For most people, the question of “how do cats apologise” is easy to answer: they don’t! They knock our picture frames off the shelves. They kick litter out of the box seemingly on purpose. If we leave them overnight with a cat-loving Pet Sitter, we get reports of them zooming around the house at 3am. As this article is being written, a cat is unapologetically trying to sit on the keyboard.
It seems they are simply incapable of apologies.
At least that’s what we all thought. But as it turns out, science shows us that cats are much more complex and emotionally attuned than we give them credit for. They may not say sorry the same way a human would. But they do apologise, in their own way. And once you learn “how do cats apologise,” maybe you won’t be quite so angry about them for looking you straight in the eye while they scratch up your furniture.
First of all, are cats capable of apologising?
It can seem like cats live in their own little world. We assume that in their mind, they rule the house. You’re simply a servant that gives them their food and cleans out their litter box. But, research of cat behaviour tells us that’s not totally true.
On the one hand, cats are self-sustaining and territorial. Give a cat a safe place to live and the opportunity to hunt and they don’t need to have a human around. But that doesn’t mean that cats are unable to form strong emotional bonds. According to International Cat Care, females in feral colonies will groom each other and care for kittens communally. They may hunt alone, but many chose to live together in social groups.
Interestingly, fights and aggression within feral colonies are quite rare. Cats may not have much of a need to apologise because they don’t tend to anger the cats within their colony.
When we bring cats into our homes, we have the potential of creating the social group that is common in a feral colony. If we invest time in bonding exercises and general cuddles, our fur babies may see us as part of their social group. If your cat is very social and secure in their territory and relationship with their Owners, they may warm up more easily to cat-loving Pet Sitters, as well.
When you get angry at your cat, on the other hand, they get scared and stressed out. All they want is for things to go back to normal. But do they apologise? Well, it’s probably more likely that your cat just wants to make sure that they can still feel safe in their social group. They’re not admitting guilt, but they’re likely testing the waters to make sure you’re still friends.
So when they want to make things right, how do cats apologise?
Now, in the heat of the argument, your cat’s first reaction is likely going to be to run away. They may hide or go to a place in the room where they feel safe. You’ll also notice them staring at you. A lot of owners mistake this as defiance in their cat, as if their cat is saying to them, “Yes, I did that, and I don’t care.” But it’s more likely that your feline friend is trying to read the situation. Only when you’re calm will they be able to relax as well.
When things cool off, that’s when you’re going to see “apologising” behaviour. Every cat is different, but there are a few feline behaviours that may be your cat’s way of saying they’d like to patch things up. They include,
- Approaching you (it’s a little gesture, but it means they feel safe)
- Head butting and rubbing
- Blinking slowly
It’s impossible to say how long it will take for your cat to come around. But when they do, validate it! Only with an intact relationship will you be able to correct the behaviour that made you angry in the first place.
Perhaps more important than asking “how do cats apologise,” is asking ourselves, “why should they?”
At this point, a few things are clear. Cats don’t feel guilt. They do feel connected to us. And there are certain behaviours that show us they still think of us as part of their social group. And now that you’ve read this far to find out “how do cats apologise,” it might be time to ask yourself why you expected them to in the first place.
If your cat is peeing in the house, pooping outside the litter box, scratching up the furniture, or causing some other widespread chaos in your home, there’s a reason. Some behaviours are instinctual, like sharpening their claws and waking you up at 4am. Others are cries for help, like pooping outside the litter box because it’s dirty or the litter is bothering their paws.
When you learn about the behaviours of your cat, you’ll be able to address issues and make your home more cat-friendly. We’ve written articles about how to stop your cat from scratching the furniture and how to convince your cat to love you so that the bond between the two of you is stronger. Do more research about your cat’s unique behaviours to see if there’s anything you can do to make them feel more comfortable.
Overall, your cat wants to be on good terms with you. If you can compromise a little bit for your cat, there will be far fewer reasons for them to be apologising to you.