Do Cats Hold Grudges?

Cats are said to have several bad attributes including a selfish nature, snobby ways, and holding grudges. It’s just another unanswered myth in the meant to dispel the perpetually mysterious feline. Is there an answer to this? No and there will probably never be an answer unless we’re endowed with the ability to read the minds of cats. We can say that cats are sentient creatures and, as such, can experience negative emotions. How deeply does it play into our relationship with them is a matter of conjecture and opinion depending on your frame of reference.

What Exactly Is a Grudge?

Some people think that cats just don’t have the brain capacity or the depth of emotion to hold grudges. But usually people use their own experiences to shape how a grudge is defined. Objectively, a grudge according to Merriam-Webster, is “a feeling of deep-seated resentment or ill will.” That’s a pretty broad definition and one that can define how animals feel, too.  

A Cat’s Grudge

So how does it feel for a cat to hold a grudge? Well, cats probably don’t remember specific events that transpired past 16 hours. What cats do have is the ability to associate things with negative or positive feelings. Therefore your cat gets ridiculously happy every time he hears you open the treat bag! Conversely, he doesn’t like that cat carrier you use to stuff him in right before he takes a short road trip to the vet’s office. He gets panicky whenever you turn on the bathtub faucet. He has learned to associate the carrier with going to the doctor and he has also learned to associate the loud faucet with getting bathed. In each situation he is expressly unhappy and uncomfortable. There’s no easy or direct way to determine if a cat holds a human-like grudge. 

It’s Not a Grudge

Those situations mentioned above are usually far apart, but memorable enough to get a cat’s hackles up. There are some situations that make a cat especially upset for longer periods of time and usually involve a human. It’s not accurate to say the cat is holding a grudge – he is probably feeling more anxious and upset than anything else. Usually, changes in your routine or changes to a cat’s living circumstances will make him do things you don’t like. Don’t think these things are meant to make you mad – they’re not about you. They’re more about his inability to cope with changes. 

Don’t mistake scratching furniture or knocking things off tables as signs up ill-will. These are normal behaviors. If you want to change these behaviors, look for ways to modify them or channel them into other avenues. Trying to reprimand them or to make them feel scared for displaying normal behaviors will worsen your relationship with your cat. Best advice: don’t buy upholstered furniture or expensive bed sheets and keep counters and tables free of all things at all times. All joking aside, cats are playful, disdainful, and affectionate – all simultaneously. They want to be loved just as much as you want to love them. They express dislike very strongly but they get over it very quickly. For example, have you ever given your cat a bath? He certainly didn’t like it but did he stay mad at you for more than a day? Probably not. In the end you’re his source of kibble, comfort, and cuddles!

By Gabrielle Allemeier


About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.