Holding a grudge means to have a persistent resentment, ill will or anger over a past wrong done to you, injury or grievance.
This is a common unhealthy human behavior that can be due to having an unrealistic expectation, feeling left out, being disgusted or envious and making wrong assumptions or misunderstanding.
Do kitties really hold grudges?
What about cats or other animals? Do they also hold grudges or is it our imagination because we are guilty to have wronged them? Could what we assume to be holding a grudge be some other behavioral or health issue?
It is a fact that your feline friend can get annoyed or angry at you. That is not debatable. However, can they hold this feeling of anger and resentment persistently so as it can be a full-blown grudge like humans do?
1. Cat owners observation
Many kitty owners have noted some signs that their cat is holding some sort of a grudge. Such stories are often connected to something resentful such as accidentally stepping on her paws, hitting her, or do something she does not like, and so on.
Holding a grudge has been associated with withdrawal, being aggressive, bad litter box behavior, and so on. Could this be a misinterpretation of their behavior or could they be having a grudge against their owners?
2. Behaviorists think otherwise
Cat behaviorists disagree with the fact that these pets can act out of spite on something you did that hurt them. They cannot even try to revenge or get back at you if you wronged it. They are just incapable.
3. They don’t think like humans, scientist
As Canidae.com notes, “there are the scientists, who say it’s simply not within the realm of possibility for a cat to hold a grudge, because cats don’t think about such things the way we humans do.”
There some sense of truth in what scientists say since these pets do not have the same thoughts as human beings. They think about totally different things and there is a high chance that having a malevolence is not one of the things in their mind.
Whereas humans have a very complex way of thinking, most animals don’t. In fact, people who have deep connection and bond with cats often rubbish the idea of these pets holding grudges?
4. Their memory
There are things we do that make our cats angry at us. However, it won’t take long before your kitty comes back staring at you or seeking your attention, affection or even food. Is it they have forgotten what we did that made them mad?
According to a University of Michigan study, dogs’ memories last no longer than five minutes, while cats’ last up to 16 hours.
This indicates that they may not be able to hold resentment persistently for a long time until it becomes a grudge. Kitten’s memories are thought to be even shorter, and hence the need to correct them quite often.
However, this is only their short term memories often referred as to associative memories as they associated with something, a noise, smell, etc.
Besides the short-term memory, felines have a long-term memory with no indication of how long it lasts. These pets can remember their past owners even after years of separation. Most experts note that their long term memory revolves around their emotions, survival instincts and food.
A study on cat’s brain structure and lobes in their cerebral cortex resemble that of humans. Could this be the reason why they can also remember negative experiences such as going to a vet or a bath? They will also remind you of their mealtime or when you need to open the door, and so on.
Using the fact that their associative memory is short may indicate they may not be able to hold resentment to something for a long time. However, considering the have long term memory, then this makes their ability to have some rancor debatable.
We are of the opinion that cats are unable to hold grudges or even forgiving.
Therefore, by being aggressive, scratching things, being withdrawn, refusing to use their littering box, and other behavioral problems should not be assumed to mean that your cat has a grudge on you.
It could be due to other behavioral or health problems including anxiety. Try to find out why and/or take him or her to your veterinary for evaluation.