Do Cats Know When You Are Sad? How Do Cats Communicate?

Are you a pet lover? Do you know that cats, like other pet animals, bond with the humans they live with and learn to understand human emotions? Follow this article to learn how do cats know when you are sad and how they respond to your sadness.

If you are a cat owner, you would have often seen your cat coming towards you and noticing you when you are sitting in one place with a straight face. It is their way of contemplating your mood and then coming toward you to cheer you up.

It is a perceived notion that cats are oblivious to their emotions, so they do not empathize or care if their owner is sad or happy. Comparatively, dogs are more receptive to human emotions, but that is only partially true. Cats do sense their owners’ emotions and then alter their behavior according to that.

Dogs are considered loyal and cheerful companions and mostly praised because of these qualities, but cats’ ways of showing affection have not been discussed a lot. Cats do not jump over you every time they see you coming back home as dogs do, but they have their own ways of showing affection. Everyone should know a cat’s way of expressing its emotions so that one can bond with these friendly pets in a better way.

You might be having some queries regarding cats’ behavior when you see them purring, gazing, or snuggling to you. This article will help you understand cats, do cats know when you are sad and how cats perceive human emotions.

Do cats know when you are sad?

Cats have excellent visual capability, so if they find changes in your facial expression or appearance, they can quickly notice it. Another factor that contributes to understanding their owners is vocal features. Every human has a different voice tone, so cats will know if it is their owner’s voice or not. Additionally, they can also identify if the voice is pleasant or agitated, which helps them recognize the sad emotion of their owner.

The more you go close to cats when you are sad, the more they respond to your sadness in a calming way. Cats want to comply when they find their owners are sad or depressed, so the cat owners cope with their depressiveness by learning compliance from their cats. This is the reason why female cat owners are found to be less depressed than others.

What will cats do when you are sad?

Owner’s emotions influence the emotions of his cats, so it is possible that a cat becomes sad if it finds you sad and similarly can become happy if it senses positive emotions from the owner. Cats usually come near the owner and will try to cuddle. You can examine if they repeat similar behavior every time you are sad in front of them. It is their way of making you happy.

Not all cats behave in a similar way, as it depends upon the nature of the cat and its relationship with the owner. Several ways cats respond to their owner’s sadness include looking at you, purring, and sitting near you. This is the reason why people consider cats as their companions and bond with them.

Cats look at the eyes of the owner for signals. If you have a cat, you will see it constantly gaze at you if you cry in front of it because your cat is trying to figure out the situation through visual and auditory cues. After figuring out the situation, it will alter its behavior accordingly. Mostly, cats display their care by rubbing themselves against their owners to console them.

This ability to analyze emotions through facial expressions is called “social referencing,” and it is limited to not only cats but also dogs and other animals. In an experiment, a number of cats with their owners were locked in a room with fans making noise. Half of the owners were asked to talk to their cats in a happy tone, while the rest of the owners were asked to talk to them in a fearful way. It was observed that the majority of the cats looked at their owners after looking at the fan to identify if there was any problematic situation or not so that they could behave correspondingly.

All cats do not behave in the same way, some are less clingy, and some are more so. It will enjoy physical contact if your cat is one of those clingy and playful cats. It will not only revolve around you but will lay on your lap and console you with some gestures such as kneading, nibbling, purring, and bunting.

Ways through which cats show affection

If you have a cat, you will acknowledge the fact that cats have their own ways of showing affection as they can not express their emotions through words, so they use gestures. They have a clingy nature and will be near you if they love you. These ways are as follows:

Constant gaze with slow blinks

If you find your cat constantly looking at you and then blinking slowly in between, then it is their way of showing love for you. Cats are supposed to make long eye contact with the one they like, and you can also reply back to them with your gaze and slow blink. At times cats also look at their owners with half-closed eyelids, and that too is a gesture of love from them.

