Cats often get a bad reputation when it comes to socialization and bonding, but it's not their fault. Dogs, known as man's best friends, were domesticated as social companions long before cats. This gave them a head start in understanding humans, including recognizing when we are feeling down and knowing how to uplift us. However, as we spend more time with our feline friends, we begin to wonder: do cats possess the ability to sense our sadness?
Ragen McGowan, a PhD Animal Behavior Scientist at Purina, suggests that the extra bonding time during the pandemic may have shaped our cat-human relationships more than we realize. She explains that cats have become more attached to their pet parents and may have developed a better understanding of their humans' emotions, including sadness.
While we all wish we could communicate with our cats directly, unfortunately, we cannot. As a result, it remains uncertain what cats truly think or feel. Nevertheless, cats are curious creatures who observe and pick up on clues to adjust their behavior. Although the field of research exploring how cats interpret human emotions is relatively new, there are a few ways cats might tune into our emotional state.
McGowan suggests that cats may use cues such as our scent to identify us. However, it is still uncertain whether cats can detect specific scents associated with sadness or react accordingly. Interestingly, while cats have excellent visual recognition of objects, they struggle to recognize human faces. So, you can go ahead and let out an ugly cry without worrying that your cat will recognize the difference in your face.
Despite their difficulty in recognizing human faces, cats are sensitive to where our eyes are looking and often use this to assess our mood or intentions. McGowan emphasizes that cats respond to gaze and that a slow blink from our feline companions could be seen as a way of engaging in a conversation.
Have you ever spoken to your cat over a pet cam or phone? Cats can distinguish human emotional states based on the tone of voice or specific sounds made. So, even though your cat may not fully understand human crying, she will try to gather as much information as possible and adjust her behavior accordingly.
Researchers have found that cats often stare at their owners while they are crying. McGowan explains that this behavior stems from their attempt to make sense of the situation through observing and listening. While cats may not completely grasp human crying, they can associate your sad body language with receiving attention if you tend to seek comfort from your feline friend.
Although it is still unclear whether cats fully understand human sadness in the same way we do, there is evidence that cats provide comfort to their owners when they are feeling down. McGowan explains that when pet parents are depressed, cats tend to rub against them more frequently as a way to comfort or gain attention from their owners.
Our cats have a significant impact on our well-being. Just by simply petting them, "happy chemicals" are released in our brains. But how does our mood affect them? According to McGowan, owners and their cats mirror each other's well-being and behavior. A survey conducted by Purina revealed that 71 percent of cat owners believe that their cats become stressed when they are stressed.
Therefore, McGowan highlights the importance of nurturing our mental wellness for both us and our cats. If you find yourself feeling blue, why not start by petting your cat? If you notice any signs of anxiety in your cat due to your mood, it is recommended to provide a stimulating environment for them and consult with your veterinarian about the possibility of using calming supplements.
In conclusion, cats may not possess the same level of understanding of human emotions as dogs do, but they are certainly capable of sensing and responding to our sadness in their own unique ways. As our bonds with our feline companions grow stronger, it's clear that they are more attuned to our emotional well-being than we might have previously believed.