Can Cats Tell How You’re Feeling?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

One day I came home from school and I was really sad, so I went to my room, sat on my bed, and did a reflection on what had happened that day. A tear rolled down my face, and as I wiped away the tear I looked up to see my cat, Izzy, on my bed. As soon as I she saw me crying, she rushed over and started rubbing her head all over me, hitting me with her nose and purring like crazy, and she usually just leaves me alone. Could she have actually known I was sad?

Thomas gives Mama a lick on the cheek

Here I am giving some love and comfort to Mama. ~ Thomas

~ April

Siouxsie: Yes, April, we cats absolutely can tell when our people are sad!

Thomas: We’ve all spent lots of time comforting Mama when she was sad or angry, and helping her celebrate her joys and triumphs.

Bella: A cat’s purr has a sound frequency between 25 and 150 Hz. According to a Scientific American article, sound frequencies in this range have been shown by some investigators to improve bone density and speed healing.

Siouxsie: But beyond the physical healing, cats have provided emotional comfort to people all over the world.

Thomas: Cats are known to help children with autism or other developmental issues feel more comfortable with the world around them.

Bella: And of course, we’re always happy to help anyone who just doesn’t feel like they fit in anywhere. We love our people unconditionally, and we don’t care whether the other kids (or adults) think you’re cool or not!

Siouxsie: The fact that Izzy approached you and did everything to comfort you tells us that she really loves you a lot! Even if she mostly leaves you alone, this one episode should be a big clue that she cares a lot about you and your happiness.

Thomas: The next time you’re having a bad day and you feel like nobody cares about you, remember that special moment with Izzy.

Bella: Mama said that when she was a teenager, her cats helped her get through some really awful times, too.

Siouxsie: And we’re seeing more and more cats certified as therapy animals. Their company has been known to lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety, and help people who are suffering from mental illnesses. In fact, in the U.S., under the Fair Housing Act, people requiring emotional support animals (including cats) must be allowed accommodations in housing, including “no pets” housing.

Thomas: The catch here is that in order to have your cat qualify as an emotional support animal, you would need to have a special letter from a licensed mental health professional documenting your need for an emotional support animal. You can’t just go to any landlord and say “My cats are emotional support animals, so you have to let me keep them here.” This article from discusses emotional service animals and how they differ from psychiatric service dogs and other service animals.

Bella: Anyway, April, the point is that yes, we cats can tell how you’re feeling, and we love you enough to want to help you feel better when you’re sad.

Siouxsie: Mama wrote an article for Catster about how we kitties have helped her through some really hard times and even kept her from Putting Herself To Sleep — and so she thinks cats are the perfect therapy animals.

“Even when I couldn’t see anything to love about myself, I could see in their eyes that they saw a lot to love about me. I couldn’t abandon any creature that loved me even when I hated myself.” ~ Mama

Thomas: What about you other readers? Have your cats comforted you when you were sad? Do you have a therapy cat who works with people in nursing homes, kids with disabilities, or other people who need special emotional support? Please share your stories in the comments.

Bella: Tell us all about it, and share pictures of your therapy kitties too, if you’d like!

  • Sue

    Two of my cats are especially tuned to my well being. I have several health issues including sudden low blood pressure. I will lay on the floor until I feel strong enough to get up. Spicy, my 15 year old tortie at 6 pounds will run over and nudge me down on side of my body and up the other trying to help me up. When that doesn’t work, she will lay down by my ear and purr her loudest to comfort me!
    I’ve also broken bones in my foot due to osteoporosis and TC, my 11 year old tuxedo at 17 pounds will lay on my lower legs by my feet and purr like a freight train. She never lays directly on my hurts, just near them!

  • Amy

    MY daughter has always been different from what society believes is acceptable and because of this “difference” (whatever that means) she never quite fit in. I had heard that cats were particularly tuned in to their people & suggested getting a companion for my daughter. She had always wanted a cat & so I went to my husband to see if he would be agreeable.

    Unfortunately, my husband is strictly a dog person & had yet to accept my daughter’s emotional disabilities as a medical condition. So his answer was a resounding “No!”.

