Sad Cats Look Sad. Discuss

Here is a picture of a cat that looks sad. Is (s)he sad? Are we interpreting a cat’s expressions correctly?

Sad Faced Kitten

Sad Faced Kitten

The face is actually more “concerned-and-sad” than plain sad. I’ll tell you why I think we are encouraged to make that interpretation from looking at this kitten’s cute face.

I am not saying this cat is not sad or happy or whatever. What I will say, as a discussion topic, is that we can pick up on a cat’s facial features, which can mislead us.

If we look at this cat’s face carefully we see:

  1. Between the eyes on the forehead, light colored and dark colored fur, in a pattern, that encourages people to think of a human frown. A human frown is present when the skin, in the same position as this cat’s, is pulled together forming peaks and troughs that are darker and lighter to the eye;
  2. To the outer edge of each eye we see a dark line of fur extending away from the eye towards the side of the face, which connects to the area….
  3. Just above the eye, where there is lighter and darker fur, which, when taken all together gives the impression that the cat is frowning.
  4. The mouth is turned down slightly.

All these factors give the impression this cat is sad and worried or concerned. However, a number of these factors are “impressions” due to fur patterns and coloring. This is a tabby cat and the pattern is due to that.

In conclusion, what I am saying is that this cat gives the impression that he or she is sad and concerned when, in fact, he may not be.

I think we have to be careful when we interpret a cat’s expression. We should be careful that we don’t totally depend upon our experience of looking at a human face and using that as a way of interpreting a cat’s facial expression. It may mislead us.

Note: the picture comes from Reddit and I don’t have a credit. I would love to give one but can’t. The owner of this cute cat says he or she looks sad, which gave me the idea for the post.

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Sad Cats Look Sad. Discuss — 7 Comments

  1. As a cat’s brain is very similar to a human’s brain it may be that their facial expressions are similar too.
    The big eyes of the cat in the picture certainly look like the cat is about to shed tears of sadness.

    • I know what you mean. My argument is that we have to be careful. It does not mean this cat is not sad or anxious.

      We don’t really know. We just have to make sure we don’t anthropomorphise cats.

  2. I don’t know if the cat is sad or not but the poor thing looks half starved to me and I think a damn good meal would cheer the poor little soul up no end.

  3. I think he looks like he is confused as to why humans are so stupid. Sort of like the look on Monty’s face when I separated him from the chipmunk he was tormenting and deposited him (Monty) inside. Why would anyone do such a thing? I wasn’t done yet. Why won’t mom let me play unsupervised outside? Why is she still sitting there ignoring me? Monty had a rough day. Like the little guy in the picture, I imagine.

    • It could be anxiety or stress but cats are varied and unique and have many different ‘looks’. I do believe they have expressive faces though. If this cats was sleepy it would not look sad. If it’s eyes were not wide open it would likely not look sad. There is ‘sad’ element in the looks on cat’s faces but this is just us I think. It’s like never sadness even if it is a genuine expression of the moment, it’s probably another emotion like hunger or stress or even excitement. British shorthairs often look like grumpy teddy bears but I doubt they are grumpy. It’s just us humans who interpret too quickly. A longer closer look reveals something else in most cases.

      I agree – the cat is thinking “will this human ever go away”.

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