Some time ago I had a cat. I'll call her Chime. She always was a loner, didn't play with her sisters and certainly wasn't ever going to jump on my lap.
Or so I tought, because when one day she ended up the last cat in my home and I consequently took two young ones to join her, things changed.
The young ones (brother and sister) started jumping on my lap almost immediately and then, jealous probably, she carefully chose a place on my belly facing me (so) with her back to the others. This was so much better than a blanket.
This was just to illustrate that 'the old girl' had grown at least some affection for me in all those years.But that was to be expected.

What I didn't expect was the following;

One evening she lay next to me on the bed and I was stroking her - she tolerated this only because it was I who did it - when I clearly went a bit to far. She lashed out (with retracted nails though), but then she realised that she had made a mistake. She didn't mean it that way.
This I concluded after her gesture that followed directly after her lashing out. It looked excactly like the gesture of somebody who is sorry for giving a child a smack. A soft touch on the stricken spot.

Recently I was reading a book written by a biologist (cat lover and famous in the Netherlands) and he wrote that cats do not know regret. I'l call him Midas.
So I decide to confont him with my experience and write him a letter.
(He also confessed not to know why women could have orgasms).
In his reply (he only writes letters, no Email,)he firstly denied claiming that cats are capable of regret and then he summed up possible alternatives
for this gesture like f.i. a second gesture mimicking the first. I don't know the English name for it.
Anyway, he wasn't willing to explain my story as evidence of regret, which
was really a long shot as I had realised when I wrote it down.
But I can't help wondering; what if I had been a famous scientist as well?
I am not, but that doesn't impair my sense of deduction.
It is a petty I don't have it on film, but this gesture was very clear to me.
My thought was that the fact (or presumption) that it is never seen by someone, doesn't mean that cats are incapable of regret, but mostly
lack a reason for it. Midas replied to this thought by saying; what would they (cats) need it for? Well, I can only assume they would need it for the same reason we humans do; If a mistake is made. Space is running out.
Chime is an alias. Midas isn't.
And I also know (from experience) why women can have an orgasm.
(but that should be common knowledge by now).

Thank you and greetings,

Well, I am going to guess that your question is "can cats feel regret?".

It is very, very difficult to show objectively that non-human animals have emotions that are like our own. Between humans we can only perceive emotions as indirect things, like through tone of voice, body language and facial expression that we can only interpret correctly because of our shared biology and cultures, and even then we quite often get it wrong. In certain specific situations, like with domestic dogs, some of that interaction is learned, but how much of that is simply training, and do the reactions really correspond to anything recognisable as human-style emotions? Sometimes the inference seems obvious, like with a fear response, or just general excitement. On occasion I have seen dogs display what I would call guilt.

But when you see your cat doing something that apparently conveys an emotion you recognise as one you might have yourself, it does not follow that the animal has the corresponding emotion. An analogy is seeing a "smile" on a non-human animal. Is it happy? Threatened? Constipated?

This is especially true when it is something as complicated as regret for an action that hurt another. In attributing this human emotion on to your cat, you are making the asumption that it does in fact recognise you as a fellow creature with emotions of its own; in other words, can a cat meaningfully empathise with you to understand that through it's actions it caused you harm and thereby feel sorry it did so? If you have ever seen a cat playing with a bird it may lead you to think that cats cannot be empathetic in that way, because if they are then they can only be described as heartless, torturing killers without remorse or pity.

Agree with all you say John and in addition it is not immediately obvious what, from an evolutionary perspective, would be the advantage to a cat of an emotion such as regret. On balance therefore I do not think they have equivalent emotions despite the fact we may perceive them to do so.

I agree with all that has been said. However, just to comment on David's point

>from an evolutionary perspective, would be the advantage to a cat of an emotion such as regret.

There are many models of social evolution that predict the evolution of reciprocal cooperative behaviours, spite and other types of social behaviour. In an (over) simplified scenario "being nice to others" can evolve if it results in "others being nice to you". However, sometimes things are more complex and the "being nice" behaviour needs to be targeted at particular individuals (e.g. relatives) or circumstances. In such cases there is potential for individuals to get it wrong and expressing regret in some form (like an apology or giving a present) might be an adaptive way to minimise the damage caused to important social relationships.

This is of course pure speculation and has basically nothing concrete to do with the original post - just thought folk might be interested that "regret" or analagous emotions in animals could well have adaptive function (if they exist!)

most helpful Alistair and a good point which I had not sufficiently considered!