Cat Basics: Emotions

05/13/12 - by TheCatCoach

When I was a child, people used to tell me that cats are easier to keep as pets then dogs. Dogs needed more attention and they had to be walked and played with every day. People would say that cats only needed food, water and a litter box—they were self-sustaining and indifferent, not needing or wanting attention from their people. Families I knew didn’t bat an eye at leaving their cats alone for the weekend with no one to talk to or anything to do—they would fill their food bowls with dry food, top off the litter box and give them a large bowl of water.

The Emotional Lives of Cats

Although many people are more enlightened today about cats then when I was a child, some misconceptions about them persist. One of these is that cats are aloof, loners and don’t particularly need people except at dinner time and when the litter box needs cleaning. Cat-loving people who share their worlds with cats know this isn’t true. Unfortunately, there are others who, to different degrees, don’t think cats are capable of experiencing strong emotional connections to people.

Cats are intelligent and they experience a wide range of emotions. Cats show their feelings in a number of ways, including through body language, vocalizations and their proximity to people. Many cats bond strongly to their people, following them from room to room, talking to their favorite humans with chirps and soft meows, others favor taking naps, nestled on a lap or in the crook of their human companion’s arm. It is also common for cats to develop strong ties with another resident household animal, napping, grooming and just hanging out together.

Cats Grieve

blankCats can also experience separation anxiety and grief when their favorite companion is away for an extended length of time or is permanently separated from them. Cats surrendered to shelters and rescue centers often display these behaviors as well.  Over-grooming, litter box avoidance and depression are a few examples of behaviors that cats can develop when they experience loss.  Sadly, some cats become depressed and stop eating when separated from a bonded companion or removed from their homes. Additionally, stress, grief and anxiety can compromise immune systems which often results in cats becoming ill. There are steps shelters, new adopters and cat parents can take to help cats adjust to their situations.

My next blog installment(s) will provide suggestions on how cat parents and shelters can help cats through times of grief, separation anxiety and adjust to new situations.

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2 comments on “Cat Basics: Emotions”

  1. Thank you for this post! It is true that cats are very independent creatures, but I wish more people would realize they are also emotional creatures who love their owners and become attached to them! They need attention and constant interaction with their owners! I recently started working full-time, and it is interesting to see how my cat has been dealing with my absence during the day. When I get home at the end of the day I can tell he has missed me, and he shows it! Lucky for him, he has other people home in the house and a kitty friend so he doesn't have to be left alone all day! Cats express themselves in intelligent ways!

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