Animal emotions are difficult to fully understand. Cats are notoriously aloof creatures. Ascribing human emotion to our pets can be a misplaced effort, but overlooking their feelings can do them a disservice. It's a good idea to keep an eye out for strong emotions like fear, anger or melancholy, as these can be valuable signals about your cat's welfare. As for more subtle emotions, like embarrassment, most experts agree that cats can feel some shade of humiliation.
Cat Emotions Differ
Most animal behavior experts agree that cats feel a range of emotion. The difficulty comes in determining the nature and range of those emotions. In an article for CatChannel.com, Dr. Debra Horowitz confirms that cats have feelings, "but not necessarily in the same way we think of them." She says cat behavior has emotional aspects." You may never see a cat blush, but if she hides after nothing but a grooming, you can safely infer that her actions are motivated by feelings, not simply survival instincts.
Observe Your Cat
You can tell in a few ways if your cat is feeling something like embarrassment, in her body language. Cats whose ears are flat against their heads can be signaling anger or frustration, as can cats that are twitching or flicking the tips of their tails. Twitching ears can signal anxiety, and a tail tucked between the legs communicate submissiveness. Any of these actions could be expressing your cat's feelings, and in context, potential embarrassment.
Keeping Your Cat Happy
If your cat displays behaviors or postures that signal unpleasant emotions, you can do a few things to make her more comfortable. Avoid playing with your cat in a way that might distress her, such as dressing her in uncomfortable clothes, tricking her or teasing her for your own amusement. Cats won't understand pranks, which can diminish your cat's comfort level. Cats dislike change, so a move or even rearranging the furniture may make her uncomfortable, not so much embarrassed. Give her time to adjust, and introduce changes as gradually as possible.
Take Your Cat Seriously
Whether you think your cat's embarrassed or not, if you think she's acting skittish, being aggressive or withdrawing from play and food, take action. Mild behavioral problems such as hiding can be related to the cat's environment, especially changes. If your cat is acting out of the ordinary for an extended period of time, refusing food, not using her litter box or committing other problematic acts, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. A more serious health problem may be behind her mood.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Chloe Newkirk is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been a freelance writer for over five years, and written for a variety of publications. She is a graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. Her areas of expertise include crafts, pop culture, the arts, pets, American history and food.