Categories: annoyance

Is it normal for a cat to give you the silent treatment after you’ve been gone for just one day?

Sulking cat? No, just having fun.

Is it normal for a kitten or cat to give you the silent treatment after you’ve been gone for just one day? The question tells us that some people think that domestic cats or kittens become angry when their owner leaves them alone for a long time and express their anger through deliberate silence. In other words it is expressed passively in sulking and silent hostility. I don’t believe this.

I think this is projecting human emotions onto domestic cats. It is a type of human behaviour which happens quite a lot, perhaps more so with respect to dogs.

I don’t believe that cats sulk. And I don’t believe cats become so upset when their owners are away for a day that they become angry and start playing a sulking game. Sulking is a deliberate act of getting back on the person who disappointed you. It’s deliberately taking your gift of friendship and interaction away from the other with the intention of inflicting emotional hurt. In all honesty this is too advanced for a domestic cat.

Cats may experience separation anxiety under these circumstances but on the owner’s return cats behave as expected and are pleased to see their human companion again.

I would expect some cat owners to disagree with me and to believe that they have experienced a sulking cat on their return. However, I would ask that they reappraise their thoughts. I would also be very pleased if they would share their thoughts and experiences.

If an owner is away for two weeks and their cat is at a boarding cattery for the entire time, the cat might be a little surprised at the sudden arrival of their human guardian but soon after she’ll demonstrate that she’s happy.

In my experience cats immediately recognise their owner’s voice after a long break and approach him/her quickly provided the relationship is close. It is all normal and as expected.

“A sulk is a reaction to feelings of being rejected where, instead of getting openly angry or talking about the problem, the sulker retaliates with moody silences or monosyllabic replies designed as a punishment.” — Roger Dobson writing for The Independent (about people).

Sulking is a people problem. It’s an expression of the emotion of rejection, isn’t it? I don’t believe cats feel this complex emotion. They are far too practical, functional and instinctive. However, the issue of how cats experience emotions is still being explored except.

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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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  • I think there's more to this. Cats do feel emotional pain, so it's not too egregious to think they are feeling something that manifests in what people might interpret as the silent treatment. I agree that they may not seek petty revenge and play passive aggressive games as people do, but they feel emotional hurt that in this case might be a defensive response to losing us for a time. They may not know what to think of it but they react by withdrawing from that which caused pain. When we, their whole world, seem to abandon them, sending them into a spiral of conflicting emotions, I think the only true and honest reaction to that is to withdraw and regroup. They don't wish to jump back on that roller coaster of yay my human is here again, but for how long this time? They just might disappear again and I'll feel hurt again...

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