People search for an online answer to the question in the title. It tells us something about the attitude of some people towards the domestic cat. They also search for an answer to the question “why don’t cats show pain?”
They are similar questions and the answer is the same in both instances. However, it has to said right away that the domestic cat does show affection very often and very clearly in many ways towards other selected cats and to their human caretaker. We know this but it is fair to say that cats are not inherently good at showing emotions. In human terms they don’t wear their heart on their sleeve like dogs. All mammals including cats have seven fundamental emotional systems. The human caretaker/guardian and indeed scientists can only judge a cat’s emotions by his/her actions.
Ernest Hemingway seems to have got it wrong in his maxim as shown in the photo below if we agree that cats sometimes hide their emotions. What do you think?
Despite the domestic cat becoming a social animal over about 10,000 years of domestication, he/she is essentially a solitary animal and as such the evolution of the domestic cat’s wild ancestor, the North African wildcat, dictates that it is better for the domestic cat to not be too transparent about his emotions.
Other members of the domestic cat species are a potential rival and therefore it is not in the best interests of the cat to declare to the world through his actions (driven by emotions) his/her contentment at finding food and a safe place to sleep. To do so would jeopardise survival.
The same goes for pain, as we well know. If a cat is in pain and feeling unwell, he/she attempts to hide this feeling and mask outward signs of discomfort because of the fear of being attacked by a predator or being chased off his territory. Obviously in a safe and secure home where the cat is cared for by a decent human being this is not going to happen but a cat is hardwired through evolution to behave in this undemonstrative manner.
Therefore for solitary animals such as cats, displays of emotion are unlikely to occur because evolution has selected out these forms of behaviour. Individual solitary animals who give little away are more likely to leave more offspring that those whose behaviour shows through outward signs their predicament both good and bad.
This said, it seems that domestication has created the social cat and with that a more demonstrative companion animal. I know I am being ambiguous but the domestic cat is evolving as a domestic cat and losing some of his wild cat inherited traits.