When you’re having a particularly bad day, does your cat curl up on your lap and keep you company? Do they come and sniff or lick your tears when you cry? Are they more clingy when you’re going through a bout of anxiety?
Cat owners will often tell you that their pets are able to sense their emotions and will often become much more affectionate in their time of need. Can felines actually tell when you are sad, or do we just notice their affection more when we need it the most?
Do Cats Know When You Are Sad?
Cats do know when you are sad, as they are very much aware of your usual habits and moods. Whenever there is something amiss, they will notice and adjust their behavior. They may however not feel or understand sadness in the same way you do.
We will never completely be able to understand a cat’s thought processes or emotional state. We will be able to tell when they are feeling angry, sleepy or agitated, but we won’t know what that feels like for them.
Similarly, our cats will notice when we are angry, sad or in a jubilant mood, without having to feel the same emotions or even understand what they feel like for us.
Cats gauge our emotions by our facial expressions, our tone of voice, or movements and the changes in our habits. They will notice whenever something is different than usual, and being the curious creatures they are, they will probably come to investigate.
If you start smiling less, start producing new smells, shedding tears and if your voice is in a different pitch than usual, your feline will understand that this change means something. As you go through the same situation multiple times, they will begin to associate it with a certain likely outcome: more cuddling.
The most obvious clue that you are not in a good mood will be your lack of energy. When you are sad, you will most likely spend more time lying around and resting, maybe sleeping in or watching more TV. Your cat will jump at the chance to take advantage of the situation, and they will come running to keep you company.
This may not actually mean that they know you are sad per se. It does however mean that you can enjoy some cat time, and all the purrs and snuggles will soon lift your mood.
Can Cats Sense Emotions?
Yes, cats can in a way sense emotions, as they are very used to your baseline. Whenever something changes in your behavior or routine, they will notice.
Cats use visual and auditory cues to determine your emotional state. They have adopted this skill after domestication, when they needed to find a way to relate to and bewitch their owners. Over the centuries, they have become very fine tuned to our array of behaviors, and while they may not call them “sadness” or “happiness”, they are able to detect them. Just like they know when you are sick, they will know when you are feeling a certain emotion and will have developed some great social skills to boot.
The more time a cat spends with you, the more they will be able to adapt their behavior to match yours. When you are sad, they will soon learn that coming over to cheer you up will result in plenty of cuddles and rewards, and they will capitalize on the opportunity, have no fear.
You will best be able to tell if your cat can sense emotions by observing their behavior when you are sad or upset. If they keep showering you with affection, it’s safe to assume they have learned when you are down in the dumps and are willing to provide some relief.
Do Cats Understand When Humans Cry?
Cats can’t completely understand what human tears mean, as they have no similar behavior. They will notice the tears, they may be intrigued by them, and they can learn to associate them with your need for some affection.
Cats don’t cry. Humans are in fact the only animal that does (we’re also the only ones that blush), so cats aren’t quite able to fathom what it is we are doing. However, they can very quickly learn that tears mean sadness, and that sadness requires their affection.
Since tears are salty, and cats like the taste, even though they are not supposed to eat too much salt, they will often come over and lick your tears for you. You will attach a lot of meaning to this gesture, but for them, it’s just a natural response. They won’t fully understand how much it means to you, or why.
Can Cats Sense Depression?
If you suffer from depression, your cat can learn to understand when you are going through a depressive episode by your changes in behavior and mood. They won’t actually understand what depression is, but will come over to cuddle and help cheer you up.
Cats can feel sadness too, and while they may not actually get depressed in the same way we do, the loss of a family member or another sudden event can trigger what we would call depression in felines.
There is no proof to say that cats are able to relate their feeling of sadness to our own depression, but they can (and often will) adjust their behavior when they notice you are not your usual self. The deeper the connection between you and a cat, the likelier they are to notice and respond to your emotions.
If you suffer from depression, make sure that your mental health does not prevent you from taking care of your cat. If you know you are unlikely to get out of bed for days on end or pay much attention to your pet, make sure there is someone on hand to take care of them.
Can Cats Sense Anxiety and Anxiety Attacks?
Cats can sense anxiety and anxiety attacks, as they come with some very noticeable changes in our behavior. They may not understand where the anxiety is coming from, but they will very quickly learn to adjust their behavior when they spot it.
Anxiety is accompanied by a lot of physical symptoms. Cats will spot all of them, and will develop a response, often based on trial and error. When you first have an anxiety attack, they may come and see what’s up, or they may hide and leave you alone. The more similar situations you go through together, the better they will be able to tell what you need in that moment.
If you suffer from anxiety, try not to freak your cat out. You may want them to come and help you calm down, or you may want them to leave you alone, but try not to let your emotional and mental state overpower you so that you do something to traumatize or alienate your cat.
My daughter has anxiety, and she tells me it helps her to focus on something outside her body and mind when she is feeling particularly anxious. If the cat is around, she will focus her attention there, and play or cuddle to calm herself down. She will not however actively seek the cat out, as she wants to remain respectful of her routine.
Do Cats Try To Cheer You Up?
Cats will often try to cheer you up, especially if you have formed a deeper bond with them. Since they are so well attuned to our emotional states, they can be great therapy animals too.
Just like humans, all cats are different and have distinct personalities. Some cats simply won’t want to engage with you when you are in a foul mood, as it’s not in their nature. Don’t try to force them to do something they are not comfortable with.
As a general rule, when cats bond with a human, they will use their social skills to help. They will quickly catch on to the behaviors that accompany each emotion, and will adjust their responses to please the human.
You may notice your cat is looking at you, is sitting close to you, or comes up to rub themselves against you or settles themselves to purr in your lap when you are feeling sad or anxious. If you reward this behavior, they are more than likely to repeat it, and you can further deepen the bond you have.
Some cats are naturally better caretakers than others. There are countless stories of animals choosing their humans in time of their need, and helping them overcome major emotional crises. If your cat has chosen you, make sure to show your affection and gratitude and show them how much their love means to you.
Wrapping It Up
Cats do know when you are sad and will be happy to come cheer you up, as long as you have bonded with them to an extent. Some cats are more affectionate than others though, so don’t expect your pet to come running every time you are having a bad day. It may just not be in their nature.