8 Surprising Ways to Say “I Love You” in Cat Language

As seen in PetMD

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on June 15, 2018, by Katie Grzyb, DVM.

Most cat lovers don’t need to be told that a steady supply of cuddles and cat treats will keep their feline friends happy. But what are some methods to show your cat signs of affection that go a little deeper? By learning more about innate cat behavior, you can enhance the bond you share. Here are eight fun ways to show your cat love—in cat language.

1. Gaze Softly Into Your Cat’s Eyes

Did you know that you can show your cat affection simply by looking at her? It just takes some finesse. “When you look at your cat, always use a soft gaze and never a hard stare,” says Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC, and best-selling author of “CatWise.” “In the animal world, a direct stare is viewed as a threat.”

“If you really want to amp up the affection factor,” Johnson-Bennett adds, “offer a slow eye blink as well.” In cat language, blinking slowly signals that you’re relaxed and mean no harm. If your cat feels the love, too, she might blink back. “This is commonly referred to as a cat kiss,” Johnson-Bennett says.

2. Respect Petting Preferences

Has your cat ever come to you for cuddles, only to wriggle out of your arms seconds later? If so, you may need to modify your petting style. “The cat’s body is very sensitive, and when you stroke certain areas, you want to get a positive reaction and not a defensive one,” Johnson-Bennett says. For instance, some cats enjoy a good chin-scratching, but others prefer long strokes from head to toe. “Observe how your cat reacts when you stroke various areas of the body so you’ll know what creates a calm, enjoyable reaction,” says Johnson-Bennett.

And while many cat lovers could probably pet kitties for hours on end, it’s important to know when to stop. “You always want to end the session on a positive note,” Johnson-Bennett says, “so watch for signals that kitty is getting tired of the physical contact.” Learning how your cat communicates with their body can help you figure out when your cat is ready for their petting session to end.

3. Enrich Your Cat’s Environment

Cats spend a lot of time at home, so it’s essential that their environment be a safe and stimulating one. “All the hugging, petting, toys, sweet talk and other forms of affection won’t matter if the cat doesn’t feel safe or is stressed,” says Johnson-Bennett. Make sure your cat feels secure and has convenient access to resources like food, water and a cat litter box. “It doesn’t take much to tweak the environment to be more cat-friendly,” Johnson-Bennett says. “It just takes looking at things from the cat’s point of view.”

There are many more ways to enrich your cat’s environment beyond the basics. Mikel Delgado, a certified applied animal behaviorist and co-founder of Feline Minds, recommends items like cat scratchers, window perches and cat trees, which help cats feel safer and let them watch over their territory. She also can’t overstate the value of a heated bed. “All cats enjoy being warmer than humans like,” she says. “And it’s especially great for older cats who may have some creaky joints.”

4. Nurture Your Cat’s Inner Predator

Cats are natural predators, but those chewed-up mouse toys behind the couch don’t make very challenging prey. “I think one of the best ways to show love for your cat is to engage them with interactive playtime every day,” says Delgado. “Interactive play means you move a toy—such as a feather wand or Cat Dancer toys—like prey, so your cat can let loose as the predator they are built to be.” Not only does this activity nurture innate cat behavior, but it provides a stress-reducing workout, too. “It’s a great way to bond,” Delgado says, “especially when your cat isn’t the cuddly type.”

5. Use Food Puzzle Toys

You probably wouldn’t want to have to solve a puzzle cube before every meal. However, giving your cat a food puzzle is a great way to appeal to her inner hunter and give her a mental workout. “I’m a big fan of foraging toys or puzzles that require your cat to manipulate a ball or other object to get food out,” says Delgado. Start your cat out with a simpler cat food dispensing toy that allows her to see the cat food or cat treats inside, like the Catit treat ball toy or the Petsafe Funkitty Egg-cersizer cat toy. Then introduce more difficult puzzle toys over time, like the Trixie activity fun board cat toy or the KONG Active cat treat ball toy. Crafty cat lovers may enjoy making DIY food puzzles at home.

6. Create a Treasure Hunt

Hunting and foraging are natural cat behaviors, but it’s understandable if your cat isn’t doing much of either in your living room. You can change that by creating a food treasure hunt for cats. “Place food and treats on cat trees, shelves, in puzzle toys and boxes and other spots for the cat to search for,” says Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant known as The Cat Coach and author of “Naughty No More.” The hunt should start easy, with food placed where your cat can see it. You can increase the difficulty by putting food in harder to reach places like cat trees, but don’t make it too hard, says Krieger. “The game should be challenging, not frustrating.”

