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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Cats have many different ways of showing love and affection, which might leave you searching for signs your cat loves you.
While some cats are cozy cuddlers who follow you from room to room, others might wait until you’re sitting still and then offer a gentle lick or two—or even a love bite!
Of course, you might have no doubts whatsoever of your cat’s attachment if they purr constantly in your company and bring you gifts, like a dead bug or soggy toy they’ve just finished licking. But feline affection can show up in more subtle ways, too.
Below, we’ll cover the top 14 signs your cat loves you in depth. Along with guidance on interpreting your cat’s signals of love, we’ve also got a few helpful tips for returning their affection in a feline-friendly way to build a closer bond.
14 Signs And Why They Translate to Affection
As a survival technique, newly born kittens are programmed to imprint on their mothers. During this critical bonding period, kittens come to recognize their mother as their protector and source of sustenance and comfort.
While it’s doubtful cats confuse us for their biological mothers and imprint in the same way, they can indeed develop a deep trust in their human caretakers, says Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior expert and consultant at Feline Minds.
“Although we don’t know if our cats think we are a cat, I definitely think they can—through time, socialization, and repeated positive, loving experiences—come to see us as a subject of trust,” Delgado explains.
Here are 14 sure signs that your cat has bonded to you.
Sleeping or sitting on you
Cats are at their most vulnerable during sleep. So, snoozing next to you (or on top of you) is a clear sign of their trust and affection. Some cats will even sit on your shoulder to feel safe and close to you.
Just like humans, cats say a lot with their eyes. When cats perform a slow blink, they’re usually sitting in a relaxed position, and they may narrow or close their eyes afterward. Since anything can happen while their eyes are closed, a relaxed slow blink (or series of blinks) cast in your direction demonstrates trust.
Research even backs this up: A 2020 study found that an exchange of slow blinks can register as positive emotional communication between cats and humans. You can even return the love by blinking back slowly in your cat’s direction!
If you notice unusual eye movement, however, it’s wise to check in with your vet. A cat who blinks rapidly or squints for a long time could have an illness, injury, or something stuck in their eye.
Most of the time, your cat’s rumblings suggest deep relaxation and contentment. When purring occurs alongside other signs of feline happiness, like kneading or relaxed body language, you can take it as a sign of their affection.
But cats also purr to self-soothe when stressed or in pain, though you can generally tell the difference by considering the context.
A cat purring during a vet visit may be trying to calm their anxiety, while a cat purring while curled up on your lap is likely feeling content!
Exposing their belly
Cats generally only show their vulnerable undersides when they feel comfortable and safe in your presence. So, if your cat goes belly-up on the floor, you can feel pretty confident they have plenty of trust and affection for you.
Even so, this trust doesn’t equal an open invitation for belly rubs, according to certified cat behaviorist Pam Webster. You might find it hard to resist a fuzzy belly, but not all cats enjoy belly rubs, Webster says, so you may have to content yourself with admiring the floof from a distance.
You’ll also want to avoid touching the belly of an unfamiliar cat, since you don’t know how they’ll react. Some cats may expose their bellies when feeling threatened and may respond with a scratch.
Showing their butt
Just as exposing the belly demonstrates trust, a cat who presents their backside to you is assuming a vulnerable position. A cat butt in your face may seem somewhat impolite, but it means your cat sees you as a protector rather than a threat.
Additionally, some cats may raise their butts into the air when seeking attention and pets, so indulge your kitty with some love to strengthen your bond.
Cats instinctively groom each other as a way to strengthen social bonds. They do this with humans, too. In fact, cats produce oxytocin—the “love” hormone—when touched or spoken to.
When a cat licks you, they transfer their scent onto you, which marks you as a safe part of their territory. So, you can consider a tongue bath as their way of saying: “You’re part of my family.” A friendly lick can also be a request for attention or food.
In a nutshell, positive interactions between cats and their pet parents benefit a cat’s overall health, which is all the more reason to show your cat plenty of love (always on their terms, of course). On the other hand, overgrooming can be a sign of anxiety, so pay attention for excessive licking or other signs of stress.
When your cat “boops” you with their forehead, they’re depositing pheromones onto you. These odorless chemical signals, which are released from glands in your cat’s body, let cats mark things (including you) as familiar and safe.
Cats also release pheromones from their chins and the sides of their mouth. So, a loving cheek swipe gives your cat a way to swap scents—the ultimate sign of kitty trust.
This scent exchange is one of the major reasons cats enjoy having their chins scratched.
Making ‘biscuits’ or kneading
Nursing kittens knead their mothers to stimulate milk flow, and this behavior—often known as “making biscuits”—carries into adulthood for many cats.
Since cats have pheromone glands on their paw pads, kneading also offers another way to mark their territory. If your kitty chooses your lap as the perfect spot to “make bread,” consider it a sign of their love.
Generally, cats knead when calm and content, but they may also knead as a way to self-soothe or when they’re in heat.
These gentle bites may happen if your cat gets overstimulated during petting, Delgado says. “Their body still says ‘I like it,’ but it’s just a little too much,” she explains.
A cat may also give a playful nip when grooming you. “Cats who are friendly with other cats often lick, nip, or bite when they groom each other,” Delgado says. “So it seems like a little bit of nipping is part of many cats’ social interactions.”
Bringing you ‘gifts’
Does your cat shower you with “gifts?” Maybe they drop a favorite toy on your lap or even leave a dead mouse on your doorstep.
