Can a cat distinguish between being hurt accidentally or deliberately?

Can a cat distinguish between being hurt deliberately or accidentally? Cats are good observers. Humans know the difference between an accident and a deliberate act by observing the other person’s behavior and what they say. Cats can’t understand what we say but they can observe behavior and they can recognize the difference between a hostile person and a friendly person. This informs them as to whether they are hurt by accident or deliberately.

Child stamps on cat's tail

Accidental act

You accidentally step on your cat’s tail. She runs away and in quite a short space of time she returns and you cuddle her and apologise. Your demeanor indicates friendliness and she recognizes this. Does she understand that it was an accident? Not exactly but she knows that you are not hostile and she forgets it quickly.

Deliberate act

You step on his cat’s tail deliberately because your are disgruntled and unhappy with your cat. Your cat slinks away and hides or retaliates if the relationship is broken. Eventually, the cat returns and you make up and are ‘friends‘ again. However, under these circumstances your cat might be wary of you because of your body language and background hostility which is the back story to the particular incident in which the cat is hurt.

A single deliberate act of violence against a cat by an owner is less likely than multiple acts in a household. A cat won’t know they are deliberate acts compared to accidents but she will now that the person is hostile. She can therefore distinguish indirectly between an accident and a deliberate act. A deliberate act of violence against a cat will not be forgotten so soon because the perpetrator’s attitude will persist after the event. It may train the cat which would mean it is not forgotten. She may associate the pain with what she was doing when it occurred. It may therefore prevent her from doing the same thing again whatever it might be.


However, I don’t believe that cats know the meaning of the word ‘accident’ or the phrase ‘deliberate act’. They don’t understand what an accident is. They just feel pain and that pain has come from their owner. This would be a hostile act which can be forgotten or the memory can persist depending on the circumstances.

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My neighbor threatens to hurt my cat. How can I stop him?

There are two ways to deal with this.

Criminal Aspect

If your neighbour treatens to hurt or kill your cat it is a threat to damage your property and in the UK is a crime (Criminal Damage Act 1971 — 1971 CHAPTER 48). You should call the police and they should interview your neighbour and that may be enough to stop him or her. However, it will obviously create even more tension between you and your neighbour and may make your relationship intolerable.

In the USA I suspect that the law is very similar to the UK and therefore it is certainly a crime to threaten to hurt or kill your cat.

This is because the cat is considered a “chattel” or a possession, no different to any other item possessed by a person. Hurting a cat is tantamount to criminal damage. Therefore in the USA you should call the police if you want to deal with the matter in that way. But below I recommend an alternative way to deal with the matter which may help to keep on reasonable terms with your neighbour if this is possible.

Proactive Steps – Non-criminal

My neighbor threatens to hurt my cat. How can I stop him? Not an untypical question, but, I hope, reasonably rare. The sensible answer is to be proactive and prevent your neighbor making threats. There is little point calling the police after he has hurt your cat. It may bring some satisfaction but the objective is to stop your cat being hurt. Also getting police involved in general is not a good idea, neither is antagonizing your neighbor even more. However, it would obviously be a crime to hurt or kill your cat in all countries in the West. You’ll just have to prove it and that might be tricky.

Person threatens to hurt my cat
Photo of angry man by Jan Tik (great photo, well done). Photo of cat by Michael. He is Charlie.

If your cat is irritating your neighbor either the neighbor hates/dislikes cats and/or your cat is roaming around his garden irritating a fairly normal person. Perhaps your cat is defecating on your neighbor’s garden? A lot of people hate that.

No matter how much a person loves cats and wants their cat to be content by behaving normally, the cat owner has to think of other people and comply with the law.

In America, the answer might be: keep your cat inside as a lot of cat owners do. In Britain the answer might be: if you have a garden of sufficient size, build a cat enclose. Or in both cases, if and when your cat goes out, supervise the trip or put your cat on a leash. Also, it is more socially responsible to pick up feces if he defecates in a public place, although I understand the difficulties of doing that. Your cat should be prevented from going onto your neighbor’s property if he strongly dislikes it.

All of this may sound tough, even impractical, perhaps, but the first call upon a cat caretaker is the cat’s safety and if your cat is unsafe wandering around outside because of threats to his health and welfare something has to be done, proactively.

Also it is important to try and keep on good terms with your neighbors. Neighbor disputes are the worst kind. They make you miserable. There are no winners. It is lose-lose.

In many neighbourhoods people won’t mind a wandering cat. Many people accept it and like it. It creates a more human and friendly feel to the neighbourhood

In this case someone does mind and you can’t take the risk that he is just making an idle threat. People sometimes trap a domestic cat on the premise that the cat is a stray. They take him to the pound or shelter where his lifespan might be only a matter minutes. Or they might put down poison. It is almost impossible to catch people poisoning cats or prevent people from hurting a companion animal. Shooting at cats is another nasty pastime for some people.

