Do you know one of my favorite things about having a pet cat? My cat is hilarious to watch! She constantly makes me laugh, especially when she’s playful and full of energy. But it got me wondering… do cats find things funny? And do cats have a sense of humor at all?
After a bit of digging, I found the answer I was hoping for. Many people think cats indeed do have a sense of humor! At least, there is a good chance our cats do find us funny. Although, they don’t show it through laughter as we do. In fact, cats have evolved to show no emotion at all, so you’ll never hear your cat laughing.
In this article, I talk more about cat humor in detail and the theories behind cats finding things funny. I also explain how we can tell when our cats are happy and what the feline equivalent to laughter is. Spoiler alert – it’s all in the purr and their body language!
What is a Sense of Humor?
Before I start explaining why it is thought cats have a sense of humor, I want to talk about what this actually means. At least, I want to talk about what it means in people and how we show it.
According to the dictionary, humor can be defined as “the quality of being amusing or comic”. Based on this, cats are undoubtedly humorous. They make us laugh all the time! Whenever I see my cat sitting like a human I burst into fits of giggles. She also makes me laugh when she gets a bad case of the cat zoomies. I’m sure as owners you too have things about your friend that make you smile.
Having a sense of humor is the ability to detect this humor in others. In the above example, we clearly have a sense of humor. We can tell that our cat is being funny and respond to that. And how we respond is through laughter. But why we laugh in response to something funny is somewhat of a scientific mystery.
There are a couple of theories floating around, such as:
- Laughter acts as a bonding element and helps people form closer relationships.
- Laughter used to be a warning sound to scare off predators but has since evolved.
Still, scientists have yet to find where laughter comes from and why humans do this. Why am I talking about this? Well, it paints an important point, which is this: Laughter and having a sense of humor don’t always go hand-in-hand. You can laugh without finding something funny, and you can have a sense of humor without laughing.
This is an important note to start on because I have never heard my cat laugh once. In fact, cats can’t laugh. However, just because cats don’t laugh, it doesn’t mean they can’t find something funny. It simply means that if they do find things funny, they express it in a different way to people.
Do Cats Find Things Funny?
Now onto the important stuff! Do cats have a sense of humor? Many people (myself included) think the answer to this question is yes. After all, humans are animals. If we have the capacity to find things funny, can’t all other animals have this capacity as well? Therefore, can’t cats?
However, there is no way that we can know for sure whether or not cats find things funny. Cats can’t speak our language, so it’s difficult for us to share a joke. But while cats might have a sense of humor, their definition of funny will likely be very different from ours.
For example, I doubt your cat will laugh at any of our jokes, even if they could understand them. But your cat might find a half-dead mouse struggling to survive rather amusing. We on the other hand wouldn’t see the funny side of this at all!
It’s like meeting someone with a completely different sense of humor than you. You both do have a sense of humor, you just find different things funny.
Why Can Cats Not Laugh?
If we are right and cats do find things funny, why is it that they don’t laugh like us? According to science, this is all down to what cats need to survive.
1. Cats are Independent Creatures
Humans are very social animals, and laughter is a form of bonding. It creates a way of communicating and overrides all language barriers. Everyone from everywhere can laugh. Therefore, laughter is in part important to our survival. It helped us form tight social circles, establish hierarchies, and have a group of other humans in our tribe to help our survival.
This explains why we see laughter in some other species that live in social groups:
- Apres and Primates: Apes are a great example. Their laughter is more of a pant, but we know they’re laughing as it is in response to being tickled.
- Dolphins: Dolphins are sociable animals and let out a “chirp” when play-fighting. Scientists consider this noise to be their equivalent to a laugh.
- Elephants: Elephants trumpet to show their enjoyment when engaging in play with each other. This is again the elephant equivalent to a laugh.
On the other hand, cats don’t have a way of laughing. Scientists think they have evolved this way because they are naturally independent creatures. Unlike humans, apes, dolphins, and elephants, cats live alone. They don’t need to laugh and bond with other cats for survival, and so they simply don’t do it.
This is not the first time science has proven cats have lost abilities that aren’t needed. A well-known example is that cats lack the gene to taste sweet things. Sweet substances are made from carbohydrates, which is the least important part of a cat’s diet. By removing the gene to taste sweet foods, cats no longer get pleasure from it. So, they spend more time eating the important foods that they do need for survival.
