The Purr-fect Apology. 3 Ways to Say Sorry to Your Cat

Why You Should Apologize to Your Cat

Cats may seem aloof, but research shows they understand far more than we give them credit for. Cats can recognize human emotions and read body language. So when you upset your cat, they understand you’ve done something to trigger their anger or fear. Apologizing will communicate that you recognize your error and want to make amends.

Apologizing also reinforces the bond between owner and cat. It shows your cat you respect their feelings and the relationship. Sincerely saying you’re sorry can help re-establish trust and affection after an incident.

So even though you can’t have a direct conversation, apologizing demonstrates you care about your cat’s emotions. It’s one way to maintain a strong friendship.

How Cats Show You They’re Upset

Cats have subtle yet distinctive ways of showing they are upset or angry. One of the most common signs is when a cat starts hiding more than usual. They may hide under furniture or in small enclosed spaces when they want to be left alone. Cats also show their displeasure by ignoring their owner and avoiding interactions. You may notice your cat suddenly stopping rubbing against your legs or jumping on your lap.

A cat who is upset may also go on a hunger strike and refuse to eat. This passive-aggressive behavior is meant to show their unhappiness. Aggressive behaviors like hissing, growling, swatting, or scratching are clear indicators a cat is angry. Cats may even resort to having “accidents” outside of their litter box to express their discontent.

According to, flicking tail, flattened ears against the head, and dilated pupils are some of the most common physical signs of an upset cat.

Get Down to Your Cat’s Level

When apologizing to your cat, it’s important to get down to their level. Kneel or sit down so you are closer to them. This will help your cat feel less intimidated. As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) advises, “Kneel down when apologizing to your cat.”

Make direct eye contact with your cat if they will allow it. Looking into their eyes conveys sincerity.
Use a gentle, calm tone of voice when speaking. Say something like “I’m very sorry” in a higher pitch and softer volume than your normal speaking voice. Your verbal and nonverbal communication should aim to be as non-threatening as possible.

Give Your Cat Some Space

It’s important to let your cat walk away if they need space after an upsetting incident. Forcing interaction will only stress them out more. Cats need time to process their emotions and calm down. As the Reddit user in this thread suggests, talk softly and avoid walking directly at your cat if they seem scared. Allow them to come to you when they’re ready.

Cats are very particular about their space, as explained in this article. It’s important not to force them into social situations if they seem upset. Give your cat ample alone time to recover from the incident. They may need a few hours, or even a day or two, to return to their normal selves. Be patient and understanding during this period.

The most important thing is allowing your cat to process the situation fully before attempting to reconnect. With time and space, your cat will likely forgive the incident and want your company again.

Offer a Treat

A treat says “I’m sorry” in cat language. Go for a favorite snack or toy to apologize to your cat. Offering a food like tuna, cheese, or salmon that your cat enjoys can show you want to make amends. Just make sure any human foods are cat-safe. Other enticing options include catnip, feather toys, or treats made with healthy ingredients like oatmeal or meat.

It’s important your cat sees the peace offering, so make the treat visible and within reach. Place it in your cat’s line of sight or gently wave it under their nose. Let them smell and inspect before gobbling it up. Offer praise and pets while they enjoy the treat. This positive reinforcement strengthens the conciliatory message. Just don’t overwhelm your cat if they need more time and space. A gift of their favorite foods shows you care and want to restore your bond.

Pet Your Cat Gently

Once your cat has calmed down a bit, try gently petting them in their preferred spots, like under the chin. Keep the pets brief at first if your cat is still upset. Watch for signals from your cat, like moving away or turning their head, that indicate they’re not ready for more pets yet. Be patient and don’t force interactions while your cat is recovering from being upset.

As explained in this WikiHow article, “Pet the cat gently in places where it likes to be petted, such as under the chin or cheeks.” Always let the cat indicate if they want more pets or need you to stop petting them while you are apologizing. also recommends “Gently pet them, scratch them behind their ears or under their chin.” When apologizing, brief gentle pets in favorite spots can help reassure the cat.

Use Calming Body Language

When apologizing to your cat, it’s important to use calming, non-threatening body language. Direct eye contact can seem confrontational to cats, so avoid staring directly at your cat when trying to make amends. Instead, try slow blinking. Slow blinking shows affection and mimic’s a cat’s relaxed state. Your cat may return the gesture with slow blinks of their own, signaling they forgive you and feel safe. Another calming signal is to yawn. Yawning helps relax both you and your cat. Keep your body relaxed, don’t make sudden movements, and let your cat approach you when they’re ready. This gives your cat a sense of control over the situation.

Verbal Apology

When apologizing to your cat, it’s important to use a soft, high-pitched voice. Research shows that cats respond best to gentle, soothing tones that are similar to a cat’s meow or a kitten’s purr [1]. Say words like “I’m sorry” or “Forgive me” in a quiet, affectionate voice. Repeating these apology words helps convey the sentiment. Keep your verbal apology simple and brief. Cats can’t fully comprehend human language, so stick to short, loving phrases to get your remorse across.

Commit to Changed Behavior

Apologizing to your cat is meaningless if the problematic behavior continues. After apologizing, you must commit to avoiding the same mistakes in the future and stick to any training boundaries you’ve set.

For example, if you’ve been overly rough when playing with your cat, commit to being gentle and letting your cat set the pace of play from now on. Use wand toys to interact from a distance and avoid triggering your cat’s prey drive.

Or, if you’ve been inconsistent about giving your cat access to countertops or other unwanted areas, decide on clear rules and stick to them. Be patient and don’t give up – it can take time and consistency before a cat learns a new rule.

Most importantly, don’t repeat the same behaviors that led to upsetting your cat in the first place. Apologizing without real change is meaningless. Your cat will forgive mistakes over time as long as you prove yourself trustworthy again through your actions.

When to Call the Vet

If your cat’s problematic behavior or house soiling persists despite your best efforts to resolve it, it’s time to call your veterinarian. Certain behaviors like aggression or inappropriate elimination can be signs of underlying medical conditions that require veterinary attention. According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, some medical causes of behavior problems in cats include:

  • Diseases causing pain or discomfort
  • Endocrine disorders like hyperthyroidism
  • Neurologic conditions like seizure disorders
  • Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (senility)

You should also contact your vet if your cat’s behavior is causing injuries, either to itself from self-mutilation or to people and other pets from aggression. Your vet can examine your cat for underlying physical or neurological causes and may prescribe medication to help control the behavior while the root cause is addressed.

Signs like appetite changes, vocalizing, agitation, house soiling, or hiding could indicate your cat is experiencing emotional distress. Your vet can advise on options like synthetic pheromones, anti-anxiety medication, or environmental changes that may help relieve your cat’s stress and improve their behavior.

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