7. Reward Good Behavior

The same techniques that help deal with unwanted cat behavior can also strengthen bonds with humans, explains Krieger. Clicker training, a positive reinforcement training method, uses a consistent sound, such as a click from a clicker, to communicate to the cat when she is doing a desired behavior. Cat clicker training is fun for cats and also makes their home environment more comfortable. “It’s effective for socializing cats and helping them feel more secure around their people,” says Krieger.

8. Show Your Cat Signs of Affection Every Day

Even if your feline is fairly low-maintenance, show your cat love daily. As Krieger says, “It is mandatory that cat lovers schedule that special petting, cuddling, stroking time with their cats—that is, for cats who like to be stroked and cuddled.” And for those cats who don’t, you’ve hopefully discovered a few new ways to enjoy that quality time.

By Jackie Lam

Does my Cat love me?

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It’s a common misconception that our feline friends are not affectionate creatures. Yes, it’s true that earning the love of a cat is not always easy, but when a cat begins to show trust and adoration for you, there’s often no better feeling of accomplishment.

Their furry counterparts, dogs, are much more open with their love through licking, wagging tails, constant and sometimes overbearing attention, and obvious “come play with me” body language.

Cats are much more subtle in showing their love, though that does not mean that the shared bond between cats and humans is any less than with dogs. It just means that you’ll need to work harder to understand your cat’s love language and boundaries in order to build trust.

12 Signs Your Cat Loves You

Body language is most important when understanding how a cat shows love. Here are some common signs that your cat loves you:

1. Slow Blinking

Eyes are said to be the windows to the soul. With some animal species, eye contact should be avoided, as it can be interpreted as being aggressive.

Cats, on the other hand, use eye contact with their people to show adoration, and often only directly look into the eyes of those that they trust and love.

They often will make eye contact with lowered eyelids and steady, slow blinks. This is considered a feline version of a kiss, and you can even try slow blinking to show love back to cats.

2. Headbutting

Your cat may bump their head against you or rub their cheeks against you to show affection. This is a social behavior that is formed in kittenhood through headbutting other kittens and their mother.

It is often an attempt to mark you with their scent to claim you as one of their own. It helps cats bond together and is offered to their humans to show love.

3. Grooming

Cats groom each other as a display of affection, and this behavior will extend to humans when trust is built. Cats will often lick their people or allow them to brush them.

Licking is similar to the grooming they would perform on their feline friends and allows for marking of each other. Grooming builds a bond between cat and human. Just be certain to watch for fast tail swishing and listen for any growling or hissing, because grooming, especially with brushing, can be overstimulating if it’s forceful or goes on for too long.

4. Kneading

Cats usually knead with their front paws. This is a behavior that begins in kittenhood and is associated with nursing on their mother. Kneading is believed to bring comfort and perhaps endorphins to the brain after nursing has ceased.

Relaxed cats that knead are showing contentment. They will often knead when you gently pet or stroke them. Sometimes cats knead to create a softer sleeping spot, which is considered an innate behavior.

5. Showing Their Belly

This is often considered the ultimate sign of trust for a cat. Cats only lie on their backs and show their bellies when they are in their most relaxed state.

This is not an invitation to pet or rub your cat’s belly, though! They are simply communicating that they feel comfortable and safe enough to reveal one of the most vulnerable parts of their body. If you go in for the belly rub, be careful, as your cat might retaliate with a bite or scratch.

6. Meowing

Cats will often give us short, quiet meows when we speak slowly and softly to them and they feel comfortable. If the meows get longer and drawn out or turn to hisses, then that is a sign that your kitty has had enough interaction.

7. Purring

Cats often purr to show contentment when they are resting near you or when you’re petting them. They may also purr when they’re nervous, but this is often paired with different body language such as laying their ears back, putting their head down, fast tail-swishing, or hiding.

8. Greeting You at the Door

Your cat is trying to show you that they missed you when they greet you at the door. This is often followed by walking in-between your legs and curling their tail around your legs. Sometimes it’s also accompanied by meowing and “rattle-tail” behavior, where your cat will shake their tail quickly.

