Do cats feel any emotions other than fear and anger? Fear and anger are obvious, but what about happiness? Sadness? Love? Is there a scientific basis for saying that cats feel emotion? We like to think they do, because it makes us feel good to believe that our cats return our love and affection. Is that just in our heads, though? How important is understanding feline emotions?
Whether cats feel emotion is up for debate
An article on Petplace says that whether cats feel emotion has become a rather hotly debated topic of late, especially among feline behaviorists and scientists. Like me, you probably look into your beloved kitty’s eyes and know that he’s happy. You might see what I call the “lovey-dovey” look, which is kind of half-lidded, with pupils constricted, and just screams, “I love you.” You also feel his head butts, hear his purrs, and see his need to be near you, and wonder how anybody can say that he doesn’t love you, and that he can’t feel happiness.
Petplace says that recent studies on feline and human brains show striking similarities in how they work. Even just based on physiology, it’s reasonable to assume that cats feel emotion, even if they don’t express it or deal with it the way we do. In fact, research does show that cats feel love, happiness, and sadness, much the same way we do.
How do cats communicate emotion?
Petplace’s article says that cats communicate their emotion through body language and action. Your cat shows that he loves you with his head butts, and with things like light paw caresses, and even grooming. He shows you he’s happy, and that he trusts you, by rolling over onto his side, or his back.
By the same token, cats also use body language to show fear, anger and sadness. An angry cat has his back arched, his ears flat, and his fur puffed up. A sad cat is lethargic, just like we are.
We need to better understand how our cats feel emotion
Understanding how cats feel emotion, and how they express it, is one key to optimizing our relationships with our furry feline friends. It’s also key to understanding and correcting bad behavior. When you understand what your cat is feeling, and how he expresses it, you’re better equipped to identify the problems causing bad behavior, and find effective solutions.
It’s also important to understand that cats feel emotion that is basic, and even primitive. They aren’t capable of the higher reasoning that we are, and they act entirely on instinct. It’s easy to believe that your cat peed on your bed out of revenge or spite, but that’s not the case. If he peed on your bed and there’s no medical reason for it, it’s likely because he’s stressed about something, and marking the bed comforts him somehow. So, in trying to understand your cat’s emotions, it’s very important to keep this in mind.
The bottom line here is that yes, our cats feel emotion very similar to the way we do. However, they’re less nuanced, and more primitive, than our emotions. They provide clues to our cats’ mental states, and insights into their minds. So take heart; your beloved kitty does love you, and is happy with you!