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Do Cats Understand Smiles?

  • Post category:Behavior
  • Post last modified:April 13, 2020
  • Reading time:7 mins read
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Have you ever looked over at your cat and witnessed what appeared to be a crack of a smile coming from his soft fluffy face? I know I have and it’s made me step back and wonder if cats can actually smile.

And if they can in fact smile, do they even know what smiling means? If your cat can smile, then do they understand what a human smile is?

The short answer is no. Cats do not understand what we mean when we are smiling. In this article, we dive deep into understanding how cats react to some of the human facial expressions that they may see us do.

How Do You Know If Your Cat Is Smiling?

Technically, cats don’t really smile in the ways that we humans do. It’s actually just a myth. Cats do, however, have the muscular ability to make facial expressions that resemble smiling

This is also known as the flehmen response. What this means is that there are certain pheromones that contribute to the physical likeness of feline smiling. However, as I mentioned above, they are not truly smiling how we associate smiling in the human understanding of things.  

When our cats are in a relaxed state of being, it might sometimes appear that they are smiling. This, however, is also not the case in the true sense of smiling.

Regardless of this fact, I still consider my cats to be smiling when they do these facial expressions. If your cat is content with its surroundings, then that generally means that they are happy felines.

Do Cats Understand Smiles?

In short, no, cats do not really understand the human facial expression of smiling. Cats can, however, sense a few things by the tone of our voices. If our voices are calm while we are smiling, your cat is less likely to be intimidated by you.

The opposite can be said for human expressions that appear to be angry in nature. When you are angry, chances are pretty good that you may be frowning. 

So with this example, it is safe to say that your cat will not understand what the frown on your face means. Your cat will most likely associate the angry tone in your voice with aggression and will then act accordingly.

Do Cats Understand Laughter?

Again, for this question the short answer is no. Your cat most likely does not truly understand the expression of laughter. With that being said, though, cats do usually tend to react to us if we are laughing at them. 

For example, sometimes my cat will miscalculate a jump or a landing and it causes me to laugh at them. When I do this, they will usually just go run and hide out of embarrassment.

This reaction from my cat may be from one of two reasons. They may just be embarrassed that they landed or jumped incorrectly. Or they may be reacting to the loudness of my laughter when this happens, because as much as I try not to, I tend to laugh pretty hysterically when this happens.

Don’t worry though. I’m not cruel about it. I go find wherever it is that they ran off to and I comfort them with plenty of affection to show them that there is really nothing to be embarrassed about.

Do Cats Have A Sense Of Humor?

Cats may not have a sense of humor in the human definition of the word “humor”. However, in my opinion, I believe that most cats exercise their “sense of humor” with all the mischievous things that they do.

A great example of this is when my cat, Tiggy, decides to act up shortly after I lie down for the evening. What he usually does is open and slam the bottom cupboard doors in my kitchen. It gets so loud that sometimes it scares the hell out of me. 

And by the time I get downstairs to investigate the noise, he is sitting on my living room chair and acting all calm. When I go over to him, though, I can tell by the way he is rapidly breathing that he was just running. This is how I know that it was him and not any of my other cats.

I believe that in this particular definition of whether or not cats have a sense of humor, this would be a pretty good example of my cat’s sense of humor. 

How To Know If Your Cat Is Content

There are certain behaviors that cats will engage in that indicate that they are happy. These behaviors include purring, slow-blinking, and constantly talking to you.

These actions not only show that your cat is happy and content, but it also indicates a decent level of love and trust for their human companions. I’ve written an entire article on how to tell if your cat does indeed love you or not right here.

There are some simple things you can do to make sure that your cat is in fact happy and content. Simply playing laser light with your cat or giving them cat treats every once in a while can go a long way to show help your cat feel content with their surroundings.

Final Thoughts

So do cats understand human smiles or human laughter? No, science has proven this to be untrue. However, I still refer to my cats as smiling whenever I see them make that type of facial expression. 

Why? Simply because it warms my heart. When they are asleep and have a “smile” on their face, it means they are happy and content. This alone, makes me not care too much about the scientific explanations of feline smiling or any other emotions our cats engage in.

After all, if my cats express happiness and contentment, then I must be doing something right in how I’m raising them.