Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
Over the years we’ve noticed that our cats like to spend lots of time with us whenever we’re sick. This wasn’t really a surprising behaviour for us because our cats love sleeping with us, and Beau, in particular, doesn’t like sleeping alone and loves to be held throughout the day. That being said, our cats don’t spend every waking moment with us, unless we are sick.
On a regular day, I would say that each cat spends between 1-2 hours sleeping intermittently in our laps. This includes days where I spend the majority of my day in bed, which you would expect my cats to love since our bed is one of their favourite spots.
That being said, our cats will ignore if they’ve “had enough” of us, but again, it seems like they can’t have enough of us whenever we’re sick and will spend almost all of their time with us.
As mentioned in past posts, when my partner and I are sick we choose not to share the same bed as we both have jobs that require us to be physical and interact closely with other people. So, in hopes of trying to make sure that at least one of us can continue to work, we choose to try our very best to not spread germs.
You’d think that that would be fairly difficult, especially with two cats, but that doesn’t seem to be the case since the cats seem to ignore the healthy one of us unless they are being fed or if we try to play with them. Interesting, eh?
Another weird thing that changes about our cats when we’re sick is that they fight less and spend more time sleeping. While their activity levels change from day to day, it is fairly easy to tell that our cats
So… does that mean that our cats understand that we’re sick? Are our cats trying to make sure we feel better? Are our cats worried about us? Why is it that our cats seem to understand that we’re sick and what are they thinking?
Although human-feline relationships haven’t been researched as much as they could be, there are a few studies that show that cats can emotionally bond with their owners. Though, at the time of writing this article, there is not enough scientific evidence confirm how much cats can understand us or bond with us we do know that they do understand a limited amount of our language.
That being said, there are a number of forums, blogs and other forms of social media in which owners share their experiences bonding with their cats and many experiences seem much like our very own.
Although these aren’t scientific studies or tests, it can safely be assumed that if many owners witness their cats exhibiting a specific behaviour that they might be onto something and will only need studies to conclude why cats seem to react or relate to humans in this way.
GALVAN AND VONK STUDY
In 2015, Moriah Galvan and Jennifer Vonk from Oakland University did a study on 12 cats based on how cats react when owners smile or frown at them.
Although the sample size was much smaller than most research studies try to have, this is currently the most well-known and referenced study of its kind.
So what did the study say? Well, the study showed when owners smiled the cats scented more, purred and even sat on their owner’s laps. The study also showed that cats were less likely to want to spend time around their owners when the owner was frowning.
Now, though the results showed that cats can understand facial features over time, it does not prove that cats are empathetic.
To read more about this study click here.
CATS ARE MASTERS AT LEARNING BODY LANGUAGE
Ever have a cat who won’t stop staring at you? We actually have one of those in our household and while it can be creepy at times, it’s an instinct our cat, Beau, has to help him understand what’s going on.
That being said, do you have a cat who always runs to the kitchen whenever you walk in that direction? Do you have a cat who is trained to do a specific task or trick based on how you vocalize or by doing a specific action? Do you have a cat who will jump onto the couch whenever you pat on it? Do you have a cat who will run if you hunch yourself over as if you’re going to prowl? Well, chances are you have a cat who has one of these qualities or behaviours, if not more that I haven’t even mentioned.
That being said, it can be assumed that cats will begin to understand when it is you’re sick based on being able to recognize when you cough, sneeze, sniffle, etc similar to other stimuli you provide.
CATS THRIVE ON ROUTINE
I’m sure everyone has had their cat remind them that it’s time to eat by either meowing incessantly or, if you have a cat like Beau, by walking into the kitchen and standing in the same spot until you feed them. That being said, cats will recognize when there is a change in their routine based on the changes you have to make while being sick.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you’re someone who has a full-time job, your cat will recognize that you are at home spending time in your bed instead of being gone. If you’re too sick, they may notice you sleeping more. If you’re sleeping, you may even miss a feeding, sending them the red alert that something is wrong and their food delivery service is out of commission (at least for now!)
