Tag: pheromones

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?

10 Signs From Your Cat You’ve Misinterpreted As Love

The internet is awash with listicles claiming your cats love you, insisting you’ll know for sure once you’re able to recognize the signs.

Well we’re here to tell you that love is a strong word, and if you’re lucky your cat merely acknowledges your existence, human. Here are the 10 feline behaviors most commonly mistaken for love:

  1. Grooming: “Grooming means one thing, and one thing only: We think you’re gross and you need a bath,” Buddy the Cat says. “You’re disgusting creatures, allowing your dead skin cells to accumulate all over you without washing them off until you take those horrific ‘showers.’ I could take a claw right now, run it down your arm, and come up with enough dead skin cells to season a salad. Now that’s nasty.”
  2. Kneading: “The Feline Propaganda Ministry seeded a story that kneading is some sort of affectionate behavior left over from kittenhood, and that by kneading you, we’re identifying you as our surrogate moms. That’s hilarious,” says Buddy. “We’re simply tenderizing our meat.”
  3. Head boops: “In ancient Rome, slaveowners would mark their property with brands or tattoos saying ‘PROPERTY OF POMPEY MAGNUS’ and that sort of thing. That’s what we’re doing with head boops. We’re using the pheromone glands on our heads and cheeks to mark you as our slaves, so other cats don’t try to lay claim to you.”
  4. Bringing you presents: “You humans eat the most disgusting food, like broccoli, potatoes and oranges, which are particularly revolting. When we bring you presents, we’re trying to fatten you up for later when we eat you.”
  5. Sleeping on you. “You’re warm. End of,” Buddy explains. “By sleeping on top of you, we also ensure you aren’t going anywhere, and will be available to fetch us snacks should we wake up hungry.”
  6. Putting our butts in your face: “You like that? Sniff it, human servant!”
  7. Tails held straight up: “The tips of our tails are actually quite sharp, and we brandish them like weapons. Weapons that say ‘There will be no disobedience or dilly-dallying here. Run along now and fetch us some yums.'”
  8. Meowing: “There is no equivalent for ‘please’ in meowenese. We meow because we know you’re hopelessly obtuse creatures and you can’t read the simplest tail, ear or whisker movements. Meowing is like speaking slowly to a child who’s had too many head injuries. ‘Massage…my…head…human. That’s a good human!'”
  9. Purring: “A purr is just a quiet roar. It means we’re happily thinking of ways to kill you.”
  10. Tolerating you: “Humans often mistake grudging acceptance for love. Just because we tolerate you doesn’t mean we love you. It means you provide useful services, but if that calculus should change — say, by providing subpar treats or not serving wet meals as delicious as the ones served by the neighbor two houses down — then we’ll simply move house.”