This is your cat’s way of welcoming you home. They may also be telling you something more important, like they’re ready to eat, they need fresh water, or their litter box needs to be cleaned, so be sure to check these things.

9. Following You

Cats will often follow those that they love and trust around the home, or even outdoors if your kitty is an outdoor cat. It is similar to the greeting at your front door, where they follow behind you and keep you in sight at all times. They may also weave around your legs.

10. Tail Language

Cats often use their tails to express adoration for their owners. A content cat will often hold their tail in an upright position with a “C-shape” or hook at the very top. They may slowly wag their tail back and forth and allow it to touch you when they are lying next to you. Sometimes they will even rattle their tail while walking when they are very happy to see you.

11. Bringing You Presents

Cats are hunters at heart. A cat that is allowed outdoors will continue this hunting behavior by killing rodents and birds and bringing the remains back to their humans as a “gift.”

Though this may turn your stomach, it truly is a sign of love and pride. Your cat wants to reward you for your love. Indoor cats will often do this with toys or objects since they do not have the option to hunt live game.

12. Sleeping Near You

A cat who chooses to sleep on or close to you is showing their love and trust in you. Even if they choose to lie just out of reach for petting, this means that they feel safe and trust that you will protect them, or they will protect you if danger appears.

Cats show love in many ways. Their body language, behaviors, and vocalizations often tell us a lot about their level of trust and adoration. Acknowledging and understanding these behaviors can help build a strong, loving bond with your cat. A cat’s love is not always easy to gain, but once trust is built, there is no better relationship.

SHOULD YOU HUG YOUR CAT?

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You’ve probably seen cats being hugged, kissed, and carried, and still looking totally content with life. And then there’s the opposite scenario—a kitty that doesn’t hesitate to take a swipe at you if you just try to pet them or walk by them too closely.

With the big difference in personalities, it’s hard to know if a particular cat likes being hugged. Do some just tolerate it? Do some actually like being hugged? Should you hug your cat?

Do Cats Like Hugs?

The truth is, many cats HATE to be hugged. They don’t like being held against their will, and especially not in a firm fashion.

If you’ve witnessed the average cat being hugged, you’ve probably seen squirming, meowing, panting, and eventually, claws. Don’t take it personally—most cats view hugging as a form of human-induced torture, pleasurable to the human part of the equation only.

However, some cats do seem to enjoy it. So what is the difference here? There are a lot of factors that help determine whether cats love or hate hugging. Here are a few.

Learning to Like Hugs in Kittenhood

Some cats may get used to being hugged in kittenhood. If you have a very young kitten and they grow up being hugged, they are more likely to enjoy (or at least tolerate!) hugging than, for example, an adult feral cat that you bring into your home. 

Easygoing Cat Breeds

Some cat breeds are said to be more mellow than the average cat, including the RagdollScottish Fold, and Sphynx.

These breeds lean more toward the easygoing side, so they are more likely to enjoy handling or hugging. That said, cats are still individuals, and you may well find that your Ragdoll cat hates hugging every bit as much as your Domestic Longhaired cat.

On the whole, however, adopting a sweet and mellow kitty from your local shelter and spending time with them on a daily basis is just as likely to yield affectionate results.

How You Hug Your Cat

How you approach your kitty may influence the response you get, too. If you swoop in like a giant predator, catch them off guard, and hoist them to the ceiling, that probably isn’t going to go over well. However, if you work up to it slowly, starting with some face scratches, then body rubs, your cat may let you hug them, too.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Likes Hugs?

Cats are the masters of subtlety, unless they don’t like something. You will likely know quite quickly whether your cat is a fan of hugs just by observing their body language. Cats that enjoy hugs lean into them. They will often purrheadbutt you, and sometimes even drool.

On the other hand, cats that don’t like hugs try to flee, push you away, and give you signals that they are annoyed. They may lay their ears back, swish their tail, and even growl. Some cats will actually “freeze,” leading you to think that they don’t mind being hugged, but if you look at them closely, they may have dilated eyes and a stressed expression.

A safe general rule is to immediately let go of any cat that struggles or acts like they don’t want to be held, cuddled, or hugged—and be prepared to beg for forgiveness.

There are other ways to share affection with your cat, such as gentle scratches, grooming them with a cat brush, and giving them treats. The best bet is to find out what your kitty enjoys so the bonding time is pleasant for both of you.