Webster says cats who “gift” their owners with dead critters often do so out of a desire to nurture them. “Cats would bring meals to their young in the wild, so this shows they want to help take care of their owner,” she says.
Your cat may just want to enjoy their catch in a safe place. So, even if they don’t intend to share, this still suggests they feel secure with you.
Following you to the bathroom (or anywhere else)
Do you have your own personal feline shadow? If your cat follows you around the house, you can take it as a sign of love. They might be curious about what you’re up to or just want to spend time with you.
In some cases, however, an overly attached cat may be experiencing separation anxiety. They’ll typically also show other signs, like overgrooming or destructive scratching.
Since they can’t speak, cats use body language to communicate—and their tail position can say a lot of different things. It’s a strong sign your cat loves you if they wrap their tails around you.
Responding positively to your voice
Evidence suggests cats can recognize their owner’s voice—a fact that speaks volumes about the bonds cats can form with their humans.
When pet parents come home and call for their cat, many cats come running to offer a greeting, according to Webster. Often, cats may even demonstrate attachment by rubbing up against your legs or meowing.
Does My Cat Know I Love Them?
Delgado says there’s no definitive way to know whether cats understand love—at least not in the way humans understand it.
“Cats learn that certain situations, behaviors, and people are associated with pleasurable or positive outcomes, and that others are associated with negative things,” she explains. Naturally, cats have learned to seek out those situations—and people—that yield positive experiences.
That’s not to say cats don’t feel genuine attachment or affection, Delgado emphasizes. “I do think that cats bond with us and feel affection and love for us,” she says, adding that these feelings are likely different from the type of love we experience.
One study considered how a pet parent’s perception of their cat’s personality influenced their interactions. Cats described as active, bold, or friendly experienced more positive interactions and emotional closeness with people than cats describe as “aloof.”
It’s important to understand, though, that some reservation in cats doesn’t automatically equal a lack of affection for you. If you’re a cat parent, it’s always worth identifying your cat’s unique love language to build a stronger bond.
“Many cats prefer interactions that are low in intensity and high in frequency,” Delgado explains. “They may be perfectly happy with just a minute or two of petting or lap time and then be ready to move on.”
How to show your cat you love them
You can reciprocate your cat’s affection and gain their trust in several ways:
- Let them sniff you: Cats use scent to send friendly greetings. Extend a hand and (patiently) let your cat sniff as they please.
- Always use a soothing voice: Cats pick up on gentle tones. Speaking to them softly while playing or feeding them creates positive associations with your voice.
- Establish a routine: Structure and consistency help cats feel secure. If you’re able, try creating a regular schedule for feeding, grooming, and playtime.
- Create a calm home environment: Give your cat a space with minimal stressors, like loud appliances or high activity. It’s also helpful to provide environmental enrichment with items like scratching posts and puzzle toys.
- Provide safe spaces for retreat: Even the most outgoing cats like a private place of their own. Consider a cozy cat bed, a window perch, or a cat tree with an enclosed kitty condo.
- Respect their boundaries: Many cats don’t enjoy being touched on their bellies, limbs, or tails. If you want to earn your cat’s trust, refrain from petting these “no touch” areas.
- Reward them: Positive reinforcement like treats, play, verbal praise, and affection can build trust and solidify your bond.
- Return their slow blinks: Try sending out positive signals by blinking or squinting your eyes slowly in your cat’s direction.
- Play with them: Interactive cat toys, like wands and teasers, are a great way to bolster the connection you share with your cat.
Bonding with kittens
Kittens are adaptable during their socialization window from 2 to 9 months of age. “This is a good time to give them positive exposure to people, other animals, and gentle handling. This helps them be more trusting as adults,” Delgado explains.
Adult cats may need more time to adjust to social changes, but Delgado says they’re still capable of adapting and bonding with a new family. “With time, adult cats can learn to feel comfortable in a new home with new people, as long as they are treated with patience and love.”
How To Avoid Negative Interactions
Cats form relationships with their pet parents at different speeds. It could take as little as a few days or as long as a few months for bonding to occur.
Their age, personality, and past experiences all come into play.
For instance, cats over 6 months old may need a little more time to develop a bond with you—especially if they’re shy. It may take less time for more outgoing cats to adapt and begin to trust. Cats who’ve had negative experiences with humans may need even more time—and plenty of patience from you!
The best way to avoid future negative encounters while building trust with your cat lies in familiarizing yourself with the ways they might ask you to back off, including:
- Low tail flicks: This behavior is one clue that a cat is upset or ready to pounce.
- Tail thrashing: A quickly and forcefully wagging tail often means a cat is annoyed or uncertain.
- Puffed-up tail: A puffy, upright tail indicates fear.
- Airplane ears: A cat with ears flattened back against their head typically feels afraid, anxious, or annoyed.
- Growling, hissing, or spitting: These vocal behaviors suggest annoyance, anger, and fear.
- An arched back: Cats often try to appear larger by raising their back when feeling threatened.
- Constricted pupils: Narrowed or tiny pupils may suggest aggression.
If you notice any of these behaviors in your own cat or kitten, try to use positive reinforcement (never punishment) to assure them you’re trustworthy and will respect their boundaries.
For example, you might stop touching them right away, speak in a soft voice, and offer them an exit path by opening the door to another room.
Getting to know your cat’s individual personality, along with their likes and dislikes, can also go a long way toward helping you bond. A high-energy feline may benefit from extra playtime, while chiller cats might love to snooze next to you as you work.
However you choose to encourage bonding, it’s hard to beat the joy of realizing you have a happy cat—and all the signs that suggest they really do love you!