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Which Emotions Do Cats Have?

Which Emotions Do Cats Have?

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Cats are the world’s most mysterious creatures! You never know what they’re thinking.

As a cat owner, you need to be fully in sync with your kitty. This means knowing how your cat is feeling and which emotions they are experiencing, but if you don’t know what to look for, it can be very hard to tell!

Keep reading to find out which emotions your cat experiences and how to recognize the signs!

Emotions in Cats

Since cats can’t directly tell us how they’re feeling, scientists have struggled to find a way to measure cat emotions.

But scientists have uncovered a lot about cat emotions in the last couple decades.

Just like in humans, emotions in kitties can cause them to react in certain ways. According to Purina, a negative emotion can trigger a cat to do a variety of things like hiss, run away, or hide underneath your sofa.

Positive emotions can lead your kitty to meow, knead (known as “making biscuits”) or rub against your leg.

According to Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals, there are various types of “emotional systems” present in mammals. Some of these include:

  • A system to look for food
  • A fear system that responds to danger or unfamiliar events
  • A playful system
  • A system to raise offspring
  • A socializing system to form important attachments

We might think that cats are incapable of feeling complex emotions humans can feel such as contempt, regret, infatuation, etc.

Science hasn’t proven this yet, but we do know that cats are capable of feeling more basic emotions like happiness, fear, and sadness to the same extent humans do.

What is Your Cat Feeling? 

I get it, finding out what your cat is feeling can be challenging! But there are some simple and observable ways you can tell what emotion your cat is feeling. Keep reading to see how you can decipher them!

  • Happy: This one is pretty easy because it isn’t hard to point out a happy kitty. A happy kitty will sit upright with his/her ears pointed and positioned forward, but in a relaxed manner. Your cat might also start to drift into sleep with their eyes half open/half shut. These are signs of a very content cat!
  • Relief: A cat can show relief in their whole body, especially with a nice and prolonged stretch that releases tension throughout the whole body. Their tail, eyes, and ears will relax and some cats might give themselves away with a big yawn.
  • Anger: This is not an ideal emotion for you or your cat, especially when you want to form a strong bond between you two! Signs of anger could be narrowed pupils, hissing, ears tense and against their head. The signs won’t be hard to miss… trust me!
  • Anxiety: This emotion might be a little bit harder to detect, especially since most pet owners don’t even realize how stressed out and anxious their pets can get! Signs of anxiety include open eyes that aren’t blinking, dilated pupils, and a lowered head. If your cat continues to get anxious he/she might start to cower or they may start to arch their back in preparation to run away.

***AUTHOR’S NOTE*** These are only a few emotions cats can display. It is always important to pay very close attention to your cat’s body language and activity to gauge how he/she may be feeling. Each cat is different! 

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Can Cats Feel Love? 

Happiness, relief, anger, and anxiety are useful emotions to detect by cat owners across the world, but what about a more warm and fuzzy emotion? More importantly, can cats feel love?

A recent study conducted by the University of Lincoln shows that although cats do have feelings, they don’t always have the same attachment styles that are seen in humans.

Unlike dogs, cats do not have an inherent need to feel protected or secure— in fact, they are (to no surprise) fiercely independent creatures.

Their unwavering independence can make it difficult to tell if your cat actually cares about you in the way you’d like to think, and that’s completely understandable.

To test how cats form emotional attachments, scientists observed how 20 cats reacted when placed in an unfamiliar environment.

The cats became more vocal with their owners than when placed in the unfamiliar space, which suggests they felt more secure around their owners.

Increased meowing or signs of stress could have also meant signs of frustration, but no one really knows for sure.

The Answer: Yes They Can (we hope)!

Dr. Mills who conducted the study at the University of Lincoln has some very good news. He believes that a cat that chooses to stay with their owner is a great sign.

Because cats are so independent, a cat wouldn’t stick around in an unhappy home. Being with you means they choose to be with you…because they like you! This is the ultimate compliment.

It’s pretty much established that cats do have emotions (whew!), but did you know that cats are also able to pick up on how we are feeling?

The BBC suggests that cats are more in tune to what we are feeling than we may know. If cats can truly detect our mood, then we know that they are capable of picking up on nuanced human emotion.

It also suggests something more groundbreaking: that they are interested in us!

So, we now know that cats can feel a variety of emotions. They just might be masters as masking more complex emotions that we would like, but if your cat seems to like living with you then this definitely means love is in the air.

Does your cat display any of these emotions mentioned above? Tell us how your cat shows you how it’s feeling in the comments!

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Tuesday 19th of November 2019

My cat talks to me constantly. He is 10 years old and lived by himself for 5 years. I have only had him for a few months. He is very loving but does get moody. He lets me know when he is mad. I placed a cat toy in his bed. He did NOT like that. He would not go into his bed for 3 days! He is a very unique cat. Just love him so much.


Thursday 3rd of October 2019

Cats are very in tune with how WE feel more than us them. For example, you likely have noticed when you are ill or under the weather, your kitty will spend an exuberant amount of time with you. Likely spending more time close to you, maybe even lying on you. To me, this tells me my kitty knows more about me than I do him. I think the thing left out of most of these analyses is each cat is an individual and has their own personality much like humans. I think the kitty has been and will be exploited for many of their almost super traits/characteristics they have. If anyone would like for me to join them in future studies, I'd love to be involved.



Wednesday 4th of September 2019


Patty Johnson

Saturday 23rd of February 2019

Our cat talks to us all the time she lets us know when it's time to eat play, Love it up or go to bed