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I think it’s safe to say that most of us have been guilty of stepping on our cat’s tail or paw. There are also times where we might’ve wronged them without fully realizing it until we got the cold shoulder.
So, what should a cat parent do in these situations? Should we drop to our knees and beg for forgiveness? Will a card and a box of fish treats be enough?
How to apologize to a cat? Give your cat some time to calm down, then apologize softly while blinking slowly at them. Remember to praise your cat and reward them with treats or catnip. Spending some quality time together, with lots of petting and games, should ease your cat.
If you’re looking for ways to make amends to your offended kitty, check our list of helpful tips on how to apologize to your cat.
How Can You Tell That A Cat Is Offended?
I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve been guilty of stepping on my cat now and again. Of course, it’s always an unfortunate accident, but my two fluffballs seem to always appear before me out of nowhere. There’s usually no time to retreat and my foot ends up on their tail or paw. This action is followed by a cry from both sides, resulting in my cat running away from me. The first time I panicked and run after them and off they went beneath the bed, wide-eyed and offended!
In these instances, it’s usually clear if a cat is offended. Hiding beneath your bed, avoiding you, or even turning around to scratch you and hiss at you are normal expressions of frustration and annoyance unless they last for too long.
But if the reason behind their offense is not just a misstep, then you might find your cat hiding away from you in their favorite spot, like beneath blankets or at the top counter in your kitchen. Others might sulk and react passively to your displays of love. It’s also quite possible that your cat will howl in another room to show their distress or anxiety.
There could be even more unpleasant demonstrations of how they feel, by leaving toilet surprises right in the heat of the incident or you’ll find them much later in unexpected places. According to research published in 2018, cats that have a better bond with their owners have a relaxed personality and are less likely to urinate in inappropriate places.
Some cats can develop other bad habits that are fuelled by their constant feeling of anxiety or fear. An innocent act like kneading and biting their blankets could easily develop into an excessive and compulsive behavior to deal with the stress.
The Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery, published in May 2018, suggests that “Cats like people, may experience more than one emotion at the same time or switch quickly between emotional motivations, and this further complicates identification.” This means that cats could get offended by more complex issues that might arise in a relationship, so it’s important to know how to apologize to your cat.
Causes Of Feline Resentment
Cats can project their negative feelings by acting out. They might be still angry at you for stepping on them or the problem might be the lack of attention. This can be a common issue for cat parents who have a lot of responsibilities and not enough time.
Sometimes the root of the problem is the fact that some cat parents think that because cats are so independent, they’re don’t need attention, so they’re being ignored.
Then again there are situations where a cat is thrown into an anxiety-filled situation. For example, if a cat is sick, or they have a condition then they’re bombarded with constant vet visits and medication.
A cat is unaware that these visits and drugs are for their own good and since it’s a displeasing situation they might begin to see the owner as something that causes them anxiety and fear.
There are cats that don’t like changes, if you move houses you might find your cat showing signs of unhappiness. According to a study made by Ohio State University, “There is a good chance that the cat is acting sick because of the stress caused by changes in its environment.” Bringing home another cat could also leave your kitty feeling offended and betrayed by you, especially if they see your attention being directed at the cat-stranger. A new partner could also have a similar effect or a small change like throwing away their favorite blanket or bed.
Each cat is different and while some may be easygoing there are those who like stability and routine. In any case, it’s important to pay attention to your cat and prevent any offenses as you go, but even if you mess up it’s crucial that you learn how to tell a cat you’re sorry and properly apologize.
Read Your Cat’s Body Language
Feline behavior and body language have come up here a few times before and it’s always important to mention this topic. By observing your kitty not only do you know how they feel, but you can recognize the early signs of discomfort, thus, preventing it.
Observe their tail: If you need the most accurate indicator of a cat’s mood then tail it is! A calm tail, laying down, or pointing up is a sign of content. But if you see your kitty wagging and thumping their tail excessively, they’re most likely annoyed or even angry. A puffed-up tail and an arched back is a sign of a frightened cat that could turn aggressive. A tail low on the ground, or hidden beneath their hind legs, could also be a sign of fear.
Ears and Eyes: These two features are also very expressive. Usually, ears that are relaxed and pointing up is a sign of a calm cat, but if they lay flat against their head that means they’re scared or even angry. Similarly, some reports explain that “the eyes are important in signaling emotions, with the act of narrowing the eyes appearing to be associated with positive emotional communication in a range of species.”
Basically, if your cat’s gaze is calm and relaxed, the eyes are half-open, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. But if you observe dilated pupils (unless it’s very dark) with eyes wide open then it could also be because they’re afraid.
Their overall body and stance: It’s quite easy to recognize a relaxed kitty, there are no tense muscles or a strange posture. If a cat is angry or afraid, then their whole body will become hard as a rock. In some cases, they’ll arch their back and puff up their fur to look bigger and more intimidating. Hissing, bared teeth, whiskers pointing forward are also clear indicators of an unhappy kitty.
