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Do cats know when a human is crying?

Cats Do Control Humans, Study Finds

If you’ve ever wondered who’s in control, you or your cat, a new study points to the obvious. It’s your cat.

Household cats exercise this control with a certain type of urgent-sounding, high-pitched meow, according to the findings.

This meow is actually a purr mixed with a high-pitched cry. While people usually think of cat purring as a sign of happiness, some cats make this purr-cry sound when they want to be fed. The study showed that humans find these mixed calls annoying and difficult to ignore.

«The embedding of a cry within a call that we normally associate with contentment is quite a subtle means of eliciting a response,» said Karen McComb of the University of Sussex. «Solicitation purring is probably more acceptable to humans than overt meowing, which is likely to get cats ejected from the bedroom.» [In Photos: America’s Favorite Pets]

They know us

Previous research has shown similarities between cat cries and human infant cries.

McComb suggests that the purr-cry may subtly take advantage of humans’ sensitivity to cries they associate with nurturing offspring. Also, including the cry within the purr could make the sound «less harmonic and thus more difficult to habituate to,» she said.

McComb got the idea for the study from her experience with her own cat, who would consistently wake her up in the mornings with a very insistent purr. After speaking with other cat owners, she learned that some of their cats also made the same type of call. As a scientist who studies vocal communication in mammals, she decided to investigate the manipulative meow.

Tough to test

Setting up the experiments wasn’t easy. While the felines used purr-cries around their familiar owners, they were not eager to make the same cries in front of strangers. So McComb and her team trained cat owners to record their pets’ cries — capturing the sounds made by cats when they were seeking food and when they were not. In all, the team collected recordings from 10 different cats.

The researchers then played the cries back for 50 human participants, not all of whom owned cats. They found that humans, even if they had never had a cat themselves, judged the purrs recorded while cats were actively seeking food — the purrs with an embedded, high-pitched cry — as more urgent and less pleasant than those made in other contexts.

When the team re-synthesised the recorded purrs to remove the embedded cry, leaving all else unchanged, the human subjects’ urgency ratings for those calls decreased significantly.

McComb said she thinks this cry occurs at a low level in cats’ normal purring, «but we think that cats learn to dramatically exaggerate it when it proves effective in generating a response from humans.» In fact, not all cats use this form of purring at all, she said, noting that it seems to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one relationship with their owners rather than those living in large households, where their purrs might be overlooked.

The results were published in the July 14 issue of the journal Current Biology.

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Why Do Cats Comfort You When You Cry?

why does my cat always come to me when I cry?

Cats have a reputation for being aloof and void of emotion. And yet, owners everywhere talk about how their cat behaves differently when they’re sad. An otherwise indifferent cat might lick or cuddle with its owner when they cry. Personal accounts of such behavior go against the belief that cats don’t care about their owners.

Cats comfort you when you cry because you’re behaving differently than normal. Cats recognize people by sound and facial expressions, which are altered when crying. Because your cat is intrigued and confused, it’ll seek to understand this behavior by getting your attention and showing affection.

It’s still unknown whether cats truly understand and empathize with human sadness. However, they can tell when there’s a change in our mood due to our behavioral patterns. If your cat bites you or displays frantic behavior when you cry, it doesn’t mean it hates you. It has more to do with how it responds to stressful situations.

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Do Cats Know When You’re Crying?

Cats have sharp instincts and have been living alongside humans for thousands of years. Domestic cats are fine-tuned to our behavioral patterns and quickly notice when there’s a sudden change in our mood.

Cats may not be as mentally and emotionally complex as humans, but they have superior senses that enable them to interpret the world around them.

This is achieved by doing the following:

  • Memorizing the sound of our voice
  • Associating our expressions and speaking patterns with certain emotions
  • Detecting small changes in our breathing

Our voice, breathing, expression, and attitude completely change when we cry.

Sometimes, this involves the cat comforting the upset person. According to Animal Cognition, cats are highly responsive to the sound of their owner’s voices. Cats are more likely to react to changes in a familiar voice, so if you cry and your cat doesn’t seem to care, you’ll need to work on your rapport.

Why Does My Cat Always Come to Me When I Cry?

Your cat comes to you when you cry because it’s aware that your mood has changed.

