Do Cats Feel Guilty?

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Do Cats Feel Guilty

Have you ever scolded your cat or dog for something naughty and then wondered if your pet really felt guilty or ashamed of their bad behavior? While you may think you can see a glimmer of remorse in your cat’s eyes or something in her body language that says, “I’m SO sorry,” associating these feelings with your cat’s temperament is pretty much wishful thinking.

Quite frankly, cats love to scratch things – and sometimes you’ll set aside a carpeted counter for that purpose, but every once in a while, it’s your vintage dining table. Find out how cats really feel when they misbehave and gather some tips on how to encourage your pet to behave better.

Your cat feels fear, not guilt

You may think that your cat or dog feels guilty when they do something wrong, in part because you notice physical changes such as a tucked-in tail, puffed-out ears, or a vacant gaze. However, your cat’s body language most likely conveys fear, which to the human eye can be replaced by guilt.

For example, a guilty cat that trails its tail in an attempt to find cover until the intensity of the crime subsides probably shows no signs of shame. Instead, your cat reacts with fear to your reprimand, which you may perceive as guilt. What’s more, your cat probably doesn’t remember scratching your couch and doesn’t know it was wrong or right.

Do Cats Feel Guilty

Cats don’t make associations

Indeed, your cat doesn’t associate his misguided attempts to go to the litter box with your reaction, because animals are designed in such a way that they live only in the present moment. They react emotionally to what is happening to them right now and do only what they feel is right in real time, while guilt is the result of shameful actions committed in the past. Cats pee to relieve themselves and scratch to sharpen their claws, not to upset their owners. However, just because a guilty cat doesn’t really exist doesn’t mean that felines don’t experience emotions at all.

For example, a cat might show her current depression by tearing apart your favorite suede jacket, rather than as a direct result of some specific incident in the past. When a cat purrs non-stop while curled up in your lap or eating tuna, you have a happy cat in that very moment, and for good reason. However, if she’s hiding around corners, she might get a little nervous about something that causes her stress (such as a thunderstorm outside). An angry cat will behave completely differently, waving its tail back and forth or making a guttural growl at the source of its anger.

Don’t scold the guilty cat

As crazy as you feel, yelling and worse, physical punishment does not lead to absolutely zero results and should never be used as a training tool with a cat or dog. If your cat defecates on the carpet and you scold him, he may know that you are angry at his actions, but he will not associate this anger with the fact that he uses the carpet as a toilet. For some reason, he thought the best alternative at the time was to poop on a carpet rather than in a box. The best way is through positive reinforcement training, which means using a signal or sound and a tasty treat when your pet is behaving properly.

Do Cats Feel Guilty

Focus on mild distraction

Instead of raising your voice, try splashing some water on your cat (but not in the face) to stop the mischievous behavior. Try to gently push away a cat that is trying to taste your ice cream cone. You can also cover furniture that you don’t want your cat to scratch or make an unpleasant sound (such as jarring coins in a jar) to startle her when she scratches something.

If these deterrents don’t work, you can simply ignore your cat. This can be an effective strategy because cats hate being ignored. At the same time, don’t forget to praise and treat your cat whenever she does something you approve of.

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