Do Cats Get Embarrassed? (Expert Studies Revealed)

Last updated on October 31st, 2022

Do cats get embarrassed? This is most certainly one of the questions on every cat owner’s mind.

Our little feline friends can do the most mischievous stuff without even caring about what we or other animals think (at least it seems to be so)! There are times when we’re unable to understand these creatures, and they can be quite notorious when displaying their odd cat behavior, however, there may be some uncomfortable situations when cats feel embarrassed about their activities.

Cats do feel embarrassed, however, they don’t experience unpleasant emotions as humans do but rather they feel or have a sense of discomfort which happens when they’re attempting to jump but falling in the process while someone or their littermate is watching.

The best way to identify any potential embarrassment would be to look at the cat’s ears, if they’re flat, that’s a sign the cat is feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. Other signs include if a cat refuses to look at you or if they’re pretending that the fall didn’t happen by suddenly grooming itself.

do cats get embarrassed

Here’s an example. My cat (Tutu) tried to jump over the high rack in my kitchen last week, but sadly, she failed and ended up landing on the sink nearby. I was watching her from behind. Thank god she didn’t hurt herself badly!

But what she did next was looked straight at me as if she was embarrassed about her mischievous activities! She might have thought that she was making a fool out of herself.

That made me wonder whether cats feel embarrassed about themselves or feel uncomfortable doing notorious stuff while being caught red-handed in the act.

Can Cats Feel Embarrassed? (According to Experts)

Some studies have proven cats do feel emotions. Emotions are the reason why cats react or respond to various situations in a certain way.

However, we shouldn’t confuse their emotions and feelings with that of a human’s experience, because the way we respond to situations may not be similar to a cat’s reaction to that same scenario.

According to one of the consulted experts interviewed by Chewy, Debra Horowitz DVM, DACVB opines that cats do feel emotions, but they may not necessarily think or feel in the same manner as we do.

Some experts believe that cats and dogs can understand and interpret both complex and secondary emotions quite well. They are extremely intelligent creatures.

But the problem lies in the communication gap that’s created since felines are not able to express their uncomfortable feeling or basic emotions, even if they are in pain.

They can only try to express their thoughts through gestures and body language, like licking, biting, scratching, stretching, and so on.

Although some experts believe that cats have a limited range of emotions, they can quickly respond to primary emotions, ones that require little to no mental processing.

This is why our pets can understand most of our instructions and gestures.

Now comes the question of embarrassment, this is a secondary emotion that requires higher cognitive effort.

Humans feel embarrassed not just when we did something that’s not acceptable in society or is considered taboo, but because we are constantly concerned about what others would think of us or how they might judge us.

Hence, embarrassment is more like a subjective feeling that depends more on the current societal norms and cultures.

We wouldn’t feel embarrassed if we perform the same activities when no one was watching or in front of a like-minded person.

However, since felines can’t communicate or express their feelings directly, we cannot arrive at any definite conclusion about their levels of self-awareness.

Signs of Embarrassment Displayed in Felines

All animals, including cats, have innate survival instincts that make them feel or respond in certain ways. While some of their actions are quite obvious, others are hard to comprehend or decode.

But we can say that if your cat feels embarrassed or threatened, They’ll show signs like:

  • Hissing
  • Scratching
  • Running away after falling
  • Hiding after falling
  • Preening

Preening is a sign that a cat may be embarrassed about something. Robert B. Thomas at Deseret News believes that some cat psychologists and vets consider preening as “displacement grooming”.

It is a phenomenon when a cat (or any other animal) transfers his/her emotions and feelings into an alternative activity or behavior.

This kind of displacement behavior is also seen among us human beings.

For instance, as mentioned by Robert B. Thomas, when a child sucks their thumb or twirls their hair, it indicates that they’re anxious. Or, let’s say, we show behaviors like avoiding eye contact when we are nervous or embarrassed.

Similarly, preening is more of a calming behavior for many feline creatures. Some of them may start grooming themselves when they’re annoyed, stressed, flustered, or feeling confused. Hence, this displacement behavior is quite normal, and there’s nothing to worry about.

To figure out what exactly your feline pet is thinking or embarrassed about, you need to observe and closely watch their actions. 

Cats can also act out in the following manner since this is also considered another form of embarrassment.

  • Tucking their tail in between their legs, which is a sign of submissiveness or shyness
  • Twitching their ears, which may indicate anxiety.

Situations That Make a Cat Embarrassed

When it comes to feline behavior, we’ll need to understand the feeling of shame and possible embarrassment in the following situations.

After Falling

Well, we all have seen our furballs fall in an attempt to reach heights. After a great fall, they’ll feel embarrassed, denoted by signs like refusing to make eye contact or slinking away.

Cats are mostly embarrassed when someone makes them feel so, however, some other reports claim that felines may even feel ashamed of falling because they may have learned to start judging themselves.

Their self-awareness and self-conscious levels may increase if you laugh at them. Cats will start feeling there’s something wrong with their acts when you laugh at them, and therefore, they become more shy, ashamed, or submissive.

After Throwing up

Cats will throw up when they’re sick or are suffering from some digestive issue. But whether they feel embarrassed about it, we would say they probably don’t, because it’s a normal reaction we all have when we fall ill.

If you feel that your feline pet is acting strangely after throwing up and this peculiar behavior persists for a while, reach out to your vet immediately so they can analyze the problem. It may be due to some serious health conditions that you need to address.

After Farting or Pooping:

Well, we human beings feel true embarrassment after farting, especially if a smelly odor is released.

But again, it’s a normal part of our existence, just like excretion, even for felines. Cat farts are generally odorless, and therefore, you don’t need to be concerned about that.

Besides, felines love to keep themselves clean, and you will hardly find a messy cat.

The cartoons may have even shown you how farting makes a cat feel embarrassed. But, in real life, it’s unlikely that they’ll feel embarrassed after farting or pooping.

How Long do Cats Remain Embarrassed?

It’s quite difficult to understand cat psychology and behavior. But we can safely say that their embarrassment won’t stay for long.

Cats may feel ashamed from time to time when they are around you or other pets in the house, but the feeling will eventually go away.

An average cat sleeps almost the entire day: 12-16 hours, to be precise. So, there’s no time for them to hold on to these secondary feelings of embarrassment.

Do Cats Feel Uncomfortable?

Cats will feel uncomfortable or insecure whenever there is a change in the living environment, especially when shifting to a new residence. They’ll also feel uncomfortable when the owner changes or a new member is added to the family, especially a baby or another pet.

Signs that Indicate Your Cat is Feeling Uncomfortable

Our four-legged felines often hide their feelings and pains, making it all the more difficult to address any issue they might be suffering from. However, there are some ways to identify whether your kitty is feeling uncomfortable.

  • Crying, hissing, growling
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Not actively playing around
  • Avoiding being cared for or petted
  • Licking or overgrooming a specific body area
  • Hiding
  • Loss of interest in certain activities

A veterinarian is the best person to visit if you notice these behavioral changes to determine what’s causing trouble.

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