How does a cat feel when they are yelled at?

Domestic cats are very likely to feel anxious and run away and hide if they are yelled at by their owner. They understand that their owner has become ‘hostile’ which may confuse them. The severity of the anxiety and overall reaction will depend on the cat’s character. Rarely, some cats will be unresponsive, perhaps if they live in a home where there is a lot of yelling! However, normally if there is a lot of yelling a cat is likely to feel chronically stressed and quite possibly suffer from a health problem such as cystitis.

Yelling at a cat. Not good. It should never. happen but it does
Yelling at a cat. Not good. It should never happen but it does. Image: MikeB
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In other words, if you yell at your cat their reaction will be not dissimilar to that of a rather timid human. They won’t be aggressive towards the person unless he/she is being physically aggressive to them. A cat’s reaction is to get away because they are living with a creature much larger than them who’s usually friendly.

I wanted to find out how many cat owners had succumbed to stress and yelled at their cat but there are no studies. I suspect that it happens quite a lot because cats are companions and every cat owner talks to their cat.

As they talk to their cat it shouldn’t be a surprise if they yell at them occasionally when, for example, they do something which scares their caregiver such as jumping onto their owner’s lap when they have a tray with food and drink on it. There’ll be other occasions when a cat might make their owner anxious. If the owner is stressed and/or in pain, their emotions can provoke a yell.

Rarely, I have raised my voice towards my cat and, of course, I regret it. My cat trots away and returns about five minutes later almost as if nothing has happened. He’ll be friendly and seek friendship which he gets in spades.

Even in the best human-to-human relationships there is going to be the occasional argument with raised voices. It is human nature. We should not be too surprised if rarely, even in a loving human-to-cat relationship that the caregiver raises their voice towards their cat.

This is to be distinguished from malicious yelling at a cat by an unpleasant owner ill-suited to the task. Under these circumstances the cat will suffer from stress and they should be removed from the home.

Also there must be occasions when there are two cat owners – husband and wife for instance – who argue a lot. They yell at each other. This will taint the environment and make it unfriendly for a cat. Couples who yell at each other are likely to undermine their kids in a similar way. Some children can be harmed psychologically by persistently arguing parents. They might feel that it is their fault if they’ve been naughty and this might cause low self-esteem which will have a negative impact on them all their lives.

Cats don’t react like that but a chronic environment can harm them mentally; make then chronically nervous.

It goes without saying that cats don’t like loud noises. They like the opposite: a calm, quite environment in which they can establish their own space and where they can knit their routines around those of their caregiver who’s present a lot of the time.

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