    Long story short, I finally convinced him that she did indeed need a kitty cat companion. After we brought little Coby home we all noticed a marked improvement in my daughter’s ability to cope with stress & anxiety. She very rarely talked of suicide anymore.

    Coby is now 6 years old & I can’t begin to tell you how many times he had comforted both my daughter & me through some pretty bad times.

    Just the other day I was sitting on my bed crying & Coby came rushing in from the living room, jumped up on my lap & began licking my tears away. He continued to sit with me (purr going full power) until I got up.

    Even after I started feeling better, he continued to follow me around the rest of the day, cuddling with me when I would sit or lay down. I sometimes joke that he should get paid therapist rates because of all the help, love and comfort he gives us.

    We are blessed to have such greatness in our lives & I will always Love my kitty cat babies!

  • AnitaB

    One day after I lost my house to fire I was living with my daughter and feeling particularly lonely. I could hear her and her boyfriend and son talking and laughing in the next room and I just felt so lost. I went up to the local fairground where a group of us care for a feral colony, and sat at the top area where there are the most cats. My two favorites (Sampson and Boots) showed up and bathed me with attention. The more I cried the more they came around me wanting me to pet them. Soon I didn’t feel so sad anymore and knew that someone cared whether I lived or died. They are both gone now but I will never forget that day they helped me. I hope they know how much I miss them.

  • Mikey

    I got my first cat – when I was 18. I bought her from a little mom n pop pet store in town for $6 – one week after my grandmother died. From the very beginning, JJ and I had a truly unique bond. She would follow me everywhere, talk incessantly and sleep touching me on the bed.
    There were many nights that I would wake from horrible dreams – night terrors really – and I could not go back to sleep until I’d held her. Oftentimes, she was not really in the mood to be held (at 3am), but once she felt the tension in my body (and my tears in her fur) she would just be still and purr, until I calmed down.
    For 16 years, she was my rock, my safe place. I still miss her terribly – I always will. There have been many since her (and I don’t think she’d be surprised about that – my need to ‘save’ them all was apparent even then) but there has never been another one like her.
    She honestly taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

  • Phyllis

    I have three cats and Matthew is the one who sits with me when things aren’t quite right for me. I have an illness that is hard to deal with and Matthew comes over and let me know he is there for me. The other two, Beasley and Jake, are not as concerned, maybe the three of them talked it over and let Matthew be the comfort. I really think all pets know when we don’t feel well, dogs as well as cats.

  • Catherine Murdoch

    When my marriage broke up completely out of the blue, I was extremely stressed and distressed. If it hadn’t been for my kitty-cats I would serious have contemplated suicide.

  • Barbara Hemmings Gray

    When my husband died suddenly, I cried all the time. Stripe “my husband’s cat” came up to me one day and gently pulled my hands away from my teary face with his mouth and cuddled up to me. Never had he done that before and he never did it again

  • Angie Mclean

    This is such a neat article. Thank you so much for sharing your insights into your sweet cat. I think it is awesome that our pets understand us so well.

  • Multi-Facets

    My Kravitz is my heart-healer and sanity-keeper. He’s one of the only and few reasons I even come home after work. So I guess he’s my emotional support animal too.

  • marina harmison

    Ever since I can remember, I have always had cats in my life. And I am definitely a 100% dedicated cat lover and proud owner of four domestic long hair grey balls of fur! My grey babies names are “Foof”, a two year old female. My big daddy cat “Pew”, also two years old. Then there is my two feisty younger grey angels that are both one year old. The thick furred and gentle girly girl is “Grey” and the other female is “Yappy”. Yappy is very high strung and has the most craziest expressions when she’s all excited and worked up…lol! Needless to say, my whole world pretty much revolves around these four critters that have brought me so much joy and happiness in times where I truly thought there would never be any. I know without a doubt that cats can sense the moods of their people. They also can sense any negativity in a person whether it be a known person or a stranger. More than a few times my Yappy has out right hissed at a person trying to pet her. Each and every one of those individuals ended up being not so great people. And every day I get to pet my Grey or talk meow-talk with my Pew is another day that God has truly blessed me.