How Do Cats Apologize To Their Humans?

As George Carlin famously observed, cats don’t accept blame — but that doesn’t mean they don’t apologize sometimes.

Let me preface this by saying I neither expect nor demand apologies for the standard methods of Buddesian destruction. If Bud swipes my phone off the table and it cracks, that’s my fault for leaving it where he’s known to conduct his ongoing gravity experiments. Likewise, there’s no sense getting upset with him when he paw-slaps a set of keys four feet across the room, or when I return from the kitchen to find the remote controls on the floor.

That’s Buddy being a cat. Getting angry at him for it would be pointless, and expressing that anger would only make him fearful and stressed.

There are times, however, when even Bud realizes an apology is in order. As I’ve documented before, the little guy sometimes redirects his fear or aggression to the nearest person, which is invariably me, and almost mindlessly lashes out with claws and/or teeth. After working on it together, he’s improved dramatically and knows how to handle his fear and frustration peacefully. Still, every once in a while he gets really freaked out or overstimulated beyond what he can handle, and he’ll clamp onto a foot or forearm, drawing blood.

That’s when I react. I don’t yell at him beyond telling him to stop, but he can see from my reaction that he’s gone way overboard and done something he shouldn’t do.

Buddy stretching
Bud assumes the Striking Tiger, Ten Swords stance. Or maybe he’s just stretching.

He starts the apology phase by running off to the next room or running around the one we’re in, making uncertain “brrrrrrr brrrrrr” noises. (Precisely the same noises he’s made since the day I brought him home as a kitten, when he would poop in the corner of my bedroom underneath my bed. That’s always been the sound he makes when he’s unsure and maybe a little worried.) If I go to wash and dab antibiotic ointment on the cuts, he’ll sit there quietly watching me. He’ll watch until I say “Hey, Bud!” and then approach slowly until he sees me holding out my hand and starts nuzzling against it and purring.

I’ll usually say something like “It’s okay, but you shouldn’t do that,” kindly but firmly. He probably doesn’t grasp my words, but he understands my tone of voice and meaning.

We can only guess exactly what our pets are thinking, but I believe Bud’s telling me he regrets hurting me, didn’t mean to, and he wants to make sure we’re still okay.

As for cats reading us, the video below does a good job of explaining what cats pick up in our tones of voice, body language, facial expressions and even pheromones. Cats may not have been living with humans since the hunter-gatherer days like dogs have, but they still trace their domesticated lineage back 10,000 years, and just like dogs they’re hyper-attuned to the moods and intentions of their closest humans. Partially it’s because they depend on us utterly as their providers of food and water, but when cats and humans share a bond, there’s a strong emotional side to that attunement as well.

How do your cats say they’re sorry?

17 thoughts on “How Do Cats Apologize To Their Humans?”

  1. Believe it or not my cat knows the word no. I will not yell or scream but a firm no. Has worked for 5 years. Told him this morning to get away from a plant and he did. Not a poisonous plant but still.

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      1. That pretty much sums it up. Bud went for a plate with the last pieces of broccoli breaded and baked with buffalo sauce last night. Why he wanted to eat broccoli is a mystery, but it went like this:

        “Bud, no!”

        His ears twitch, indicating he hears me, but he dips his little head down into the plate and starts licking anyway.

        “Bud…no no no!”

        He pulls back, clearly disgusted, then the heat hits him and he gags and coughs.

        “I told you, dumbass!”

        He glares at me, then pads off toward his water bowl, trilling with disgust.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. And when i say let’ s go upstairs he goes first to my bedroom. Then when i want to mess with him i say bird or squirrel and he runs to window. I can be mean sometimes. 🤣🤣🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Obviously, we never shout at her at all or touch her. When she has done something Humans regard as “wrong”, we simply shake our heads and accept it… Bella will occasionally realise she has done something wrong ( in Human terms) and becomes soft and cute – rolling over, showing her belly and simply sits near us and raising her paw – this is primarily a sign for “I want..” i.e. whatever we are eating, but we try and believe its a sign of an apology… We are suckers for her cuteness

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    1. They really are experts at doing something cute immediately after destroying something, making a mess, knocking a beverage on the floor, etc.

      “Oh how adorable! Well I guess it’s okay that you literally sat your furry butt down on my dinner plate and ruined my meal. I’ll just order out…”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. On second thought he might not be happy when i say no. Baby Jesus was missing in manger last year and he does stay under Christmas tree sometimes. Found baby Jesus under the chair few feet away.

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  3. Mee toetallee knowss when mee has upset BellaSita Mum Big Buddy an Buddy!! THE air crackullss it seemss.
    An BellaSita has her “Mee upset tone” an her “Mee iss angry” tone!
    Mee has leerend alot from her inn THE 4+ yeerss wee been twogether. An shee even speekss CAT to mee!
    Mee can reedirect aggrssion allso an mee triess mee best to NOT bite or blaw BellaSita Mum!
    Shee getss freeked out an mee feelss bad an sad!
    Wee play alot of stick toyss an that helpss mee calm down 😉
    ***nose bopss*** BellaDharma an (((hugss))) BellaSita Mum

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      1. So while mee was meowin ;bout not clawin or bitin; mee DID freek BellaSita Mum out last nite Big Buddy…
        Mee wanted to sit inn her lap butt mee jumped onto sofa an knocked over her back support an shee was on her way to sittin down an reealized mee was under toppled back rest an shee tried to not sit ON MEE….
        An shee hollered (angry voice) an then went innto a Seezure…..
        ***slapss paw to head*** Mee feelss turribell.
        Mee did sit nicelee inn her lap today an **purred** fore an hour.
        Mee hopess shee will bee OKay! 2 Seezuress inn 1 week iss a ‘bummer’…. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My big guy (all black and furry) is a real character! When he does something wrong, he will run down the hallway and stand in doorway of the bedroom. I will call him (nicely!). He usually approaches with sweet little “brrrrp brrrps” and rub my leg. I invite him to my lap and all is forgiven!!! He is a rescue from the streets and knows his mommy loves him.

    Liked by 1 person

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