Categories: cat emotions

Can single house cats become lonely?

You have to be careful that you don’t project human thoughts onto animal companions when answering questions about higher emotions and domestic cats.

The modern domestic cat is still essentially a solitary character but over thousands of years of domestication they have become quite sociable.

Also in a decent home when the quality of cat guardianship is high a domestic cat will definitely miss her human companion. It is argued that cats grieve the loss of a human but in all honesty there are doubts about it.

And, in a two cat household where the cats are friends one will miss the other if they are missing for whatever reason.

Further, when cats are allowed outside they have more opportunities to be stimulated by events, sights and sounds which are distractions if they are living alone because they live in single cat home and the person is out for a long time.

The individual character of the cat also plays a part. Also it depends upon the life history of the cat. If all that a cat has known is living alone they’ll be acclimatised to it and conversely if they have close feline or human companions they’ll miss the companionship.

This knowledge informs us in answering the question in the title.

Books on cat behaviour

I have many books on domestic and wild cats. When I searched authoritative books on my Kindle I could not find any references to domestic cats being lonely. The word ‘lonely’ is not considered a topic for discussion by these authors, one of whom is Dr Bradshaw of Cat Sense. This reinforces the point I have made. We have to be cautious when discussing cat emotions and particularly loneliness.

Conclusion

Loneliness is an emotion. People are still discovering and deciding how domestic cats experience emotions. They definitely experience the basic emotions of anger and fear and so on. But do they feel lonely or other higher emotions such as guilt or jealousy? They probably feel jealousy but not grief but we are not sure.

Might loneliness in this instance be better described as ‘feeling isolated’? Or perhaps domestic cats simply miss their human caretaker. They miss their companionship without feeling lonely. Cats certainly would not recongise the feeling of loneliness.

I suspect that that ‘missing companions’ (which is different in my opinion) is the more accurate response. There is no question that cats do miss companionship. There also no question that cats make friends and form close relationships with other animals and people. This must be a major guide in deciding whether they can feel lonely.

I’ll have to come to a final decision on whether single house cats get lonely. I don’t think they do but they can become stressed if they have companions who are missing.

Please share your thoughts.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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