Okay, So How Do I Apologize To My Cat?
I think we can all agree that apologizing is difficult, it takes courage to admit that we were wrong. Most people dread it, and some avoid it, even though the language is usually understandable by both parties and should make things easier. But how do you say sorry to a cat? Rest assured, even if you and your furry overlord speak a different language you can still solve your difference in a mature and loving manner.
1. Understand What You Did Wrong
Asking for forgiveness, but not actually meaning it or not understanding why you’re apologizing in the first place is usually not advisable, whether you do it to a fellow human or a feline companion.
It’s important to determine what you did wrong and why your kitty is offended, so you can avoid repeating the same mistake. But it can also help you with your approach.
Cats are sensitive to sounds, some researchers suggest that their hearing is more sensitive than dogs. It’s also very likely that they understand our tone, depending on the softness or harshness of our voice. So, if you’re not honest with your apology or you seem uncaring, your kitty might lose their trust in you.
2. Timing Is Half The Work
Once you’ve realized that you’ve wronged your kitty, take a breath. Look at your cat and watch for signs of anger or fear. Perhaps it’s a good idea to give them some space before you approach. If you rush it, you might scare them even more or they’ll end up scratching you.
Of course, it’s also important not to let time pass by for too long without acting, because they might think you’re ignoring them. If you notice your cat acting more relaxed, their ears aren’t turned back, and their muscles aren’t tense then you can make your move.
If you notice your cat avoiding you and hiding away from you, use your soft tone to call out for them. Praise them and make them feel safe. A treat could also lift their spirits, and if they still don’t come out to get it, just leave it somewhere nearby. Give them their space and time, and probe now and then to see if they’re feeling better.
3. Approach Your Cat Carefully
Seeing your cat in distress might trigger an automatic response in you, but it’s important to stay calm at that moment. Don’t run at your cat screaming you’re sorry because that will have the opposite effect. Instead, watch their reaction and approach carefully and slowly towards them.
If your kitty is walking backward and away from you, remember not to chase after them and definitely don’t corner them! Instead, give them some room and a few minutes to be on their own. This small action might sound like you’re ignoring your kitty, but in reality, this will show them that you mean them no harm.
Once you’ve given them some time and space, give them attention. Watch how they react, if they’re positive towards your approach, then show them your hand and let them smell you. Also, don’t forget to get down on their level, this will make you look less threatening. As always keep your voice soft and pleasant, relax your gaze, and slow blink at them to show them that you come in peace. A cat that’s relaxed usually will reciprocate by slow blinking or purring.
4. Speak To Your Cat
According to some researchers in Japan, cats have the ability to recognize different words, like different foods and their own name. So, since cats are very responsive to their name, use it to draw their attention. After the big shock, they had, hearing their own name should distract them and bring them back to reality.
As mentioned earlier cats are good at understanding our tone since their hearing is sensitive. Avoid any loud shouting or panicked cries and instead, use a high-frequency tone to call them. Or that’s what Dr. Uri Burstyn, a veterinarian from Vancouver, British Columbia would advise. If your kitty has been avoiding you for a time, then scolding is the last thing you want to do. Cats don’t react well to such treatment, instead, positive reinforcement is the key to winning back their hearts.
It’s also helpful if you use baby talk to make your kitty know that you love them and that you’re sorry. According to Professor Bjarne O. Braastad of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, cats are more receptive to our baby-talk voice, suggests that “Animals that live with humans tend to use their baby behavior towards humans because they find it works.” So, saying the word “I’m sorry,” over and over again in that tone could also teach them in a sense the meaning behind it. If it happens again, they could recognize the word sorry, and they might forgive you quicker.
Whether your kitty has been angry at you for a split second or their attitude towards you has changed because of bigger changes, like trips to the vet, medication, house moving, etc. you should always use your soft voice to make them feel loved. Respond to their meows and make them feel like their presence matter. You wouldn’t live in silence with the people you share your house with, so why would you do that to your fur baby?
5. Pet Your Cat
Being vocal about your love isn’t the only way to make your cat feel secure. After you’ve apologized and established a more relaxed atmosphere it would be good to test the water by showing them your hand. Do they smell it and let you rub them? Well, you better do it. If they hiss at you or scratch you, then this is a clear sign that they need more space and time.
Cats can also feel offended or that you’ve wronged them if you ignore them or don’t give them enough tactile attention. Most cats enjoy being touched, especially where their facial glands are located, like the base of their ears, their cheeks, and under their chin. Of course, if you have a feline companion who hates being stroked then this mightn’t concern you, but most kitties love a good rub.
So, once you’ve established that your kitty isn’t angry, and they let you get close enough to be petted then start with their head. Scratch behind their ears, then move slowly to the back. If your cat flops on the ground showing you their belly, then carefully do as you’re told!
