How Do Cats Express Their Emotions? (In Science’s opinion)

As a proud cat parent, you can generally read your feline pet’s emotions from their body language, facial expressions, noises (spitting, hissing, meowing), and even the way they behave. As a result, cat owners can typically tell if their favorite animal is happy or upset.

Despite the fact that cats have a complex emotional life, scientists are unable to define how pleased, terrified, or angry they are. The short answer is that cats definitely have feelings, though they aren’t entirely like ours.

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What Does an Emotion Mean in Cat Language?

Cats react based on their emotions. Fear, for example, can cause cats to act violently, whereas good experiences like stroking and petting might help them form bonds with other cats or their human owners. Furthermore, emotions can be pleasant or negative, and their intensity can increase or decrease.

For example, as a kitty’s joy grows, pleasure becomes euphoria, whereas irritation becomes fear and anger, and apprehension becomes fear and terror. Furthermore, animals with behavioral issues (not only cats) frequently go to extremes when expressing emotions.

The following are the most common emotions that cats experience:

  • Curiosity
  • Joy
  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Excitement
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety

What Are the Emotional Systems of Cats?

According to recent research, cats have eight main emotional systems that enable them to respond to information supplied to the brain via the senses. A desire-seeking system to find food, a fear-anxiety system to respond to unknown and potentially dangerous occurrences, a social-play system, and a care system to nurture offspring and develop vital social relationships are among these systems.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that cats, like humans, can experience emotions. Keep in mind, however, that your cat is first and foremost an animal, and that anthropomorphism might lead to emotional misinterpretation. It’s not always the perfect time to approach him if you’re unsure about his mood or observe him resting. This is why learning to read all of your cat’s signals (ears, eyes, tail, body language, and sounds) is critical to better understanding his feelings and improving your relationship.

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Treating Behavioral Problems in Cats by Observing Their Emotions

Even though it is impossible to assess emotions properly, feline behavior experts know that emotions are important to learning cats. They do, however, use emotions to address behavioral issues in pets.

Recognizing that cats have feelings can help solve typical behavioral issues including aggression, obsessive cleaning, and anxiety.

As a result, cats’ emotions are not only markers of their owners’ mental conditions, but they are also useful tools for professionals. Rather than simply studying cats’ behavior, veterinarians and feline behavior specialists consider the emotions they are experiencing in order to find a more effective solution to their problems.

Is it possible for cats to recognize human emotions?

Cats have long been thought to be incapable of displaying empathy. However, a study on cat emotion detection published in 2020 found that cats use both visual and auditory signals to recognize human emotions. Better yet, it appears that cats adapt and adjust their behavior in response to human emotion. They do not, however, appear to react in the same manner that dogs do, which could explain why your cat does not jump into your lap to comfort you while you cry your heart out on the couch!

However, the findings of this study reveal that cats do have social skills that allow them to understand human emotions, which is an important aspect in fostering human-feline bonds.


Cats are complex creatures, but recent scientific advances have thrown some insight on the complexities of their emotions. Cats do, in fact, have eight emotional systems that provide insight into their behavior, however the strength and precise measurement of their feelings remain unknown. But keep in mind that cats have a vast spectrum of emotions, going from fear and joy to curiosity, depression, and pleasure. And the fascinating part is that they can understand human emotions as well, but not always with the same empathy as their canine relatives!

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