Do cats understand human crying?
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Do cats understand human crying?

Do cats understand human crying? This is a still image from an animated gif in the public domain.

Pick up our emotions

Do cats understand human crying? This is a tricky question but it is almost certain that cats don’t understand human crying per se but they do pick up our emotions through our body language and general demeanour. Cats feed off of human emotions. And our emotions are on display to our cat through body language. Incidentally, cats don’t cry. This may be a barrier to cats understanding what it means!

Causes mild distress in cats?

Human crying and distress may cause mild distress through uncertainty in a cat. Some cat owners believe that their cat makes an effort to comfort them if they are crying. I am not sure that this is correct. It may be anthropomorphising your cat or projecting your thoughts onto your cat and misinterpreting your cat’s behaviour.

Human tears are accompanied by a lot of body language and some noise. I have never tested this as I very rarely cry and when I have cried I have not watched my cat at the same time!

There may be a point to be made here. If a cat’s ‘owner’ cries all the time it is likely their cat will become accustomed to it. The body language will be normalised and the cat will be unaffected although the general mood of the home may be depressed which will affect their cat. If a person rarely cries their cat might feel anxious and concerned by the new and unknown body language and behaviour of their human companion.

Cats tend to mirror the energy of their human companion. If the person is frenetic and wound up their cat might be put on edge and one step from being set off to aggression.

Confidence versus Nervousness

If a person is nervous around cats and shows it and tries to stroke a cat tentatively with outstretched hand fingers first which is then yanked away, it wouldn’t surprise me if some cats might see this as a prey item and attack it. This would make the owner of the hand even more nervous around cats.

When cat guardians are confident it creates positive energy which their cat picks up. Confidence creates calmness and calm is great for a cat’s response. It is likely to be far more positive.

As Jackson Galaxy says:

“Be a nonthreatening ambassador, and carry a friendly message, entering feline territory with quiet confidence.”

Crying harshly in the presence of your cat is the opposite of calm and quiet confidence. Your cat will pick it up and be somewhat anxious but it all depends on the individual cat and the closeness of the relationship.

I’d welcome the input of the experienced cat guardians in comments. It would certainly add to the page.

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