It may seem ridiculous to some people to discuss the emotion of embarrassment in relation to the domestic cat but I think it is worthwhile writing a short note about it as it is an emotion and cats feel emotions. It is just a question of whether cats feel the rather complicated emotion of embarrassment.
The truth is: I don’t know, but my experience tells me that they don’t. If they don’t it will be because they are more natural than the human animal. If they make a mistake they see that as normal. Personally, I don’t think they see mistakes such as mistiming a jump as anything different from jumping perfectly.
If a cat makes a mistake in, for example, jumping up to a perch on a cat tree and falls off, I believe a cat relates to that in exactly the same way as making a successful jump because they are both cat activities and the cat does not relate to his activities in terms of success and failure. Only people do that. We are far too concerned with the concepts of success and failure and whatever they mean; usually how much money you have made.
Cats are capable of feeling emotions but perhaps the emotion of embarrassment depends on what we feel is a standard of performance expected of us and cats don’t have that expectation of performance from others and therefore don’t need to become embarrassed. (Michael)
Humans are highly concerned with how other humans perceive us, what they think of us. Cats don’t have these hang ups and insecurities. Cats can feel insecure but if they do it is about safety not what another cat thinks of him/her.
Bruce Fogle DVM, the celebrity UK veterinarian/author, writes that when some cats make a mistake they sit down and wash themselves. It has been said that this is a cat’s way of showing embarrassment. If it is, it is a very strange way of showing it.
Mr Fogle makes the point that when a cat grooms herself after a mishap is just a way of signalling that everything is normal. The signal is intended to tell potential predators of the cat that nothing has changed and the cat is neither weaker nor more vulnerable.
As usual it is about survival.