It’s reacting to that change, so your cat may be curious about why you look and sound so different. It could also be upset and looking to you for comfort.

When you cry, you might make strange noises that alert your cat that something is wrong. It’ll go to you to find out why the strange sound is occurring and why your voice is so different from normal.

Cats also take cues from your facial expressions when you cry. According to the University of Bari, cats have a good mental representation of emotions for humans and other cats. However, cats aged 5-9 years may struggle.

So, if your cat is aware that something is wrong because of your noises and expression, it might get upset or scared, causing it to seek comfort by getting close to you.

However, you may notice this trait slowing down or going away as the cat ages. It’s not because the cat no longer cares, but because it’s finding it hard to tell the difference.

Why Does My Cat Freak Out When I Cry?

If your cat runs around, hides, meows, or displays frantic behavior when you cry, it’s because your crying makes it feel anxious. Cats are creatures of habit and don’t respond well to change.

Unless you feed your cat its favorite flavored wet food every time you cry, for example, it might be startled by the change in your behavior. It’ll associate the activity with negative emotions.

If you have an anxious cat that freaks out when stressed, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t comfort you when you cry. This means that it’s feeling as upset as you are.

why does my cat run to me when I cry?

Why Does My Cat Bite Me When I Cry?

Cats bite to stop you from doing something or to grab your attention. When you cry, the noises you make might upset your cat, so it’ll seek to stop it by biting you.

Usually, cats will hit you with their paw to get you to stop doing something, such as petting or carrying them. If you don’t respect that boundary, they’ll bite. If you teach your cat that the only way to get you to listen to it is by biting you, it’ll do so when you’re crying.

Attention-seeking cats will bite if you aren’t focusing on them enough. Your cat may not be upset at all but instead hungry or wanting you to play with it.

Why Does My Cat Stare at Me When I Cry?

When your cat stares at you when you cry, it’s because it’s trying to understand what’s wrong with you.

Some cats will respond to crying by cuddling, biting, hitting, or meowing. However, other cats might be less responsive and stare at you to understand what’s going on.

In the way a cat will stare at the window when it hears a motorcycle pass, it’ll also stare at you because your crying has caught its attention.

A lot of what cats do is motivated by curiosity, so if crying is a rare occurrence with you, your cat will find it interesting. Even if you frequently cry by human standards, you have to remember that short-term memory works differently in cats. Your cat might find crying new and fascinating each time it happens.

Why Does My Cat Lick Me When I Cry?

Your cat licks you when you cry to show its affection towards you.

Cats lick themselves and other cats for more reasons than just grooming purposes. Mother cats (queens) are constantly licking their kittens, so cats associate that with a comforting action that reminds them of their mother.

When your cat notices that you’re crying, it’ll attempt to soothe you the same way it soothes itself when stressed. This means that your cat considers you family and wants to care for you the same way you take care of it.

do cats understand tears?

Do Cats Understand Tears?

Cats notice when you’re acting strangely based on your expression, but they don’t understand the concept of tears.

Cats cannot cry, so it’s not something they associate with sadness. If they react to your crying, it’ll be because of your sounds and face, not your tears.

Some cats will lick their owner’s tears, but this doesn’t mean much. Cats lick you due to affection and to soothe you. Just because they lick your tears specifically doesn’t mean that they understand you’re sad.

Can Cats Understand Depression and Anxiety?

Cats react to your crying because they’re aware that your mood has changed based on:

  • How you breathe
  • The noises you make
  • How much you ignore them
  • Any facial expressions when you’re sad

However, their reaction doesn’t mean they understand that you’re upset or tearful. Regardless of what your cat does when you cry, all they’re doing is analyzing your body language and sound cues.

They’re then reacting based on factors such as whether they:

  • Trust you and how much
  • Are an anxious, aggressive, or calm cat
  • Associate your crying with positive or negative feelings
  • Are hungry or bored

When your cat tries to soothe you by cuddling or licking you, it wants you to return to your old self because it doesn’t like how you behave when crying.

Remember, cats are creatures of habit. When displeased by the change in your behavior, they’ll try to get things back to normal through various means.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about you. It just means that they don’t truly comprehend what you’re going through when crying.

I’m Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I’m experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I’m a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

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