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How Cats Apologise to Their Humans?

How Cats Apologise to Their Humans?

As a cat owner, you’re likely aware that cats have a mind of their own. They have a reputation for doing things on their own terms but are they capable of knowing right from wrong? Does your cat know when you’re angry at them or feel remorse after knocking things over or clawing at the furniture and how do they apologise for their behaviour? In this blog, we unpack these topics. 

Do cats know when they do something bad?

Cats don’t have a sense of right and wrong. For example, they don’t understand why knocking things off the table or scratching the couch is a bad thing but your feline friend can recognise when they have done something that displeases you.  Cats learn that doing certain things makes you angry and they store that information in their memories. Cats know when you’re upset because your attitude, facial expressions and your tone of voice become unpleasant.  A study published in Animal Cognition has found that cats are very responsive to the sound of human voices. When you are happy you use a voice that’s friendly and pleasant. This is the tone of voice that your cat will associate with good things such as feeding time or cuddle time.  But when you’re angry or upset you have a tone that your feline friend isn’t accustomed to, which lets your pet know that something is wrong.  In addition to auditory cues cats also use visual cues to know that certain things upset you. Another study conducted by Oakland University researchers revealed that cats can distinguish different emotions in humans by recognising facial gestures, such as smiling and frowning. Our feline friends are hyper-aware of any changes in our attitude and behaviour. Your facial expressions, body language,  tone of voice and even actions such as ignoring them or closing the door will let your cat know what you like and dislike. 

Do cats feel bad when they hurt you?

Cats don’t feel bad when they hurt you. Although cats are very intelligent animals there have been a number of studies that have found that cats don’t experience secondary emotions such as guilt, shame or pride. This doesn’t mean that cats are uncaring animals.  Cats do care and often feel love quite strongly for their owners and other companions,  it’s just that cats act on instinct.  If your feline friend hurts you or causes your pain it’s probably because it felt threatened or was fearful of a situation in some way. But if cats don’t feel bad when they hurt you, you may wonder why they always want to snuggle up shortly after a negative event takes place. Remember cats know you are upset because of your voice, attitude and facial expressions. This can make your cat very anxious. Your behaviour towards your pet after they hurt you might prompt your cat to want to comfort you.  This doesn’t mean that your cat feels bad for what it did,  it means they want you to stop being sad. Cats are intelligent animals, who know how to get your attention. If you start ignoring your pet because it did something bad and the cat now is cuddling up next to you, it will get your attention and get you to notice them,  that’s what they will do. Cats try to be in good graces and restore peace by snuggling up to us, licking us,  head-butting us and showing their affection.

Do cats apologise?

Cats can’t apologise because that would require them to feel guilt, understand that they have offended someone and want to make amends. Cats can’t experience such complex emotions but although cats don’t understand the concept of being sorry they do understand when you are displeased or angry at them and they will try to re-establish a connection with you. They often do this by showing affectionate behaviours that they know will get a cheerful reaction from you such as licking you and snuggling up next to you or meowing. This is your cat’s way to melt your heart and elicit positive reactions from you. Of course, there are times when your feline friend might not do anything after misbehaving because they were not bothered enough by your negative reaction to want to change it. 

How do cats apologise to each other

Cats don’t feel guilty when doing bad things to other cats. In the feline world, the goal is safety, not the feelings of other cats but cats want peace and a safe place to live. They want to know that other cats in their social group are not hostile toward them. If cats fight and then appear to make up it is because they want to encourage safety and prevent further violence.  Cats may attempt to calm the tensions and remain in good standing with their social group by licking each other, sleeping close to each other and rubbing heads. If other felines are friendly the cat can rest easy knowing that the area is safe. 

How long do cats stay angry?

Now that we talked about how cats respond when they do something bad. What if you unintentionally stepped on your cat’s tail or overreacted and scolded them after finding them scratching on your expensive couch? Now, of course, you feel bad about your actions and want things to go back to normal. Many people mistakenly believe that cats never forgive their owners’ mistakes. A study published in Applied Animal Science Behaviour tested cat reactions to being restrained against their will at a Veterinary Surgery Clinic it was found that cats didn’t avoid that location or people afterwards due to how short-term memory works in felines. They might not remember what caused them stress in a few hours. Scientists believe that one-off bad events fade away within 16 hours from a cat’s memory. So if you accidentally step on a cat’s tail and apologise the cat won’t hold a grudge against you. However, cats remember the abuse and repeated mistreatment for the rest of their lives because cats also have associative memories.  Your cat will learn through experience that you are a threat and an untrustworthy figure this doesn’t mean that the cat is holding a grudge, it is just that the cat is merely keeping itself safe. They’re just trying to protect themselves and prevent the traumatic event from recurring so while the cats won’t remember genuine accidents and honest mistakes they’ll remember a routine of negativity.

How to say sorry to your cat

Apologising to your cat is the best way to keep your relationship strong after you’ve committed a feline offence. Before you rush over and start making amends, consider your cat’s current mood. It’s possible that your cat needs some space before it’s ready to connect with you again. If you just stepped on their tail and sent them running for cover, chasing after them will only cause more stress and fear.  When your cat is finally relaxed, talk to them with a calm tone of voice while blinking slowly at them to avoid loud, panicked or sudden exclamations that will only startle or upset your cat more. Remember to praise your cat and reward them with treats. Spending some quality time together with lots of petting and games should ease your cat. 

Why cats misbehave

Cats do not have malicious intent. They are not out to do bad things. Often their actions have a reason, for example, when they scratch up your furniture it’s because their nails get too long and perhaps you should provide a suitable alternative. When they pee outside of their litter box maybe it needs to be cleaned or they haven’t been appropriately trained to use it. Peeing outside the designated places may also be a sign that your cat is suffering from a medical issue or that they want to mark their territory.  Remember it is easy to assign human emotions to cats but cats are creatures with their own distinctive ways of thinking cats don’t act out of revenge. When they are scolded after doing something bad cats have feelings but they interpret the world very differently from us their motivations are their own.


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