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Home > Cats > Do Cats Have a Sense of Humor? What Science Says

Do Cats Have a Sense of Humor? What Science Says

woman resting with cat in sofa at home

Cats have a way of making us smile and laugh like no other. There’s a reason why cat videos on the internet were such a sensation – cats are hilarious. While our beloved kitty cats keep us amused with their silly antics, it leaves us wondering if they have a sense of humor themselves, or if they are just unapologetically funny.

The truth is, there is no definitive answer as to whether cats have a sense of humor, but we do know that they are capable of forming strong bonds and can even recognize human emotion, which is pretty impressive.


Animals and Humor

woman holding and stroking a purring cat
Image By: Gadzick, Shutterstock

There has been some debate over whether any animals besides humans are capable of having a sense of humor. Of course, they can’t partake in sarcasm or verbal jokes or understand any type of comedy, but it sure seems like they do have some sort of funny bone in there somewhere.

Considering the definition of humor being “the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech,” the majority of animals do not have this type of cognitive mechanism that would allow them to understand or even display humor.

Incongruity Theory and Benign Violation

Psychologists and philosophers have spent many years struggling to define exactly what constitutes humor. Their most popular theory is the incongruity theory, which states that humor arises when there is an inconsistency between what one expects to happen and what happens.

More recently, psychologists came up with a different theory known as benign violation. This proposes that humor arises from the so-called benign violation or “something that threatens a person’s well-being, identity or normative belief structure but that simultaneously seems okay.” Under this theory, one could argue that certain animals do have a sense of humor.

Research conducted in 2009 showed that the great apes, such as chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans — all produce laughter-like sounds when they are tickled, playing, chasing, and wrestling. This suggests that humor and our ability to laugh likely came from the last common ancestor between mankind and the great apes.


The Cat-Human Relationship

a cat looking at the man
Image By: Kadres, Pixabay

Scientists did some research into the relationship between humans and cats and discovered the five different types of relationships that humans can share with their feline companions.

Open Relationship

When cats and humans have what is referred to as an open relationship, the cat is typically more solitary and independent but also bonds well with people. They do not require constant companionship and function perfectly fine without the presence of their owner. This relationship is much more aloof and hands-off.

Co-Dependent Relationship

cat rubbing face on man's leg
Image Credit: AlenaBalotnik, Shutterstock

In co-dependent relationships, the cat tends to become very dependent on its human or vice versa. In this kind of relationship, the human closely bonds with the cat and spends a decent amount of quality time together. The cat will view the owner as a part of their close social group and feel a sense of security in their presence.

In this type of relationship, there is a lot of affection between the bonded pair, but the cat will typically be shy toward strangers and may even hide when someone new comes into the home. The cat has learned that good things come from the bond with their person and typically become clingy, which can be problematic. Co-dependent relationships between humans and cats typically occur when the cat is living in a one-person household and has no outdoor access.

Casual Relationship

In a casual relationship between a human and a cat, the cat is typically friendly toward its owner but does not need to remain close by. This is often seen in situations where the cat roams outdoors or the household leads a busy lifestyle and is a bit more chaotic.

In a casual relationship where the cat roams free outdoors, it’s not uncommon for the cat to visit other homes and develop causal bonds with various people in the neighborhood.

Woman holding up a ginger cat
Image Credit: Marlia Boiko, Shutterstock


Cats and humans that form a friendship have a special bond. This means there is a mutual emotional investment where both parties have a strong bond with one another. Humans will consider the cat part of their family and work to maintain a close relationship with their cat by playing, showing affection, and taking time out to spend together.

These cats will typically take well to strangers and may even greet unknown visitors because they feel confident and secure in their homes. This tends to be a very healthy relationship where both the human and the cat can also function independently, as the cat will enjoy the owner’s company but doesn’t need to maintain constant contact.

Remote Relationships

Cats in a remote relationship receive the care they need but are not closely bonded to anyone in the household. In this type of relationship, the cat will likely keep its distance from both the owners and other people because they do not feel fully secure in the presence of humans. They will not seek affection or try to form any type of close bond, though they may still be very friendly when interacting with their caregiver.



Cats and humans have very interesting and complex relationships that vary depending on many different factors. While we may not have a definitive answer on whether or not cats truly have a sense of humor, that type of cognitive awareness is complex. Regardless of whether or not your cat can find anything funny, they sure do have a way of bringing humor into our lives and keeping us entertained.

Featured Image Credit: Yuriy Seleznev, Shutterstock

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