Q: Do cats feel embarrassment like people do? If so, how can you tell, and what would make them feel embarrassed?
A: Yes! Just like humans, cats experience a wide range of emotions, although slightly less complex — nevertheless, they certainly have their share of embarrassing moments. It’s a natural product of the conscious experience.
Animals have consciousness and are self-aware. Embarrassment is the result of being overly aware of oneself, accompanied by the fear of not living up to the observer’s expectations. All animals, because they are self-aware, have the capability of experiencing embarrassment. But cats especially are one of the most highly conscious animals, making them most prone it.
One of the most common instances for a cat to feel embarrassed is when they fall down, like when they are trying to jump up onto something and fail to stick the landing. This is extra embarrassing when they know that other people or animals are watching them — especially their cat-mom or cat-dad. Cats like to show off and make themselves look good, so when they have an “oopsies” clumsy moment, it can make them feel frazzled.
How do cats handle their embarrassment? They do not like to wallow in self-pity and lose even more of their dignity. Rather, they often choose to “play it cool” and pretend nothing happened. Usually after an embarrassing moment, cats will excessively lick themselves — which can be compared to humans who touch their hair when they’re nervous.
Another case in which a cat feels embarrassed is when they have an accident outside of the litter box or vomit. This is almost always a sign of ill health or stress, rather than a purposeful act, which makes them upset. This is why you should never yell at or punish a cat when this happens.
If your cats suffers an embarrassing moment, please comfort them! But also, don’t make a big deal out of it, and simply let you know that you love them no matter what!
My expertise comes from my animal science bachelor’s degree, as well as a lifelong experience of mothering many cats. For serious and life-threatening issues, please refer to your local vet.
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