Cats may get stressed when their routine changes and may turn to their owners for comfort or answers. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a cat that is spending time with their sick owner is stressed out. A break in routine may just be another way your cat begins recognizing that you’re not feeling well when you’re sick.
YOU’RE WARM AND COMFY
Oftentimes when we’re sick our body temperature rises, making us the perfect cuddle spot for cats. Body temperature is actually a big reason why cats sleep by our feet at night, although it is not the only reason.
Whether or not you have a fever, your cat may simply be attracted to the fact that you have extra body heat and are spending a lot of time on the couch or bed not moving.
Funny enough, this is also one of the reasons cats love paper and cardboard boxes so much.
CATS MIGHT ACTUALLY BE HYPERSENSITIVE TO ILLNESS
This is one of the gray areas of this post since there isn’t a whole lot of scientific evidence to support this claim. That being said, it is a known fact that cats are aware of each other’s illnesses and will try to protect and provide extra support for sick members of their pack.
This can be true of housecats as well and many housecats will make their owners aware of another cat’s illness by overgrooming them on the affected area. It’s a fairly odd phenomenon, but some cat owners have actually reported similar behaviour with their cats’ human counterparts.
After researching and reading a number of posts, blogs and asking friends, it seems like some cats are hypersensitive or overly aware of human illnesses and will spend time massaging their owners or even licking them in hopes of making them feel better. Many blogs claim that this happens frequently when the owners have headaches or migraines, while some others claim that their cats were aware of fatal organ failures including, but not limited to kidneys.
Now, this is a fairly bold statement and I will repeat that there are no scientific studies on these happenings, but it is amazing to read so many stories of cats bonding with their human counterparts when they are sick. I do hope that vets try to conduct studies or research on these happenings, although it would be fairly difficult. Perhaps a survey group to begin with!
CATS HAVE ACTUALLY SAVED LIVES
We so often hear about the amazing work dogs do for firefighters, paramedics and other rescue groups, but did you know that cats have been known to do a lot of the same work?
There have been multiple reports of cats waking up family members when another family member is experiencing medical difficulties. Some of these medical difficulties have included seizures, heart failure, and choking/difficulty breathing. Some reports even claim that cats were aware of the symptoms even before anything drastic happened and cats who wouldn’t normally bite or meow would yowl and bite their owners to make them aware of the danger they were in. Weirdly enough some reports have even claimed that their cats were aware that their blood sugars were too low and their cats kept them awake until they had taken their pills and done their second reading. Really interesting, eh?
Cats have even been known to wake up their owners when there is an increase in carbon monoxide and fires.
The amazing thing about these stories is that there aren’t just a few of them, the internet is actually flooded with them. Not only that, there is plenty of documentation of these events from law enforcement officials, medical experts, animal support organizations as well as credible news sources. All of these proving how amazing cats really are.
BUT HOW CAN ALL OF THIS BE POSSIBLE?
Well, not only do a number of these medical experiences have visual ailments such as dizziness, fatigue, etc. A number of them actually cause the chemicals to shift in your body.
Since cats have a much stronger sense of smell than we do, it is assumed that they can tell when these chemicals switch in our body. The simplest example, being blood sugar. It can be assumed that if your cat catches wind of these chemical changes they will relate it to some of the symptoms above, even if you are asleep.
Blood sugar drops? My owner always stumbles when I smell this. They always ingest something. They always use a machine twice. They’re not doing it… Maybe I should wake them up to remind them!
Although there are countless accounts of cats being able to suspect when their owners are sick, there is unfortunately not enough scientific evidence to prove the claim.
Now, that’s not to say that it is a fallacy or a lie that cats are able to tell whether or not you are sick, it is, however, to say… we should probably get some funds to research this!
I do recommend doing a deeper dive on the stories of cats saving lives, both medical as well as in cases of fires. I have to admit that my deep dive lasted a number of hours and a few thousand teardrops later I have learned to love and respect cats even more.
While I have never been in the situation where my cats have saved my life, I am grateful for the time they have spent sleeping by my side when I’m sick and their countless kisses, healing purrs and cuddles.
So pet parents, what do you think about all of this? Do your cats seem to be aware of you being sick? Have they ever saved your life? Let me know in the comments below!