Do Cats Know When They Are in Trouble? (Explained)

Like all other pets, cats can also be naughty sometimes. Whether it’s accidental or intentional, they can still create a mess or get in trouble. For this reason, you may wonder if they care at all. Do our pets understand the situation? Thus, it begs the question:

Do cats know when they are in trouble? Yes, cats know when they are in trouble. Of course, like other pets, cats don’t have intelligence like ours. Thus, they won’t have any idea what is right from wrong. However, they would know they are in trouble through our response to them.

Felines are pets with finesse, unlike dogs that can be quite clumsy. Still, many instances can also happen due to our cats. Most likely, it will be food-related. However, it even doesn’t explain how they know when they are in trouble.

In this article, we’ll tackle everything you need to know about this matter. This way, you can use it to your advantage to teach your feline pets some important lessons they need to know.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Do cats understand when they’re in trouble?

As I said, cats understand when they’re in trouble, but they do so not through their actions but your response.

For instance, if your pet eats something they shouldn’t eat, it won’t see such action as wrong. However, if you punish it afterward, it may learn from it.

As I said earlier, cats don’t have the intelligence to understand which is right from wrong. However, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn.

According to a study, cats won’t relate their wrongdoings with your response. In short, if you get angry or punish your pet, it won’t understand that it’s due to what it did.

Still, it doesn’t mean your cat won’t learn. We’ll get into this later on.

Do cats remember getting in trouble?

Like most animals, cats don’t have the emotional depth to hold a grudge. On the other hand, they do have long memories, and they can remember it more likely if there is danger involved in it.

In a nutshell, if your cat got in trouble for being naughty, it’s not likely that it will hold a grudge or remember it. 

However, if it encounters a life-threatening situation, it will try to avoid such in the future.

As a pet owner, you may think that your cat will continue to do the same thing over and over. While they won’t remember getting in trouble, it doesn’t mean they won’t learn.

If your cat gets in trouble, always make sure to respond appropriately by properly teaching your pet.

Do cats know when they are doing something wrong?

As I said earlier, cats cannot distinguish if their actions are good or bad. Like other animals, they also act on instinct, unlike humans, who can think first before doing something.

Your pet may be stealing food in your eyes. But, to your pet, it just saw free food to consume.

Your cat may hurt you in your eyes. But to your pet, it’s just kneading to express comfort, ease, and love.

Felines are fascinating pets. While they don’t know they’re making mistakes, they can learn through constant guidance.

By guidance, I mean by teaching them and letting them know they made a mistake.

Unlike humans, cats and other pets need training and guidance to learn.

Simply put, they may not learn from their mistake, but you can make them know by showing its harmful effect.

There are specific ways to do it, and it will train your pet to refrain from doing the things it shouldn’t do.

If you’d get mad, will your pet be able to understand it?

Do cats know when you’re mad at them?

While cats may not distinguish their actions, they can know when you are mad at them about something.

What makes felines fascinating is that they pay attention to their owner’s emotions.

Cats show different behaviors when their owner smiles at them. Further, they pay much more attention to a positive attitude rather than a negative one.

Thus, even though it has a lesser effect, your pet will understand you frowning at it in response to its action.

The best thing about this fact is that as your pet gets closer to you, it’ll sense and respond more to you.

Still, it’s quite essential to note that your kitty will be more adept at a smile than a frown.

guilty cat

Do cats know when you scold them?

While scolding may make sense for us, it goes the other way around for our cats. In fact, your cat likely won’t understand what your scolding means.

As I said earlier, your cat won’t think that the scolding is an effect of doing something wrong. Moreover, your pet may not think of it as a punishment at all.

For a cat, a shout or scold may seem like attention from you. Thus, instead of teaching that it’s a bad thing, it can mean something good for them.

For this reason, it’s crucial to impart to your cat that it did something wrong.

So, how should you do it?

How to punish cats for bad behavior?

If your cat gets into trouble, teaching it is crucial to do the same thing again. However, it goes without saying that you need to do it properly.

Based on the things I said earlier, here are three tips you can use as a punishment to your cat for bad behavior.

Encourage and appreciate their good behavior.

In general, cats pay more attention to a smile than a frown. Thus, if you want your feline pet to learn and avoid bad behavior, start by appreciating its good ones.

Give a treat every time it behaves and does no harm. That way, your pet will tend to keep on doing the things that give it treats.

Smile at your pet every time it does something right. A positive reaction will train it to do the things you’d like it to do.

Discourage bad behavior but never punish by hurting

Train your cat to learn by discouraging bad behavior at the same time. It goes without saying that you need to do so, but not by hurting your pet.

Punishment such as hitting and kicking will take a significant toll on your pet. If you continue hitting your pet, the following effects can happen.

  • Your pet may get hurt and injured.
  • It may fight back in self-defense and may hurt you more.
  • It may lead your pet to show more bad behavior.
  • Your pet may turn away from you and lose affection towards you.

Physical harm destroys the purpose of why you even considered taking it as a pet. Discipline is essential, but physical injury is not the ideal form of it.

There are three things you can do to show your discouragement. You could:


Since felines like it when you pay attention, they may not like it when you ignore them. They may even see shouting as a form of getting your attention and may continue doing their wrong actions.


Frowning is a simple gesture of annoyance and irritation, and your pet will sense this as a bad thing. Thus, frowning will teach it to refrain from doing it.

Taking treats away

If you’re giving your cats a treat every time they do good, take it away when they do bad. They would do anything to get what they want. Thus, if they don’t receive treats from doing a sure thing, they’ll stop it eventually.

Keeping an eye

By keeping an eye on your pet, you can understand its behavior and actions.

A keen observation will help you learn what they prefer and what they don’t.

At the same time, it will help you prevent if there’s something they’re about to do that you don’t want.

Lastly, the act of watching your pet is part of your responsibility as the owner. Thus, doing it will prove how much you care for your pet.

Will cats take a lesson from punishment?

No, cats don’t learn from punishment. Thus, if you plan on punishing your pet for bad behavior, it won’t help.

As I said earlier, punishments and bad behavior don’t relate from a cat’s perspective. Thus, if you hurt your pet, it won’t associate your actions with its behavior.

When it shows bad behavior, it’s crucial to teach your pet not to do it again. However, you need to do so in the right way. Otherwise, your pet will not learn from it.

Many ways exist when it comes to teaching felines. However, hurting your pet as punishment won’t do any good.


Cats do get in trouble from time to time, but it doesn’t mean they know it. Like other animals, cats don’t have the intelligence to know which is right from wrong. Still, they can learn it through us pet owners.

As always, it is crucial to teach our cats against bad behavior. However, it goes without saying that we need to do it properly. Thus, if you plan on teaching your pet, don’t hurt it physically.


Image credits – Canva

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