Questioning if cats hold grudges is akin to asking the same question about humans. Every cat has its own unique personality. Some cats are laid-back and playful; others are more cautious, unforgiving, and cantankerous.
If your cat trusts you, it won’t hold a grudge. An apology and treat after stepping on a cat’s tail will mean that your actions will soon be forgiven. However, cats have long memories when it comes to repeated mistreatment and abuse. A cat will forgive another cat that it knows, but there will be ongoing hostility between two unfamiliar cats.
Get your cat into a reliable routine to build trust between you and your cat. Also, learn to identify the signs that your cat is upset with you. Knowing when and how to apologize will lead to a more harmonious relationship.
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Do Cats Forgive and Forget?
Many people mistakenly believe that cats never forgive you. A cat eliminating on a bed is seen as an act of vengeance, but this is not the case. Cats do not hold grudges or plot revenge in this way.
Applied Animal Science Behavior tested feline reactions to being restrained against their will at a veterinary surgery. Cats did not avoid certain people or areas afterward. A one-off bad experience does not lead to a grudge.
Despite this, cats have good memories regarding physical or mental trauma as they are driven by survival instincts. Anything that jars with these instincts will linger for a long time in a cat’s memory. The cat will then do whatever it takes to avoid repeat exposure.
This is most evident when it comes to feline conflicts. Cats remember which neighborhood felines are friendly, and which are bullies. If your cat is attacked on a certain street, it will avoid that street in the future. This is simply an act of self-preservation.
The same applies to human-feline relationships. Cats remember who treats them well and badly. A cat will approach the former and avoid the latter. It is just keeping itself safe from harm.
That is not to say that cats do not grow angry or resentful, as they experience a range of complex emotions. As Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice explains, negative emotions usually stem from stress as an angry cat is typically an anxious cat.
If you anger your cat, you must do your best to calm it down and make amends. Leaving the cat to stew in its own fury will aggravate matters. This, in turn, will lead to a range of behavioral issues. Your cat is scared of you, and by extension, feeling rather annoyed. It’s not a grudge.
Is My Cat Mad at Me?
Cats are relatively easy to upset. This is most likely when you act against their wishes. Cat behavior can seem random, but cats communicate clearly using distinctive body language. As an owner, you must learn these signs. The typical warnings of this include:
- Avoiding you, hiding, or leaving the room when you enter
- Rapidly swishing tail, especially when the tail is held low
- Ears held low and flat against the head
- Staring with dilated pupils
- Puffing up the tail and arching the back
- Growling or hissing
- Swiping with paws
If you observe these behaviors, give your cat space. Back away and let your cat calm down. Take this time to reflect on why your cat is annoyed with you. Avoid repeating the mistake in the future.
How Did I Upset My Cat?
Understanding how a cat thinks can be difficult. You are almost certain to upset your cat at one time or another. This is why it is so important to build a bond. If your cat trusts you, it will almost certainly cool off sooner.
Do not assume that senior cats mellow with age. In truth, older cats are easier to anger than younger felines. Senior cats are likely hiding a range of age-related aches and pains from you. This can make them ill-tempered. Common ways that you will annoy your cat include:
- Handling without permission as some cats hate being picked up.
- Touching delicate skin, such as the belly or paw pads.
- Causing physical pain, such as accidentally stepping on the tail
- Petting to excess
- Moving furniture
- Entering a cat’s territory uninvited
- Making unnecessary noise
- Disturbing a cat during sleep
- Failing to clean up the litter box
- Leaving the cat alone for hours at a time
- Lack of routine in terms of play or feeding time
- No stimulus
- Ignoring requests for attention
- Providing attention to other pets
It’s possible that you’ve not angered your cat. Cats experience “redirected aggression.” Your cat could be frustrated through no fault of your own. Unfortunately, you may still bear the brunt of your cat’s temper.
Apologizing to a Cat
When you wish to make amends, you must wait for the cat to approach you. The anxiety and nerves of your cat will dominate its behavior. Until the cat is no longer feeling annoyed, it will remain aggressive and on edge.
Ensure that you talk to it regularly as cats recognize their owners by voice. Your cat will hear you and respond when it is ready to approach.
When your cat comes to you, react in a calm, friendly manner. As Animal Cognition explains, cats respond to human vocal and facial cues. If you scowl or speak in an agitated tone, then your cat will respond in kind.
My Cat Will Not Forgive Me
You may be repeating an unwanted behavior, leading to a constant cycle of anger. Alternatively, something in your cat’s environment could be causing stress. Provide a calm, enriching environment. This includes:
- Familiar and unchanging routine
- Calming scents in the home
- Minimal exposure to unnecessary noise or stimulus
- Plenty of entertainment, including a rotation of toys
- Regular company and attention
- Private territory for the cat to relax in
Consult an animal behaviorist as it may have a chronic anxiety condition. Alternatively, it may be holding on to fears from the past. Special training will be needed to move past this issue.
Cats don’t hold grudges, and will quickly forgive and forget one-off incidents. They want to forgive human transgressions as an act of self-preservation, as much as anything else.
Make this easier for your cat by providing a welcoming, comforting environment. A relaxed, confident cat will have little reason to grow angry. Coupled with moderating your own behavior, this will soon lead to the return of a harmonious living arrangement.
Do Cats Forgive Abuse?
If a cat has been systematically abused, it will be psychologically scarred. Traumatic events form part of a cat’s long-term memory, which stay with the cat forever. The cat will never forget its ordeal, but may be prepared to forgive abuse if given enough time.
Cats do not assume that humans are friendly. The onus is on the individual to prove that he/she is a kind and friendly person. A cat will have an innate suspicion of humans, and any abuse will just magnify this issue.
The cat will avoid its abuser and, unfairly, anybody who reminds it of them. Anything your cat associates with its abuser can trigger negative associations, such as cologne, clothing, and tone of voice.
Rebuilding a relationship with an abused cat involves letting the cat call the shots. The cat will be jittery, and seemingly afraid of everything. This cannot be fixed by human behavior. The cat needs to rebuild its confidence as only then will the cat begin acting ‘normally’ again.
If you treat your cat well and follow a strict routine, it may eventually forgive you. This is not a guarantee, though. Some cats are so traumatized that they cannot look beyond past experiences.
Do Cats Forgive Other Cats?
Cats fight among themselves all the time. As cats are so territorial, conflict is in their nature. Cats can go from friends to mortal enemies, and back again, several times per week.
Inter-cat forgiveness depends on how serious the fall out was. Most cats will avoid fighting. Cats will display a range of warning signs, using body language. For example, hissing.
Cats are also stubborn. Walking away in the face of provocation is seen as a sign of weakness as the cat will cede territory and dominant status. As a result, neither cat will want to back down. Eventually, this leads to a physical confrontation.
Both cats will claw and bite, hoping to end the conflict as quickly as possible. If one cat is seriously hurt, it will remember this adverse experience. The cat will avoid the other feline, at least for a while.
Cats with an existing bond are likelier to forgive each other after a fight. The cats will accept that territorial squabbles are part of their life. So, cats can co-exist in the home, despite the bit of occasional conflict.
If two stray cats fight on their first meeting, they won’t become friends. The cats have a very negative memory association with each other. However, two domesticated house cats are unlikely to hold grudges.