Turn their back to you

Another gesture of cats related to their affection towards you is to show you their rear end. If your cats turn their back up in front of you, it means that they trust you and are very comfortable at that moment. Cats keep themselves alert all the time because they play the role of prey and predator depending on the environment, but if it puts itself in such a vulnerable posture, then it is a sign that your cat totally trusts you that you will neither hurt it nor allow anyone else to do so.

Tail movement

If your cat has wrapped its tail around you, it means that they are feeling relaxed around you and showing affection to you. Moreover, if they put their tail upwards and curve it a little, that is also their way of telling you that they want to spend time with you and is considered a substitute for holding hands or placing an arm around a loved one. If a cat starts vibrating its tail, then it means the cat is approachable and excited to see you.


When you see your cat opening its mouth to bite you, it is not an attack or a sign of aggression but a way of showing love. Cats often do this when they are already sitting near you and you are petting them, so they nibble your hand because they do not want you to step petting them.

Paw gestures

Cats bring their paw towards you and move them over you from right to left. This action is called kneading, and cats do it to the person they love. Cats knead also knead their mothers when they are born, so it is an affectionate gesture. They do not knead in an aggressive way to hurt you.

Bring dead animals to you

If suddenly you see your cat bringing a dead mouse to you, do not consider it weird because being an animal hunting another animal is their achievement, so they present it to you to show their affection. Cats share it with only those who they love.

Bunt or nuzzle against you

If a cat rubs its head against you, then it is a sign of acceptance or adoration. However, if a cat hunts against something, it can also mean that the cat is trying to sniff you to get information, but it is also a gesture of acceptance and love. Sometimes cats also knock their head against yours, which is also known as bunting. You can also reciprocate your love in the same manner or by cuddling your cat as they enjoy it.

Vocalizing emotions through purr

The purring of a cat can signify it is hungry or happy. They can do it when they are happy and enjoying their time with you or expressing their love for you, so if you stroke your cat, you will see it purring. This is their way of telling you to keep stroking them as it gives them pleasure.

How do cats pick up on human emotions?

Cats have some innate abilities which help them to figure out the scenario of the situation they are in. Two such abilities which help them communicate with their owners are related to their sensory receptors. These are as follows:

The cognitive ability of cats

Cross-modal recognition in cats helps them recognize faces and identify the emotions. and Cats usually exist among similar species or among humans, so they have this ability to entertain social relationships. The cross-modal ability is an innate ability in cats that helps them identify humans through their facial features and voices, but it is only for those humans who interact with them; the rest of the faces and voices are unfamiliar to them.

Cats respond to you on the basis of visual cues it gets, and this plays a vital role in human-to-cat interaction. They have a mental representation of the emotion of their conspecific and humans.

Another way through which cats can identify their owners is through auditory clues, and if you name your cat, it will identify if the name being called is by an owner or somebody else. Cats can further recognize if the owner is happy or sad through the tone of their voice.

Emotion recognition in cats

There is a cognitive representation in cats through which they are able to recognize the sad and happy emotions of people they are familiar with. They can discriminate between these two emotions by matching the visual and auditory signals of the humans. They hear the voice and try to link it with the facial expression to figure out the emotion of its owner.

The response of cats also depends on these emotions. For instance, if a cat senses an angry emotion from the owner, then it will respond in a less positive way, whereas if a cat senses a happy emotion, then it will more likely respond in a positive way towards its owner.

Difference between a feral and domestic cat

Feral cats, also known as stray cats, are found on our streets. They are less friendly to humans as compared to domestic cats. The reason for this can be that they are born on the streets without any owner, so human interaction ability is absent in them. If they do not get trained in social interaction with humans, they find it difficult to even go near humans.

However, if they are trained well, they attain this socializing ability and behave in the same way as other domestic cats do. A lot of people consider adopting these feral cats rather than going for breeds of domestic cats.


Feral cats are found on streets, and they live in the form of groups. They roam in search of their own food and also help each other in that group to hunt for their food, against danger, and to raise kittens. Domestic cats, on the other hand, do not grow up with lots of cats, so they are fine in their own company, and even if they grow up with another cat, they are capable enough to get along with other cats.

