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Does Your Pet Know When You’re Sick?

Does Your Pet Know When You’re Sick?

An acquaintance of mine recently posted a picture on Facebook of his son, suffering from strep throat, and Happy the cat curled luxuriously around the boy’s neck. I could practically feel the warmth, weight, and goodness of Happy’s body as we joked about the Happy cat cure.

It was an exceedingly cute picture, for sure, but it got me thinking about my old kitty, Serena, and what seemed an infallible instinct for illness or general blues. The minute anyone plopped on the bed with pain or malaise, Serena would be there, hop upon the chest, and assume ‘the position’…a long straight-out stretch punctuated with her legs and paws wrapped around said sufferer’s neck. I’m not sure if she ever cured my strep throat, but she certainly melted away sorrow like there was no tomorrow. I really can’t say for certain whether or not she had some instinctual sense, or if this was a usual cuddling configuration that I only noticed when I was not 100 percent.

I have heard of dogs being able to detect cancer, but what do you think? Are our pets so in tune with us that they can tell when we are not well? And if so, do they act on it? I think there’s something to it. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Read more: Behavior & Communication, Cats, Children, Dogs, General Health, Pets

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

250 comments

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3:47AM PDT on May 6, 2013

I always get purr therapy when I don't feel well.

4:13AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

If you are in constant communication with pets they will know quite quickly if you are unwell and will come and comfort you by sitting or lying beside you. My cat who just passed away used to hold my finger and sleep in the palm of my hand but when I was really sick he would sleep closer and tap my arm or cheek to see if I was okay. They all are quite intuitive, even dogs and Id say other animals as well. I have a new baby and she is so close you would believe I have had her since she was born but I have created a great bond with her in the 3 wks I have had her.

4:13AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

If you are in constant communication with pets they will know quite quickly if you are unwell and will come and comfort you by sitting or lying beside you. My cat who just passed away used to hold my finger and sleep in the palm of my hand but when I was really sick he would sleep closer and tap my arm or cheek to see if I was okay. They all are quite intuitive, even dogs and Id say other animals as well. I have a new baby and she is so close you would believe I have had her since she was born but I have created a great bond with her in the 3 wks I have had her.

4:13AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

If you are in constant communication with pets they will know quite quickly if you are unwell and will come and comfort you by sitting or lying beside you. My cat who just passed away used to hold my finger and sleep in the palm of my hand but when I was really sick he would sleep closer and tap my arm or cheek to see if I was okay. They all are quite intuitive, even dogs and Id say other animals as well. I have a new baby and she is so close you would believe I have had her since she was born but I have created a great bond with her in the 3 wks I have had her.

9:53AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

I don't know if my cats know when I'm "sick," per se, but they are certainly more present when I'm stuck in bed. A hint that they know I'm not feeling well is that even the one who demands the most attention most of the time (even at 3 AM) is more likely to just curl up with me and enjoy my company when I'm sick, though.

10:42AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

Yes they do. :)

My cat lays with me - all day - won't get up to go to litter box or eat unless I do. He's normally a talker (It's the Siamese in him) but not a peep when I have a migraine or I'm really sick in bed. It's amazing and so soothing and comforting to have him by my side no matter what.

7:40AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

yes, yes, animals know a lot. I've heard of a cat in an elderly people's home who liked to be on his own, but when a person was about to die he always went to the room and mostly to the same bed. That was (the last) hint for the nurses to call the relatives to come and say goodbye. He knew when the pople had there time.

7:26AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

no question they do

2:24AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

Without a doubt!!

12:28AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

Yes! (and what an adorable photo!) :))

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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