Do Cats Feel Guilty?

"I'm going to hide up here until you're not mad anymore."
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Did Sadie just run away, dragging her tail, after knocking the vase of flowers over onto your laptop computer? You probably think she knows she did a dreadful thing and is feeling guilty. However, cats don’t actually feel guilt, even though it might look as though your Sadie feels bad.

Why the Long Face

After Sadie does something wrong she hides under your bed quivering because of your behavior, not because she’s sorry about what she did. She doesn’t remember clawing up the side of your new leather sofa this morning, nor does she realize that it wasn’t the right thing to do. She clawed because she needed to stretch.

When you came home and yelled at her, she ran away and hid because you seemed mad and scary. She’s completely oblivious to the fact that you’re mad at her and at what she did.

Feeling Sad

Although felines don’t feel guilt or act out of spite, they do have a range of other emotions. Much like you, Sadie can have an off day. Maybe she was feeling a little down today and needed some way to make herself happy. Unfortunately, she relieved her depression by making a nest out of your suede jacket, tearing it and covering it with fur.

Other Emotions

Sadie can also feel happy, like when she purrs nonstop while curling up on your lap or dining on that spoonful of tuna. If you’ve ever seen your fuzzy companion lurking around corners dragging her tail, she’s feeling a little shy or nervous. She's trying to test out the waters before taking the big plunge into the middle of the room.

She can also be mad. After all, this is her house and you just adopted another feline who is taking over her turf. She’ll roam around thrashing her tail quickly back and forth, while quietly growling when baby Tom enters the room.

Personality Considerations

If Sadie continuously runs and hides from you, making you think she’s feeling guilty, she might just be a little timid. Work with her to build her confidence up. Call her name when you enter the room, and move toward her slowly. Tossing out treats can help get her to come to you if she’s food-motivated, or you can use a catnip-filled mouse if she’s playful. When she finally comes over to you, scratch under her chin, forcing her to lift up her head.

Let her be if she points her ears back, growls or stops purring. She’s had enough for now, but she’ll come back for more later on.

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.

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