Cats tend to be less overt than dogs with their affections and some owners will interpret that as aloofness. However, cats often feel deeper than they let on and will show affection in all kinds of special ‘cat ways’. Here’s how to tell if your cat loves you.
First things first: understanding cat behaviour
As a rule, cats communicate through body language, especially when they’re with other cats. They will also do the same with their humans – but since we’re not cats ourselves we may misinterpret the signs!
For example, cats will use their tails, eyes, ears, movements and postures to ‘speak’ to us. A happy cat will have a relaxed posture, and it may have its tail pointing upwards with a curl at the tip. But if you see a cat in a crouched position it could signify anxiety, while an angry or cross cat may flatten its ears or arch its back or both.
When it comes to using sounds, adult cats tend to reserve those mostly for humans. This may be because humans use their voices to talk to them and so they respond in kind. Cats may also have figured out that they get a desired response from us when they use speech!
Cat signs of affection
So, how do you know if you have an affectionate cat? By the signs they show you through their body language and voices.
Here are some very distinct signs.
• Head-bunting, cheek-rubbing and leg-rubbing – cats only do these things to people they are really fond of. When they do this they are also marking you with their scent, in a sense saying you belong to them and they are attached to you.
• Tail expressions – a cat’s tail can tell many a tale (pardon the pun!), and while you might not think cats show affection with their tails, they certainly can do. If your cat wraps their tail around your leg for instance, it’s usually a definite sign of fondness and affection.
• Kneading – kittens do this when suckling, so if your cat kneads you with their paws, they are feeling very happy and contented around you.
• Slow blinking – if your cat stares at you and slowly blinks while doing so, they are showing you they love you and feel safe near you.
• Grooming – cats will groom other cats they are attached to, so if your cat licks you, it is a sign of attachment and affection.
• Rolling over – cats are vulnerable on their backs, so if your cat rolls onto their back and displays their tummy, they trust you a lot. Many cats however will react instinctively if you touch their stomachs, so if you have a cat that lets you stroke their belly, you’ve hit the jackpot!
• Bringing in dead animals – the common reaction to this one is one of horror, but really, your cat is taking care of you in a way by bringing you food. If you want to discourage this behaviour, keep your cat indoors or in a cat run, and make sure to spend plenty of time playing with them.
• Cat talk – cats can also show affection through their voices, such as by meowing at you in a greeting when you come home after being out.
While these are individual behaviours, there are some cats that will do the lot at once – kneading, purring, blinking, tail-wrapping, and more. If this happens, you have a cat that adores you to bits!
Signs your cat has imprinted on you
In the animal kingdom, imprinting happens when an animal identifies with its parent at birth, or with whatever creature or object it sees first.
You wouldn’t want your cat to totally imprint on you in that sense of course, but pet cats will often act in all kinds of ways that indicate a degree of imprinting, or at least very strong familial bonding.
For example, if your cat sits on your lap or sleeps beside you while kneading you and purring, they are definitely showing signs of strongly bonding with you. Other signs of imprinting or bonding include rubbing on your legs, head-bunting, grooming you and following you around wherever you go.
Cat language and what it means
Cats often use their voices with their owners to express affection or to say what they want, and sometimes to let them know just what they think about things! Here are some examples.
• Purring – cats will often purr when content and feeling cuddly, or when someone scratches their head or cheeks.
• Trilling or chatting – your cat may do this if they are pleased to see you, enjoying being close to you, or want something nice to eat.
• Loud meows – if your cat does this it may be a sign they are feeling frightened or stressed and want your attention.
Understanding cat meows can sometimes take a bit of practice. Some cats are also naturally more talkative than others, so if your cat doesn’t meow a lot, don’t take it personally!
Responding to your cat
Now that you know how to tell if your cat loves you, make the effort to respond as this will make your cat even more happy.
Here’s what you can do:
• Slowly blink back at your cat when they blink at you.
• Stroke your cat with a brush when they groom you.
• Rub your head on theirs when they head-bunt.
• Play with them when they are in a playful mood.
By taking care of your cat’s health through good diet, you are also expressing your love and they will appreciate you for it.
Do all cats show affection?
Every cat is different, and some will be more expressive than others. Some cats also need ‘drawing out’ more than others. A cat that has been traumatised may also be slow to warm up to humans.
It’s best to be guided by a cat that doesn’t readily show affection. This includes letting them be alone if they want and responding in kind if they show any small affectionate signs.
Also, by being calm, undemanding and consistent, you will help your cat feel safe so they can come around when they are ready.