Are Cats Sentient – Are They Self-Aware?

In college, you might have taken a college class where you learned that humans are sentient. You may not have talked about animals or cats specifically. As you think about what it means to be sentient, you start to wonder: are cats sentient?

Cats are sentient. Cats have and experience emotions and can perceive time. They are self-aware, but not likely to process their own existence.

Thinking about whether or not cats are sentient is a massive conversation. So many things go into being sentient, such as emotions, thoughts, and feelings. You can continue reading about the discussion of cats being sentient, but you should continue reading here if you want an introduction to what it means for a cat to be sentient. 

What Does It Mean To Be A Sentient

Sentient means that something can feel things.

Sentient seems like a complex word, and while the definitions and explanations can become complex, sentiment means that you can feel or perceive something. Some people may also think of sentient as being self-aware, though those words mean something a little bit different.

For humans, being sentient means that you are in the world and feel sensations like emotions. Humans, however, are not the only sentient beings on the planet. 

How Are Cats Sentient

Cats are sentient, and there are many ways that your cat is sentient.

Here are some examples of how your cat is a sentient being:

  • Feels emotions, like sadness or happiness
  • Has a sense of self-awareness, even if your cat can’t communicate it
  • Has thoughts, whatever that may be, for cats
  • Perceives time, though this is different than humans

Of course, cats do not have the same ways of communicating as humans, so you need to watch your cat to understand how he is sentient closely. 

Are Cats Self Aware

Cats are self-aware.

A cat’s self-awareness may be different from what humans experience, but cats can be self-aware. I can explain this, but I think an example is the easiest way to see this.

I have one cat that is always sweet in front of my mother. As soon as she leaves the room, the cat will attack another cat, but if my mom returns to the room, he’ll go back to his sweet demeanor immediately. This causes her to think the other cat started the fight. 

Cats have a different level of self-awareness than humans, but that is not to say that they are not self-aware. 

Are Cats Aware Of Their Own Existence

Cats may be aware of their own existence, but it is unlikely.

It isn’t easy to know if a cat is aware of its existence. Think about a cat that sees himself in a mirror; he may poof himself up to look bigger and even start growling at his reflection. He does not know that it is him.

Is that an example of a cat not knowing his existence? It could be, but it can also be that your cat is not used to seeing his reflection. The first humans were probably shocked by a reflection as well. 

Are Cats Emotionally Intelligent

Yes, cats are emotionally intelligent.

If you’ve ever been upset when you’re around your cat, then you know that your cat can sense your emotions. Your cat can’t tell you that it’s all going to be okay, but your cat has ways of interacting with you to make you feel better. Your cat may curl up on your lap or rub his face against your cheek. 

These gestures may be small, but it shows that your cat is doing his best to make you feel even a little bit better. 

Do Cats Have A Conscience

A cat does not have a conscience in the same way that humans do, but it is not a stretch to say that cats are conscious of their actions.

Cat owners and scientists alike cannot precisely know what a cat is thinking, but it is safe to say that cats are conscious. 

If you watch a cat for any length of time, you know that cats are calculating. Similarly, if you yell at your cat for doing something bad, then you know that your cat will look ashamed.

Is this enough to prove that cats have a conscience? Well, maybe not. On the other hand, it feels even less correct to say that cats are not conscious and aware. It is safe to say that cats experience a different kind of consciousness. 

Do Cats Have Thoughts and Feelings

Cats do have thoughts and feelings.

While it may be harder to prove that cats have thoughts, it is undoubtedly true that cats have feelings. For instance, I probably do not have to explain how angry a cat can get if he does not get the treats he thinks he’s getting when you walk through the kitchen.

It may be sadder but think of the cats in kennels waiting to be adopted. Those cats are sad or happy when they see someone coming by. If a cat did not have feelings, you would not see cats reacting or acting in these ways.

How Do Cats Perceive Humans

Cats are very loyal to their human owners.

While it Is up for debate if cats know of their existence, cats indeed understand that their owners exist. After all, many cats are loyal and devoted to their humans. If a cat does not like an owner or a person in general, they also make it known.

Cats are not passive when it comes to humans, which means that cats constantly interact with humans. 

How Do Cats Perceive Time

If you have ever spent time with a cat, you know cats can have a very keen sense of time. Cats do not look at the clock to keep time, but a cat on a schedule is very controlled.

It would be a stretch to think that cats do not perceive time. Since cats do not have appointments or jobs, they will experience time differently. They don’t need a clock to know what time it is, though.

Cats who are on a schedule are very aware of time. If you feed your kitty at 7 pm every night, then you already know your cat will start to pester you right around that time every night. If you go to bed at 9 pm nightly, then your cat is probably following you down the hall for the night too. 

Cats may have a better sense of time even without using a clock! 

How Do Cats Perceive The World

Cats see the world differently than humans.

Cats do not perceive the world the same way as humans. Cats cannot see color physically, so that you may think of a cat as a color-blind person. Cats also do not have great vision when it comes to seeing things that are far away. 

These are minor things, but they will affect how cats see the world around them.

Examples Of Cats Sentient Behaviors

Cats have many sentient behaviors that you may easily overlook.

As we have covered already, cats have feelings and emotions. Some cats show emotions better than others.

Cats also have a sense of the world around them, including people and time. They may or may not be able to understand that they are also a part of that world. Some cats get on a schedule, which shows that they either consciously or unconsciously understand time. 

Things To Know

This article mentioned that cats could understand and perceive time, though they do not rely on clocks like humans. Understanding the flow of time, at least in some capacity, is part of being a sentient being.

It’s essential to explain how important it is for some cats to get into a routine. Cats that are in a routine get up, eat, sleep, and even play on a schedule that may run like clockwork. Your cat may know your schedule better than even you do!

Cats with a routine are likely to be happier and less stressed than cats who do not follow any schedule.

A cat with a routine will know what to expect from the day, so he does not constantly need to be worried about what may happen next. Your cat will be able to relax in ways that cats without a routine cannot.

Your cat will also make it known if his routine is broken. If you wake up too late or forget to feed your cat lunch right on the dot, your cat will certainly make it known as he demands what he comes to expect.

If someone says a cat has no emotions, they certainly have never seen a cat that had his routine broken! 


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