cheer My Cat Up?

Depressed cats often respond well when shown a bit of extra love and provided with a few distractions.

Spend Extra Time With Your Cat

Consider spending more time with your cat so they feel they can rely on you for comfort and support. Even just hanging out with your buddy next to you and giving them an occasional extra scratch can do wonders for your cat’s mood.  Pick a time to spend with them and stick with it, so your cat can start anticipating getting attention every day.

Consider Pheromones

Calming pheromone products can ease stress and anxiety in cats, but some felines may not react to the chemicals. However, new toys can sometimes spark the interest of depressed cats and get them on the road to feeling better.

Provide Extra Treats or Entertainment

Many cats respond positively when you reward them with their favorite savory treat. You can also play music or leave feline-friendly videos on for cats to watch when alone to provide entertainment and sometimes enough of a distraction to help cats start to feel more comfortable.

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Tony and Cheetah playing on Hepper Hi Lo Cat Scratcher

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Is There Anything Else I Can Do?

Consider taking your cat to the veterinarian since many signs of depression, such as withdrawal, lack of appetite, increased peeing, and grooming issues, can all indicate illness.

Supplements may help boost the levels of neurotransmitters associated with feelings of contentment, but ask your veterinarian for guidance before giving your cat any supplements. Your veterinarian may also be able to recommend someone who specializes in feline behavior therapy if your cat doesn’t seem to be getting back on their feet.

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Cats have deep emotions that guide and motivate instinctive behavior. They can feel joy, fear, excitement, and anxiety. Cats can undoubtedly get their feelings hurt and become depressed if the situation causing the discomfort doesn’t improve. So, the first step in getting things moving in the right direction is identifying and addressing whatever is causing your cat to be unhappy. You can do a few additional things that may help, including spending extra time with them, giving them new toys to play with, and sneaking in a few extra-special treats.

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Featured Image Credit: avi_acl, Pixabay