Cats are sentient creatures with their own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. They feel anxious in new situations, happy when they’re playing, sad when you leave, and dozens of other important emotions.
Respecting your cat’s emotions means showing empathy, considering compromises, and most importantly, it means apologizing when you’re in the wrong.
Apologizing to an animal that doesn’t speak your same language might seem silly, but making amends is a key part of strengthening the bond you share with your cat.
The trick is knowing how to apologize in a way that your cat will both understand and accept.
Do Cats Understand Apologies?
Do you even need to apologize to your cat? Are they capable of remembering that time you stepped on their tail or forgot their morning meal?
Do they even care that you’ve been busy with work and haven’t spent much time twirling that feather wand?
The answer to all of these questions depends on your cat. Like humans, some cats are more sensitive than others. What upsets one feline might not even phase another. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that your cat automatically forgives and forgets your transgressions.
Researchers believe that cats have a relatively short working memory. In a recent study, researchers presented cats with interesting toys before taking the toys away for short periods of time.
They wanted to know if the cats would still want the toys after they had been removed. The results showed that most cats lost interest during the time the toy was taken away.
The results of this study suggest that your cat probably won’t remember your minor infractions. This doesn’t, however, give you a pass.
Your cat might not shun you for a single mistake, but too many small slip-ups could damage your long-term bond. Your cat will learn through experience that you’re unreliable, unpredictable, or untrustworthy.
While cats don’t have much of a short-term memory, we can’t discount what sticks with them long-term.
Cats don’t have the emotional wiring to hold long-term emotional resentment like humans. They do, however, create strong emotional associations that can sometimes have the same effect.
Here’s how it works:
If your cat felt overwhelming fear when your friend’s dog came to visit, they will likely remember those feelings the next time they see a dog.
Their brain links “feelings of fear” with “dog” so the next time a dog gets too close, your cat knows to be on guard. She doesn’t remember the specific instance that initiated these feelings, but her emotional associations send their message loud and clear.
This same concept works when you offend your cat in a significant way. If you accidentally caused them physical pain or emotional torment, they could start to associate you with those feelings. It’s not the same as a grudge, but it can still result in your cat treating you differently.
Ways Humans Offend Cats
Now that you know your behavior can impact your relationship with your cat, how are you supposed to know when your cat deserves an apology?
Every cat is unique, and you’ll need a solid understanding of your pet’s personality to truly know what actions could put them on edge.
Here’s a list of common things humans do that offend cats.
- Physical pain by stepping on their tail/paw/etc
- Changing their environment
- Changing their routine
- Improperly introducing a stranger (human or animal)
- Scaring them with a loud sound or sudden movement
- Not giving them enough attention
How to Tell If Your Cat is Offended
If you’re unsure if a recent action actually offended your cat, you can observe their body language to get an idea of what they’re thinking. The following body signals and behaviors indicate that something is bothering your cat, and it could be you.
- Twitching, wagging, or thumping their tail
- Puffing out their fur
- Keeping their tail low to the ground or between their legs
- Flattening their ears
- Hissing, acting aggressively
- Litter box accidents
- Plaintive meowing
How Do I Say Sorry to My Cat
Apologizing to your cat is the best way to keep your relationship strong after you’ve committed a feline faux pas. Unfortunately, a simple “I’m sorry” won’t do you much good. You need to apologize to your cat in a way they’ll respect and understand.
Here’s how to do it…
Pick the Right Time
Before you rush over and start making amends, consider your cat’s current mood. It’s possible that your cat needs some space before they’re ready to connect with you again. If you just stepped on their tail and sent them running for cover, chasing after them will only cause more fear and stress.
Wait for your cat’s heart rate to return to normal and they’re feeling more relaxed. If they’re hiding, you can let them be for a while before trying to gently coax them toward you.
Use a Soothing Tone of Voice
What you say isn’t as important as how you say it. Cats are sensitive to tone of voice. Avoid loud, panicked, or sudden exclamations that will only startle or upset your cat more. The last thing you want to do after harming your cat is shout out, “I’M SORRY!!” Instead, get your own emotions under control and speak in a calm tone of voice. Start by saying their name to get their attention.
Offer Affection and Praise
You can say the words, “I’m sorry,” but a more effective strategy when apologizing to cats is to offer them lots of love. Scratch them in their favorite spot and tell them how wonderful they are.
Also Read: How To Make A Cat Love You In 3 Easy Steps
You can also try speaking their language by giving them a nice slow blink. Studies show that cats slowly blink and squint their eyes to show favored humans’ affection.
Bring Out the Treats
As with humans, the best apologies come with delicious treats. If your cat enjoys a certain food, a small offering will help you get back on their good side. It also helps them form a positive association with you in the long-term.
Seal the Deal With Some Play
Once your cat is calm and seems to accept your apology, show them you care by joining in on their favorite activity. As with all apologies, it’s important to prove that your mistake was accidental and that you’re committed to your positive relationship.
Put down your phone and ignore other distractions to give your cat 15 minutes of your undivided attention. This will help re-establish your strong bond and allow your cat to once again see you as their best friend.