Cats don't feel the emotion of shame. Discuss

Esme, a black cat living in the US, is famous for being branded a 'thief' by her owner, Kate who even went so far as to place a big sign on her property next to the items that she had "stolen" from her neighbours. 

It's a bit of fun but some people like me can both see the fun I also see something which is not quite right about this. There was a bit of a backlash by people who claimed that the owner was shaming her cat publicly.

The news media presenter you see on the video said that cats don't have shame. They can't feel emotional shame. And therefore, it is not possible to shame them. A fair point.

Nothing to be ashamed of

But the fairer point is to say that there is nothing to be ashamed of 😃. It is entirely natural feline behaviour. Natural for a cat living in the human environment where they have difficulty expressing their natural instincts to hunt.

Natural hunting behaviour

When a domestic cat does this and "steals" objects belong to neighbours they are substituting bringing prey animals back to the natal den i.e. the owner's home.

From Esme's perspective there is obviously a dearth of animals to hunt and kill. So, she finds a substitute. A substitute which is actually a lot easier to kill because they are never alive! But Esme is satisfied by her actions.

It's an outlet. But also, clearly domestic cats don't steal things. They are not thieves. The act of theft is an entirely human concept. In the UK, the Theft Act is designed to prosecute human thieves.


I know I am stating the obvious but I don't like it when cats are branded as thieves. The owner could have phrased her banner differently. She might have said for example:

"My Cat Has Taken These Items, Please Collect Them!"

Something like that. Something more neutral. Something less provocative and derogatory about domestic cat behaviour. It wouldn't have been as amusing though. That' the problem.

Jackson Galaxy

My mind turns, funny enough, to Jackson Galaxy and his TV show, "My Cat from Hell". He now admits that the name of the show is not the best because it implies that domestic cats can come from hell and behave in a hellish way. They don't. They behave in a way which is appropriate to the circumstances under which humans put them because all domestic cats behave instinctively.

Feline emotions

Shame is an emotion. We don't know as yet the complexity of the emotions that cats can experience. We know they can experience the usual basic emotions such as happiness and sadness et cetera but how far do their emotions go? 

They certainly do not feel shame because as mentioned they behave naturally and instinctively. In any case, they wouldn't feel shame if they didn't behave naturally or instinctively. It is too complex an emotion and it is an emotion which has to be measured against societal standards i.e. morality. That is beyond the means of a cat.


Popular posts from this blog

Is Cartoon Cat a creepypasta?

What is a harlequin cat?