Life span

Feral cats are deprived of vaccinations and proper care as they live on roads and rely for food on whatever is easily found, so the average lifespan of feral cats is 2-3 years. Domestic cats are properly vaccinated, and their food is also clean and nutrition based, so their average lifespan is 18-19 years.

Physical touch

Feral cats do not usually enjoy human touch, but if you feed a feral cat, then it might develop affection for humans. If you try to chase a feral cat or make loud, frightening noises, it can irritate it. Domestic cats, on the other hand, are friendly and like being touched or cuddled. Feral cats do not make eye contact and use their tails to protect their bodies, while domestic cats make eye contact as it is their way of communicating with their owners.

Emotional attachment

The psychology of feral cats mostly revolves around independence because they do not rely on any source for their care and food. They solve their own problems if they are stuck in any problem, while domestic cats rely on their owners for most of their activities. This is the reason why a domestic cat needs constant care and can emotionally suffer if it gets deprived of its owner’s attention.

Domestic animals rely on others to defend their territories and help them raise their young, so they get easily attached to humans and bond with them as this association fulfills their requirements.

Do cats grieve their owners?

If you have a cat at your home, you can easily figure out its emotions by analyzing its behavior. Cats, like humans, can feel all kinds of emotions, but since they can not utter those feelings in words, they express their emotions in their own different way. There are a few things that can make cats sad, including the loss of a loved one, either a human or another cat, or a change in their routine.

If your cat has lost interest in the things it usually enjoys doing, then that can be a sign of depression. For instance, if you take your cat out on a regular basis for a walk and then it does not move out to walk anymore. Moreover, if your cat is not being clingy suddenly or not showing interest in eating, then it can also be because of depression. It is not necessary that a changed behavior will always reflect a cat’s depression because sometimes it can be a sign of any health problem. In the latter case, you should get it checked by your vet.

Another cause of the cat’s sadness can be because of the separation anxiety it faces. Like humans, cats can also feel stressed if they are away from their owners or another partner that has lived with them for a long time.

How do cats help with depression?

It is true that your cat senses if you are sad because they are highly receptive to human emotions and behaviors, so a slight change can be sensed by them, even if it is an emotion of sadness. When animals live in a social group, they are able to perceive the emotions of people around them and sometimes even respond to them. These emotions include happiness, sadness, anger, panic, etc.

Some pet animals, such as dogs, horses, and cats, are more sensitive to human communicative signals. They can recognize the auditory and visual signals of humans and then behave according to those emotions, sometimes in response to them. This is the reason why humans develop an emotional attachment to their pets.

Cats respond to their owners in a certain way which helps him/her deal with depression or anxiety. For instance, a cat’s purr has some healing properties which can help humans to lower their stress levels and blood pressure. Although cats are not a substitute for medical therapy, they can help you cope with it to an extent.

One of the factors of depression is loneliness, so cats can help humans deal with this factor by providing a sense of companionship. If you play with your cat, it is possible to feel lighter and relaxed as touch is considered a basic human need, so it can be fulfilled by cuddling or playing with your cat. It is an innate ability in domestic cats to sense emotions, but when they start living with their owners, it takes some time for cats during domestication to get familiar with the environment and develop social skills that are human-compatible.


Cats, like other pets, get influenced by the emotions of their owner. Their way of showing affection differs from other pets, and being unable to convey their concern with words, cats use certain gestures that can express their concern and effort to comfort their owner. These gestures include tail movement, gazing and slow blinking, etc. Cats do not understand the emotions of any human they encounter in the world, but as they continuously live with their owners, they get familiar with the face and voices of their owners. They make sense of the facial expressions by relating them to the vocal signals they receive and then manage their actions according to that. Cats provide companionship to their owners, and this is the reason why many people prefer to adopt cats and then create a strong affiliation with them.