Night cuddles or sitting on the couch while stroking your cat are also essential for a cat’s daily routine. These small moments will create a strong bond between you. You should try to make it very difficult for your kitty to stay angry at their favorite human.
6. Play With Your Cat
As mentioned before, there are cat parents that might be under the impression that cats are low maintenance pets. Usually young and inexperienced owners think this to be true, and in a way, cats might seem less demanding. Cats don’t require daily walks like dogs for example and they spend most of their time sleeping, but they do require daily playtime.
It’s important that the environment your kitty lives in is to some extent offering them activities that they would do in the wild, or at least a simulation of those activities. One of these activities is hunting. Playing with your cat, especially with a toy hanging from a string, helps them get into their hunter’s mode.
This step is a great way to re-establish your relationship with your cat. A good hunting session will distract them from the incident, and it will show them that you care. It’s a bonding moment, in which your cat releases all their hunter’s energy, so when they’re done, not only will they be tired, relaxed, ready to sleep, but also thankful.
My favorite way to simulate the hunt is with a proper play session using Da Bird which you can check out here on Amazon. This tip is also great for those cat parents who are away for most of the day. Your cat spends all these hours waiting for your return, and if you just give them a stroke and then get on with your day then they’ll feel left out. Playing together will maintain your relationship and trust and reduce your cat’s anxiety.
7. Treat Your Cat (within reason)
If you’ve done all of the above and you still sense that your kitty is cold, then the last answer to your question on, how to apologize to a cat, is treats! Of course, we have to point out that giving your kitty treats way too often can cause weight problems, so moderation is the key.
Treats won’t get you too far if that’s the only step you’re taking to reconcile with your cat. It’s important for working parents to focus on their cat for a certain amount of time a day and show them that you love them. Treats or a catnip spray can be great ways to give them an emotional boost, but you also have to put in the work.
Using treats could also be a great way of apologizing to them. In a sense, it might distract them from the scare they had and offer them something pleasurable to forget the bad experience. But if treats are all you got then you might get the cold shoulder for more than a few minutes.
How Do Cats Apologize?
Now that we’ve talked about our side of the story, it’s also important to look into how our furry overlords apologize when they’re the baddies. It might go unnoticed by some of us, but cats do ask for forgiveness if they’ve done something bad, like scratching us or showing aggression.
The reason why it’s an unnoticed action is that cats usually apologize by rubbing themselves on us. They’ll also raise their tail in a friendly manner like they do when they greet their mother. In some cases, they’ll actually lick us or begin grooming us, this could also happen after they bite or scratch us.
Of course, cats mightn’t actually know why we’re upset, or why we’re feeling sad, or even if it’s because of them, but they know feelings when they see them. Mariah Galvan and Jennifer Vonk of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, US found that “when faced with a smiling owner, the cats were significantly more likely to perform “positive” behaviors such as purring, rubbing or sitting on their owner’s lap.” Their research also tried to show that cats are not indifferent to our feelings. Like we didn’t know that about our companions already!
Do Cats Feel Guilty?
Humans love to humanize animals and project their own emotions and their worldview on other species, and it can be cute sometimes, but it can also be misleading. It’s important to understand our feline companions for who they are and not give them characteristics that don’t belong to them.
Cats have feelings, but they’re not like ours. It doesn’t mean they’re any less, but thinking that we’re the same makes us a bit lazy and less observant. When our cats do something, we find wrong, like scratching the sofa or breaking our favorite vase, you might associate their facial expression with guilt, but it’s not.
Your cat knows that you’ll react to their “bad” behavior, especially if they’ve done it before, so they’re afraid. They probably don’t understand what they did is bad, or why exactly we feel annoyed by it. But our cats will put two and two together, meaning breaking something equals scolding.
This kitty definitely knows they’ve done something bad!
This could also lead to cats feeling offended or frustrated. This is why when we find some of their behavior “bad”, we should use positive reinforcement to get them to stop. As stated by a Journal of Veterinary Behavior, “Positive reinforcement training with cats is a useful tool for improving the human-animal bond, treating behavior problems, and teaching novel tasks.” So, by shouting and looking scary we’re not actually changing their behavior but we’re simply pushing them away.
Cats can act all cool, leather jacket, a cigarette between their greeted teeth and all that, but we know that deep down they’re sensitive furry souls. The simple fact that they can feel offended, sad, or angry when we’ve wronged them is proof enough!
If we did make a mistake then we shouldn’t feel regret, but instead, we should try and make it right. By regretting an action we’re simply feeling sorry for ourselves, but what we should do is prioritize the feelings of the heartbroken furry friend we’ve hurt.
The good news is that we can make it right and with a few games, lots of good cuddles, and loving attention, all should go back to normal. Who knew cats were so generous?
How do you say sorry to your cat? Do you beg them with open cans of their favorite food or an array of toys? Let us in on your own secret and help other cat parents that are also getting a hard time from their upset kitties!