2. Cats Are Prey of Larger Animals
Cats do hunt smaller animals such as birds and mice. In the wild though, they are also the prey of larger animals. Therefore, factors that affect the likelihood of a cat becoming another animal’s dinner are crucial in terms of cats’ survival rates.
Whenever predators hunt, they always look for signs of weakness in their prey. This would give them an improved chance of success. This is why cats are notoriously good at hiding pain; it is to help their survival. It stops predators from realizing they are weak and sick, making an attack much less likely.
It is for this same reason that cats don’t really show any emotions on their face. These emotions will let predators know how they are feeling. If a cat is feeling anxious and worried, this is another sign of weakness. Therefore, by not communicating their emotions they improve their chances of living. Besides, as cats are independent, they don’t need to communicate their emotions to each other.
Through hiding fear and worry from predators, cats also hide happiness. They’d rather not show any emotion than to show all emotion and get eaten! This is therefore another scientific theory as to why cats don’t laugh or show any real facial expressions for that matter.
Do Cats Know When People Laugh?
Now here’s a good question!
If cats can’t laugh themselves, do they know when people laugh? As I said, I end up laughing at my cat all the time. She’s constantly doing something cute and funny which makes me giggle. But is she aware that she’s being such a joker?
According to most pet parents, cats are aware of our reactions. We have a very close bond with our cats, meaning we can still communicate despite the huge langue barrier. Cats in the wild might not have a clue about what laughter means, but domestic cats that are used to being around people laughing have probably worked out it’s a good response.
How your cat responds to laughter will depend entirely on its personality. My cat always seems to get funnier. I think she’s playing up on purpose to make me laugh more. See, I told you she has a sense of humor! Other cats might hide away, embarrassed by their silly behavior. No two cats are the same, so no two responses will be either.
How Do Cats Show Amusement?
Cats might have a sense of humor, and cats can’t laugh for a fact. But they can still show amusement and happiness. They just don’t use the usual cues; subtle cues are much better for their survival. Here are just some of the ways you can tell that your cat is happy:
- Purring: The main way that cats show that they are happy is through purring. In fact, many people consider purring is the equivalent of laughter in cats. This isn’t strictly true, but it is still a good way to know they’re enjoying themselves.
- Kneading: Kneading or “making biscuits” is where your cat moves its paws up and down in a rhythmic way. They learn this motion when they are kittens as it stimulates milk to be released from the mother. Kneading might not prove that a cat finds something funny, but it definitely shows that they are content.
- Slow Blinking: It is easy to mistake a cat blinking slowly with tiredness. However, when two cats blink slowly at each other it is a sign of trust and an indication they feel comfortable. If your cat blinks at you, it’s probably because you make them happy.
- Playful Behaviors: A playful cat is a happy cat! If your cat is running around and full of energy, it is a good sign that they’re living life to the full. They are clearly enjoying themselves and have a pretty good life.
How Can I Make My Cat Happy?
Making a cat laugh is impossible. They physically aren’t capable of laughing. However, cats do have the ability to feel happy and content. Below are just some of the ways you can have fun with your cat and bring out their sense of humor:
- Play with Your Cat: The time I find my cat the funniest is when she is playing. At the same time, when my cat is playing she’s probably the happiest. This is partly why playtime is so important. You’ll both be feeling happy and amused throughout.
- Scratching Posts & Cat Trees: Playing is an instinctive behavior for cats, but it is not the only one. Cats also love to scratch and climb. Giving them somewhere to do this in your home can keep them happy.
- Bird Viewing Stations: Cats love watching birds and other small rodents outside the window. Setting up a bird viewing station can give your cat hours of entertainment and fun. Install a shelf next to the window or put the cat tree in front of it so they have a lookout spot to enjoy.
- Give Your Cat Treats: Food makes us happy, and this is the same for cats. Cats can’t resist a tasty treat. If you want to make your cat really happy, give them treats often. However, be sure not to get too overzealous or they might get overweight.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
To summarize, it’s hard to know for sure whether cats do have a sense of humor. I personally think they do. I am almost certain my cat does things that she knows will make me laugh. Either that or she is funny without meaning to be.
If cats do have a sense of humor, it is likely very different from humans. The things they find funny won’t be the same. Neither will your cat ever laugh – it is actually impossible for them to do so! However, cats can show amusement in their own subtle ways.
What do you think? Do you think cats can find things funny? Do you think your cat has a sense of humor? Let us know in the comments!
Debra Tharp says
My Russian Blue “Zeke” is very serious. He just stares at you when you laugh at him. He acts likes he does not like it when you laugh at him.