Can Cats Feel Emotion?

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

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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

Priscilla    Monongahela, PA

1/17/2015 3:34:04 PM

I am positive that cats have different emotions. They have different personalities also.I have a once feral male with HIV AIDS and he has been neutered and I kept him in the cellar for ten months but I got tired of living in the cellar so He is with my deaf Molly and my tortie. Molly has not accepted Pretty Boy and He is the most gentle cat so I see a lot of different emotions in this house mostly from Molly. I have had not one fight but the saliva on some of the toys worry me about my tortie getting aids but I pray that will not happen.

Adrienne    Rio Rancho, NM

1/6/2015 11:45:27 AM

I think cats have emotions. My cat expresses his love to me by churning on my belly with his front and hind feet in every direction. He even has his rearend in my face and churns.

PKS    New York, NY

8/30/2014 8:00:17 PM

Donnmaria , how many times will you post your point. ?. Just asking.

Donnmaria    Elizabethtown, PA

7/13/2014 7:37:47 AM

does have feelings and show it not only by their purring ut also by their "meow". Perhaps not all cats but I have one, Lilly, the only female among 3 male cats, a male dog and a female dog, who is very vocal. She is the Alpha of the house. A mefium mrow puts the dogs on alert to get out of her way. She is coming and get out of her way! They do or if they don't move fast enough, they freeze until she walks pass. If they don't, she reaches out with her paw and swipes at them. A low meow means she is somewhat happy and her very loud plaintive meow means she is very unhappy and wants immediate attention. The loud plaintive meow is what she uses every morning to wake me up. I do not need an alarm clock. I can depend on Lilly to begin her loud plaitive meow as soon as it becomes daylight whether it is 5 a.m. or 7 a.m.
Lilly was a feral cat rescued 6 years ago; she never wanted to be picked up and held. She still does not like to be held;however, if you ignore her, she will come and either sit on your lap or laid practically on top of you. She wants to be petted and have you pay attention to her. When she's had enough she leaves with a odd meow 'thank you'.
I agree wholeheartedly that cats have feelings and can show love

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