What Do Cats Do When You’Re Sad

Cats Can Sense Human Emotions

Cats can recognize subtle changes in human behavior and mood that indicate sadness. According to this study, cats are conscious of the emotions and sensations of their owners because they are intensely observant creatures. Cats predominantly use visual and auditory cues to perceive human emotional states. For example, cats notice facial expressions and can detect sadness from a frown or tears. They also listen to changes in tone of voice, such as speaking more quietly or crying. Cats observe human body language too. When an owner displays closed off postures while sad, their cat takes note. Overall, cats gain an understanding of human emotions by paying close attention to the behavioral cues their owners display.

Cats Offer Comforting Physical Contact

One of the most common ways cats comfort sad owners is through physical closeness and contact. According to Daily Paws, when humans exhibit signs of depression or sadness, cats will often rub against them more frequently. The repetitive motion of a cat rubbing its face and body against its owner can have a soothing effect.

Cats may also hop up onto their sad owner’s lap and settle in for pets and cuddles. The warmth and pressure of a purring cat on one’s lap can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. According to Bettervet, the physical closeness of a beloved pet during times of distress activates the release of oxytocin in the brain – a hormone associated with bonding, calmness, and wellbeing.

Simply having a cat nearby or within petting distance can also be comforting for sad owners. A cat’s presence provides an opportunity for positive tactile interaction. Petting a cat can cause a release of endorphins, decrease stress, and provide comfort.

Cats Provide a Soothing Presence

Just having a cat nearby can have a calming effect and reduce stress and anxiety. Several studies have shown that the mere presence of a cat can lower a person’s physiological signs of anxiety and elevate mood. For example, a study published in the journal Anthrozoös found that even having an unfamiliar cat in the room helped reduce stress levels and enhance mood in a group of distressed college students (https://www.dailypaws.com/cats-kittens/behavior/cat-psychology/do-cats-know-when-you-are-sad).

Cats may be able to promote feelings of calm and contentment just by being present. Their quiet, steady companionship can have a soothing effect when you’re feeling low. Gentle purring and kneading can relax both the cat and human. And simply petting a cat releases oxytocin in the brain, helping improve mood.

So if you’re feeling sad or anxious, having your cat curl up beside you or in your lap can provide a sense of comfort and reassurance. Their warm, soft bodies and rhythmic purring can be very therapeutic.

Cats Distract from Negative Thoughts

One of the reasons cats can help when you’re feeling down is that they provide a welcome distraction from negative thoughts and sadness. Playing with or petting a cat refocuses your attention away from whatever may be causing sadness and onto something warm and affectionate. This shift in focus can lift your mood and make you feel better.

Cats often initiate play when they sense you need comfort. Batting toys around and presenting them to you is their way of trying to engage you in an activity to take your mind off your troubles. Even just watching a cat play can be distracting in a positive way.

Petting a purring cat has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels in humans. The repetitive motion lowers blood pressure and releases calming hormones. Focusing on the soft fur and rhythmic motion helps redirect thoughts.

So when a cat snuggles up in your lap or entices you to play when you’re feeling down, go with it. Chasing a cat toy or stroking soft fur offers a constructive break from sadness. Rather than dwelling on negative emotions, you can enjoy a cat’s companionship and affection.

Cats Don’t Judge Your Emotions

One of the most comforting aspects of cats as companions is that they don’t judge you for feeling sad, depressed, or anxious. Cats provide non-judgmental support and don’t criticize you for being in a low mood. As the Purina article explains, “cats don’t care what kind of day you had or what mistakes you think you made; they just want dinner and cuddles.” Your cat’s attitude can be reassuring when you’re feeling down on yourself. Cats simply accept you as you are.

Unlike humans, cats don’t react negatively to tearfulness or signs of depression. In fact, they often respond by being more affectionate and attentive. Their patience and lack of judgment creates a safe space for you to process difficult emotions. Knowing that your cat loves you regardless of your mental state can lessen anxious thoughts and self-criticism. So if you’re feeling low, don’t be afraid to openly express your sadness around your cat. You may be surprised by their compassionate response.