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Why some people feel more compassion and empathy for animals than fellow humans

You may remember a story in the past about a woman who stabbed a man because the man hurt the woman’s cat. This happens occasionally (unsurprisingly, I’d say). In one such example a woman stabbed a man to death. Of course it was murder. She did it because the man threw her cat against a wall – he was frustrated in his inability to fix a television believe it or not. The cat survived. The woman is serving a 15 year prison sentence for murder. It happened in Russia.

But the point I’m making is that the emotions which some people feel when their cat is being hurt by someone they know is stronger than if another person is being hurt. Why is this?

The answer must be to do with the innocence of the animal compared to the lack of innocence of humans. The domestic cat is an innocent creature. They live instinctively. They can do no wrong. Only humans can judge them as doing something wrong in their eyes but they’re not actually doing anything wrong. The cat is doing something that the human does not like.

It is the innocence of the animal which touches a nerve in a lot of human beings. When that innocence is attacked it is something which is totally unacceptable to some people. It is akin to a person attacking a young baby or young child. Violence against children engenders a similar reaction in most people.

To some people it is inexplicable why people feel more compassion and empathy for animals than for fellow humans. I am one of those people who feels more compassion and empathy for animals than for fellow humans and it is not inexplicable to me.

As I said, it is about innocence. The beauty of innocence in a creature. You cannot hurt such a creature. There can never be a reason for it because they can do no wrong. They cannot be malicious and nasty. They cannot be bad. There is a purity about innocence which protects them from criticism.

When innocence is attacked by a depraved person (and for a person to attack a domestic cat you have to be depraved in my opinion) there is a stark contrast in attitude and behaviour. The cat is behaving instinctively while the human is behaving in a distorted, sociopathic and criminal manner. You can only but hate such a person and feel great sympathy for the cat unless of course you hate cats and are the sort of person who could hurt innocence.

Depraved = morally corrupt, wicked.

Please note this: I am writing about the human’s relationship with, primarily, the domestic cat. I’m not writing about wild animals and the relationship between one wild animal and another or the relationship between the wild parents of wild offspring as referred to in the first comment on this page. That person totally misunderstood what I’m trying to get across. I thought I was clear about this but obviously some people are too interested in criticising me and finding ways to do so.

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He asked: “Is it normal to have the urge to hurt my cat?”

On a person who calls himself ‘Prankishbear’ asked “Is it normal to have the urge to hurt my cat?” He says that he likes his cat.

There are quite a lot of people on the internet asking a question similar to this one. Another man on Yahoo asks, “Why do i have these uncontrollable urges to hurt my cat?”

This particular person says that he has no urge to hurt his dog. It seems that cats are the object of their imagined violence.

Desire to hurt a cat
Desire to hurt a cat

They are genuine questions. They are disturbing. They need help from a qualified professional.

One good aspect of this is that they are asking the question in public which obviously indicates self-examination and introspection. That must help prevent the person from acting out their thoughts.

Personally, I feel that these people are full of anger which has infiltrated their minds and taken up residence permanently. There are probably very good, justifiable and sad reasons why they are angry.

They want to release their anger on an object and cats are very suitable unfortunately because they are there. Cats do as they please which might aggravate the fragile mentality of a person who wants to express his anger by doing violence against a cat.

The answers to these questions from others vary from arguing that it is normal to have these thoughts to advising that they seek professional help urgently.

One person said that they are intrusive thoughts which even well balanced people cat sufffer from. He said that it was part of the human condition. If these dangerous intrusive thoughts happen now and then, it is okay. That was the suggestion.

I am not sure that I agree. People with these macabre thoughts may be developing sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies. But I am not a psychiatrist.

There is no doubt that they need to see their GP and ask to be referred to a mental health specialist.

It is particularly sad for me that these people always target the domestic cat, theirs or their girlfriend’s or perhaps any cat on the street. We have seen this a lot on the internet through smartphone videos.

The cat is terribly vulnerable to these dangerous people. Is the dog less likely to be the subject matter of these disturbed thoughts?

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Trapping and killing grey squirrels could lead to breaking the criminal law

I know someone who traps and kills squirrels. He could break the law if he hurt a cat

Traps designed to kill squirrels and rodents may hurt or even kill a cat and if so the person who set the trap would be committing a criminal offence and be liable to be prosecuted by the RSPCA in the UK.

I find it bizarre to be honest that a lot of people in the UK hate the grey squirrel and want it to kill it. You see people on golf courses setting traps for squirrels and my neighbour, at my last address, trapped grey squirrels and bludgeoned them to death because they scratched the trees! He is a decent man too. I just don’t get it. Yes, I realise the grey squirrel pushed out the red squirrel but are they to be punished and slaughtered for it?

Bearing in mind that there are a lot of grey squirrels there is real potential for injury to wandering cats if people develop the habit of setting traps.

The small trap in the picture is called a ‘feen trap’. It caught a cat. The cat survived and wandered around with it on his/her head in Cheltenham on May 6th 2015.

It is not illegal to use the feen trap to kill rodents. Also, it is legal to trap and kill a grey squirrel in the UK provided red squirrels are not at risk. This is speciesism but I shan’t go into that.

Source: RSPCA issue warning after cat found with killer….

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