There are many reasons people gravitate toward either cats or dogs. Distinct differences between the two attract those looking for certain types of responsibilities and interactions. But there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to share your days with a feline companion.
Cats get a lot of bad PR when it comes to love. Headlines attest that they don’t care about their humans, merely tolerating their presence (and food provisions) because they have no other options. There’s the often touted idea that cats don’t miss you when you’re away, or that deep down, they really don’t need you. To the uninitiated, cats may seem standoffish or aloof. They typically don’t engage with us the way dogs do—tails wagging, eyes bright and full of affection. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t love their humans. They just have different ways of showing it. Here are 10 of those ways.
1. Rubbing and nuzzling. Sometimes the simplest of touches are a means of conveying trust and affection. Your cat has scent glands on her head that she transfers to you when she bops her head against you or rubs her cheek on you. They’re ways for her to mingle her scent with yours, saying, “you’re mine, and I trust you.”
2. Bringing you gifts. Nobody welcomes a dead mouse on the doormat, but if your kitty left it there for you, it’s worth a quick “thank you” before you dispose of the remains. Cats are skilled hunters who share their prizes only with those they appreciate the most
3. Making eye contact. A cat’s eyes are one of his most vulnerable body parts, with gentle eye contact being directed only at those who really deserve it. When your cat stares at you, widening his eyes and slowly blinking, it’s a very clear way of telling you that he loves you.
4. Kneading. When your cat starts to push her paws against you in and out like she’s working a piece of dough, she doesn’t think she’s making bread, just conveying to you that you are one of her favorite people. Cats associate kneading with the comforts of kittenhood and their mothers. It’s a calming sensation reserved only for those they trust they most.
5. Following you around. When someone shadows you they’re said to be “following you like a puppy,” but it’s not just dogs who express love through a constant desire to be in your presence. Cats do enjoy their independence, so when yours demands to be by your side wherever you go, they’re telling you that their happy space includes you as well.
6. Tolerating your affection. Some cats are naturally open to back rubs, head scratches, and kisses; others…not so much. But regardless of personal preferences, a cat who loves you will endure your expressions of adoration, even if just for a few moments before they hop out of reach.
7. Showing their belly. Cats don’t expose their undersides to just anybody, and for good reason. Like eyes, stomachs are considered an extremely vulnerable part of your cat’s body. If your cat rolls onto his back to show you his belly, even if he’s not inclined to let you pet it (which many cats aren’t), he’s explicitly telling you he trusts you enough to let his guard down.
8. Talking to you. Vocalizations such as purrs, mews, and chirps are often means to communicate trust and love. Certain tones and intonations are used for the most special people in a cat’s life, the ones who she feels most content and secure around.
9. Speaking happy tail language. A cat’s tail is one of his main methods of communication. Distinct stances and motions serve to convey exactly what’s going on in his mind. When it comes to saying “I love you,” your cat might fluff out the base of his tail while quivering it, or hold his tail upright, slightly curving it at the top.
10. Sharing your bed at night. Nighttime kitty cuddles may cut into your sleep time, but they’re precious indicators that your cat thinks you’re the best. Even cats who aren’t very social may seek out their human at bedtime, when the only thing left to do is snuggle up for the night in each other’s company.
Every cat is different, so aside from these telltale signs, it’s very likely your feline companion has unique ways of showing you love. Appreciate these little signals and take comfort in knowing firsthand what so many struggle to conceive— cats love their humans, and they’re not shy about sharing it.