Cats Reflect Your Mood

Cats are remarkably perceptive and attuned to their owner’s moods and emotions. According to research, cats tend to mirror the energy level and disposition of their owners1. When you’re feeling down and lethargic, your cat is likely to act the same way. They pick up on behavioral cues like a slouched posture, lack of activity, and slow movements. Cats don’t understand the complexities of human emotion, but they recognize a shift in your normal behavior.

In a way, cats reflect your current state of mind. If you’re feeling anxious or tense, your cat may also seem restless. But when you’re calm and relaxed, your cat is likely to be mellow as well. Some research suggests cats synchronize their mood with their owners as a way of forming social bonds and connections2. So take note of your cat’s disposition as a clue to your own emotional state.

Cats Respond to Tears and Crying

When humans cry, cats often respond in an attempt to comfort them. According to the ASPCA, some cats may lick away human tears as a comforting gesture (Source). Since cats groom other cats to soothe them, they may view licking human tears as a way to calm their distressed owner.

Cats also seem to recognize the difference between happy and sad crying. Research shows cats respond differently to weeping versus joyful tears and laughter (Source). When humans cry from sadness, cats often approach to investigate and provide comfort. But cats do not have the same consoling reaction to tears of joy.

Some cats may even mimic the distress they sense from a crying human. According to Dr. Jill Goldman of Laguna Hills Animal Hospital, cats may “meow or yowl in response as if imitating the cries or join in crying in harmony” (Source). This empathetic response indicates they recognize human emotion.

So if you are moved to tears, don’t be surprised if your feline friend rushes over to check on you. Cats can perceive sadness and often try their best to respond supportively.

Cats Promote Bonding and Routine

Caring for a cat encourages a sense of purpose and maintains a daily schedule. Having a pet cat provides companionship and an emotional bond that can be very comforting when feeling sad or depressed. Simply petting a cat can release oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and affection.

Cats rely on their owners to provide food, water, playtime, and general care. This routine of caring for another living creature’s basic needs can provide a sense of fulfillment and productivity. It also establishes a daily structure that helps combat isolation and feelings of meaninglessness that often accompany depression.

According to a study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, cat owners reported higher levels of conscientiousness and positive affect after adopting a cat. The responsibilities and rewarding bond from having a cat boosted mental wellbeing.

So if you’re feeling low, focusing on taking care of your cat’s needs and enjoying your special connection can lift your mood and motivation. The simple act of feeding, playing with, or cuddling your feline companion can make a tough day a little brighter.

Cats Can Improve Your Mood

One of the main ways cats can help when you’re feeling sad or depressed is by improving your mood through physical contact. Petting a cat has been scientifically shown to release oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin promotes positive emotions and feelings of affection, calming your nervous system and reducing stress.

According to a study by the University of Missouri-Columbia, when you pet a cat, both you and the cat experience a rise in oxytocin levels. The increase in this “feel good” hormone can provide a soothing effect when you’re dealing with negative emotions or depression. Even just 10 minutes of stroking a cat can boost oxytocin and serotonin levels, leaving you feeling more relaxed and content.

Beyond oxytocin release, the rhythmic motion of petting a cat has also been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Slowly stroking your cat can induce a meditative state, shifting your focus away from stressful thoughts and emotions. The soft fur and purring also provide sensory stimulation that is calming to the nervous system.

Cats can essentially act like a natural anti-anxiety treatment, stimulating the release of neurotransmitters that improve your mood. So next time you’re feeling low, focusing on petting your cat can boost your spirits both chemically and psychologically.

Consider a Therapy Cat

For some, a therapy cat trained to provide emotional support may help. Therapy cats are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and more. According to the US Service Animals, therapy cats can help relieve anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

Therapy cats go through specialized training to become registered emotional support animals. This allows them access rights, like being able to fly with their owner or live in no-pet housing. Working with a registered therapy cat when feeling sad can provide comfort through petting, purring, and play. The animal’s presence helps lift mood and takes focus away from negative emotions.

If struggling with long-term depression or sadness, adopting or working with a trained therapy cat may be an option. Consult a mental health professional to see if emotional support from a therapy cat could be helpful. Proper training and certification ensures the animal can safely and effectively provide comfort when you’re feeling down.

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