Percy’s brother passed away yesterday. He’s been looking all day and then jumped up and just looked at me like this…
Do you think domestic cats feel sad, as this cat gives us the impression that he does, when they lose a close relatively with whom they have been friends all their lives? I do and I am sure most of my internet colleagues do to. Cats have enigmatic faces because their facial expressions are subtle, barely visible. And yet in this picture I see sadness. Am I projecting my sadness onto Percy? It is something that cat owners can do. It causes confusion. People do it more with their dogs. Dog’s reflect their owner’s emotions. Cats have emotions and have close friendships with people, other species of animal and other cats. It is hard therefore to argue that cats don’t feel sad when a close friend passes away. I believe it and most cat lovers do as well.
In addition to people projecting their emotions onto their companion animals there is another complication which is that some individual cats have a facial anatomy which gives the impression that they are smiling or frowning. But they have a fixed expression. One emotion that is visible and which is not fixed is the outward sign of distress through pain. Like humans, cats show that they are in pain through an altered facial expression which is tighter and pinched compared to their usual relaxed face. This is has been proved in scientific testing. I am sure that observant cat guardians have seen it. It is important to be able to as it can help with diagnosis and importantly assessing when it is time to euthanise a very old cat who is chronically ill.
Percy is sad and shows it. The opposite emotion is harder to show in a facial expression for a cat I believe. However, they show it in their body language, vocalisations and behavior. It is more contentment than out and out happiness but it is visible.
Did you find this article useful and interesting? Can it be improved? Please tell me in a comment. I am always keen to improve the site for animal welfare and reader enjoyment.