Can Cats Feel Emotion?

Think your cat has feelings? Some experts agree (and some say "kind of").

By CatChannel Editors

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Want to know if cats feel emotion? Ask these six experts.

Based on feline physiology, it's probably realistic to assume cats feel emotions, John C. Wright, Ph.D., said. Cats are mammals, they have brain structures, and the way their brain works is similar to the way the human brain works, he continued.

Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, believes cats feel emotions. Although there is no way to tell for sure without talking to the cat, he says that in certain situations, their behaviors might be similar to how we would behave in that situation.One of the hardest things for cat owners to understand is their pets' behavior.

Dr. Hunthausen said fear is expressed through opposite actions, such as withdrawal and avoidance.


Cat therapist Carole Wilbourn said cats definitely have emotions. "They can express different moods happiness, sadness, rage that let me know. A cat acts the way it feels." Wilbourn noted that a cat isn't a person, but people and cats share emotions.

Wilbourn said certain behaviors express a cat's happiness, such as purring and relaxing their bodies.

Yes: Act Accordingly!

Cats feel every emotion humans feel, animal behaviorist Warren Eckstein said. "They may not react the same way, but they definitely feel the same emotions we feel."

"A lot of problems arise," Eckstein said, "when owners don't realize the cat has a range of emotions and don't know how to react to the cat when it might be feeling anxious or depressed." These are emotions that he feels are common in cats. "When you take a cat into a home, you have to treat it like part of the family."


On a less definitive note, Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., said cats probably experience emotions, but we can only infer from their behavior."

Cat owners are prone to ascribing human emotion to their cat's behavior. Dr. Hetts urges owners to use caution when doing this, because the interpretation of the animal's behavior may lead to punishing animals because they are convinced the animal acted out of spite, which is most likely not the case.
Sort Of
Cats feel emotions "but not necessarily in the same way we think of them," Debra Horowitz, DVM, DACVB, said. "There are emotional aspects to their behavior."

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Reader Comments

julie    lewiston, ME

4/14/2014 3:37:45 PM

Cats can definitely feel emotions. I have seen it in my own cats.

Rose    Forth Worth, TX

4/13/2014 11:38:56 AM

I believe cats have emotions. Because when I work all day. Even one day a week, My cat is depressed for a couple of hours, until she realizes I'm home to stay for the rest of the day. And she gets mad if she don't get her way. She knows when I'm sick, she stays with me even more. She feels pain, when I step on her paw. Cats are emotional.

Bob    Santa Rosa, CA

3/30/2014 11:01:21 PM

I doubt that cats share the same emotions that humans show. For example, I doubt cats can be spiteful or vindictive, but they certainly seem to feel sad, angry, bored, and so on. Cats don't respond well to punishment because they don't associate their behavior with the punishment they receive. I think that people often treat cats in the wrong ways because they anthropomorphize cat behavior too much

BarbaraAtNutro    Morton Grove, IL

3/24/2014 10:20:58 AM

I firmly believe that Cats have emotions. My Sphynx Ginger always seemed to know when I was feeling blue and needed her comfort. And when my dear Cavalier Bitty passed it was obvious that Ginger missed her. She then closely bonded with my Millie and then in turn when Ginger passed this past summer Millie grieved. She refused to eat for three days. I am currently thinking of a Siamese rescue. I understand that they are very sensitive to all that is around them just like Mary from California says. Millie so needs another companion and I think a cat would be perfect for Millie the Cavalier. And I being home most of the time think that a Siamese may be the perfect fit for me.

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