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Do cats have emotions and which of them have you seen?!

A photo of the different types of emotions a cat shows

This post is one that has interested me for such a long time. It is something I have wanted to write about after doing a lot of research. I am pretty sure it is on a topic that many cat owners have often wondered about themselves.

Do cats have emotions and which emotions do they feel?!

Personally I can remember numerous times that I have looked at our cat and tried to work out what it is feeling. You can sense that there are emotions playing out. Be it from its movement or its facial expressions.

So I want to tell you everything I have learnt about cats and their emotions and what you can learn from them by watching. Grab a drink and some snacks because this is going to be a long one!

Do cats have emotions like humans?

Cats are incredibly intelligent creatures that are highly social. It is known that cats share some of the basic “higher feelings” the same as those to which humans experience. These include

  • Fear.
  • Anxiexty.
  • Happiness.
  • Anger.
  • Suprise.

But do cats share some of the deeper emotions? Empathy, compassion, jealousy and love?

Do cats have emotions

Do cats have emotions?

Is it emotion or just animal instinct?

Do cats have emotions? Our domestic feline friends are direct descendents of wild African which means they have inherited some traits.

They are lightening fast, and can process and react to a situation in milliseconds. This is what makes them such successful hunters and also keeps them out of danger.

That is animal instinct but cats have much more to offer than that. Just like dogs they have a multitude of different emotions that are not driven by animal instinct.

What defines an emotion?

An emotion is a psychological reaction to a circumstance. This can then be expressed in a psychological or physiological way.

There are 5 basic emotions which are fear, anger, disgust, happiness, sadness and last but not least surprise. These basic emotions can then be mixed to make other more complex emotions such as love, jealousy and anxiety.

Each one of these emotions can cause a different or mixture of psychological or physiological responses.

What do emotions in cats look like?

Cats show their emotions in a variety of different ways dependant on each situation they encounter. You can gauge yours cats emotions by looking for the following reactions below.

Happiness and contentment.

A photo of a cat showing emotions of happiness

This is a happy and content looking cat judging by how relaxed it looks.

This emotion is one of the most common that you will see from your cat. When a cat is happy and content you will see any or a mix of the following:

  • Kneading on you is a common sign. If you would like to read more about kneading I have written a post about this.
  • Your cat will often lay out in a relaxed way when it is happy. This can be on its side or back and it’s eyes may be half closed with its ears slightly forward.
  • Purring is another huge giveaway of a cat that is happy and content with life.
  • The cat will in general look far more relaxed and not alert.

Fear and anxiety.

This is another very common and easy to recognise emotion in a cat. You will often see this when there is a lot of noise going on around the cat or another animal such as a dog approaches it. This is the only time I have seen my own cat display these emotions. It has known our dog for 4 years now but still will not accept it!

The signs of a cat that is feeling fear and anxiety are as follows:

  • Standing tall and arching the back into a high upward ward curl. By doing this the cat is trying to make itself look bigger than it is in an attempt to scare whatever it is fearing.
  • The hair from the top of the neck and right down the back will stand on end.
  • The ears will be pricked backwards and moving rapidly towards any sound.
  • Eyes will be wide open and the pupils will be dilated. Any small movement and the cat will be completely ready to react to the situation.
A photo of a cat showing fear

This cat is showing all the signs of the fear emotion.


Cats obviously feel the emotion of anger as anyone who has been on the receiving end of a claw swipe will tell you.

Our cat sometimes lashes out if you need to move it off something for one reason of another. First there will be a fast swipe of the claws or even a quick and sharp bite. This is then followed up by hissing.

The hissing could even be a sign of disgust at being moved as it has already shown its anger in the physical aggression.

A photo of an angry cat

Do cats have emotions? This cat is showing some anger emotion, angry cats can lash out.

Emotions of love, empathy   And jealousy in cats.

These are harder emotions to prove exist in a cat but if you ask any cat owner I am sure they will have felt them before from their cat.


Love could be classed as an extension to happiness and contentment. You provide your cat with a warm place to live, food every day and strokes and cuddles. In return it will knead on you showing it is happy and content but is it also expressing love by doing this?


This emotion is the hardest to prove. However I know from personal experience that if I am feeling low or if I am sick my cat is definitely more clingy and try’s to cuddle up tighter to me. Almost as if it is trying to say it understands that there is something wrong and it feels sorry for me.

Let me know in the comments section if you have noticed this sort of emotion from your cat!


Jealousy is yet another more complex emotion that you will see in your cat from time to time.

If you own more than one cat you may notice it more often such as at feeding time. If you have two food bowls for your two cats have you ever seen one cat take a quick swipe at the other if it’s food bowl is not filled first? Some could definitely say that this is a form of jealousy being shown by the cat and is quite common.

My conclusion on cats and their emotions.

Do cats have emotions? Cats are without doubt a very complex and intelligent animal. They show signs of having so many different types of emotions just like a Human which I find very interesting.

Being aware of the emotions that they show and the signs of which they are feeling means that we can be better owners.

Have a watch of your feline friend and see which emotions you can see from the list above. Let me know in the comments section about any emotions you have seen and the situations that caused them to occur.