Do Cats Know When You Are Sick?

Cats are highly intelligent pets that have a range of senses that help them understand their owners. If you are sick, having your feline companion by your side can help you through the recovery process. For the most part, cats can sense when their owners are feeling unwell, which is why some cats will act differently towards their sick owners.

When we are sick, things in our body change and our daily routine can be altered, which can be felt by cats. Not all cats act the same towards their owners when they are sick, as it depends on how close you bond with your cat and how much time you spend together for them to sense when something is wrong with your routine.

Can cats smell when their owners are sick?

Yes, cats can usually tell if you are sick with their keen senses. They use these senses to sense or detect when something is wrong with your body chemistry when you are sick. However, it is important to note that cats do not have supernatural senses that can detect when a person is sick.

From a cat’s perspective, when we are sick, our natural body heat increases due to fever if our body is fighting an infection, and cats crave warmth. We may also stay home after work which will be abnormal for your cat and will indicate a change in your behavior as they may not be used to having you home.

How do cats know we are sick?

A cat’s strong sense of smell can identify chemical changes in our body that can occur when we are sick. Any change in our behavior and habits in our daily routine can tell your cat that you are sick. It’s also possible that cats can detect the physical and emotional changes we face when we’re sick.

Cats have between 125 and 300 million olfactory receptors that allow them to identify with their environment, while humans only have about 5 million of these olfactory receptors. This shows how strong your cat’s sense of smell is. Sick owners will smell differently, act differently, and not be as energetic as their cat is used to.

Some cats will show their owners more affection when they are sick because you feel warmer around them. Other cats might notice your altered energy and try to cheer you up or better understand your unusual behavior by being closer to you than usual. Other cats may not even pay much attention to their owner if they are sick, so it may vary depending on your cat and how close you bond with them.

ginger cat with owner
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Shutterstock

Are cats able to feel pain in humans?

Cats that share a strong bond with their owners will be able to tell if their owner is in pain. There was even a study at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island where a cat named Oscar– who is usually aloof – is known to snuggle affectionately with sick or dying older patients.

It is believed that Oscar was potentially reacting to chemicals released from the bodies of humans who do not feel well, rather than reacting to physical symptoms noted by a few animal behavior specialists. It has since been theorized that when the body begins to shut down, it releases biochemicals that a cat’s heightened senses can detect before we even notice.

What diseases can cats detect in humans?

Interestingly, there have been cats that have saved their owners’ lives simply by being able to detect disease. It is theorized that cats can detect hormonal changes in humans and that when people are close to death, cats react to the different chemical smells produced.

There have been cases where cats have detected high blood pressure, seizures, certain cancers and diabetes when their owner’s blood sugar drops. This has led to many nursing homes having therapy cats to let the nursing staff know early if something is wrong with any of the residents.

High blood pressure

If your blood pressure starts to skyrocket and your cat is used to your normal heart rate, your cat might be able to detect this change through their good hearing abilities. They might even come and sniff you around and rub up against you because they don’t know why your heart is racing. High blood pressure can also cause people to act disoriented, which your cat will notice, especially if you have a close bond.


Some people who have a condition called epilepsy may have trained therapy cats or dogs to alert them when they are about to have a seizure. Even if you’ve never had a seizure before, your cat may notice it due to several changes your body is going through.


Cancer is believed to have a specific odor that dogs and cats can pick up, due to situations where cats have continually sniffed and bit an area that was later found to have tumor growth. Cancer has an odor due to the increase in polyamines your body releases, which is detectable by cats.

However, although there have been many reports of this, it has not been possible to test it properly as it has been with dogs, as researchers have found that the reward system does not work. the same with cats.


Since cats have over 100 times more olfactory receptors than humans, they can smell diabetes, which smells similar to cancer. They can also detect the sudden change in your heartbeat when your blood sugar drops, and some therapy cats even alert owners with this condition – they know when medication is needed because their owner’s blood sugar drops.


It’s possible that cats can tell when we’re sick by sensing changes in our bodies and the way we act towards them. In summary, our body changes when we are sick, both chemically and physically, as our temperature increases. Your cat’s heightened senses will pick up on your warmth and act more affectionately with you by rubbing their body against you or even laying down next to you. This makes cats the perfect companion when you are sick, and most cats will rarely ignore their owners if they are sick.

Featured photo courtesy: Shutterstock

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