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How Cats Show Love and Affection

Updated on November 25, 2014

They Aren't Always Being Cute!

Understanding the body language of cats can often be confusing. Separating affection and other potential feline messages is not always a clear-cut scenario. Imagine walking through your door after a long day's work to discover your cat happily chirping away at you. Cute, and hi to you too, you may think. But not everyone knows that a meow is an all-purpose tool to indicate not only affection, but hunger, alarm, and a vast microcosm of other emotions (they may just be chatting to themselves).

The purpose of this article is to both concisely list the hallmarks of feline affection, and to also offer a heads-up on often misinterpreted body language that may signal that more is being suggested than meets the eye.


Real Signs Of Affection

Below are what I consider to be the most unequivocal sighs of how cats show affection and love (on a personal note, it will be interesting to see how long these behavioral "truths" hold up to the scrutiny of feline-savvy readers).

Looking sleepy: If your cat is staring at you and blinking slowly, it not only demonstrates that they do not consider you a threat (direct stares are usually a sign of challenge or aggression in cat-speak), but cats find the act of slow-blinking comforting and it can be considered a sign of affection.

Kneading dough: If your cat is happily kneading figurative dough on your stomach, you can rest assured they are in a relaxed, happy and comfortable state of mind. This odd behavior is a call-back to their kitten-hood, where they would have pressed against their mother's teats to trigger the flow of milk.

It's in the tail: If your cat tends to walk around with its tail in a question-mark, they are telling you they like you. Also be on the lookout for a relaxed, yet upright tail, which denotes happiness (if it is erect and quivering they are down-right excited!).

Why, thank you: Does your cat have a habit of bring you little gifts (including dead prey)? Even if the gifts in question hold no intrinsic value to us, to cats, they are valuable. They are attempting to appease you and garner your approval.

Glued to your heel: A cat comfortable in your presence will seek to remain there. Even if the cat is only there to draw your attention in order to eat -- it is still seeking your attention.


Dead Gifts

While gift-bringing is a surefire sign of affection, it can also be a nuisance (to say the very least). Discouraging it by chastising the cat's behavior is a little like telling someone off for giving you a heartfelt present. Instead, try to develop a routine that includes keeping the kitties in at night (their natural hunting time).

Ambiguous Signs Of Love

Most of the time, the following signals denote love, but be advised that they either carry additional less-than-pleasant meanings, or can easily double as the reverse of what we might expect.

You're mine: Cats are highly territorial, if your cat adores rubbing her head against you, even if in passing, it usually means they are claiming you with their pheromones. This is indirectly a compliment, however. They consider you something special, and are letting others know that you belong to them. This is precisely the reason why cats also tend to rub objects such as toys. They are marking their territory, much like a human would write their name on a belonging.

The belly rub: While on their backs, cats are leaving their fragile underbelly exposed, thus it is easy to imagine that this is a sign that a cat feels distinctly comfortable in your presence -- and most of the time this is the case. Occasionally though, cats use this position defensively as it allows them to use all four paws and teeth simultaneously to ward off attack.

Purring: Purring is perhaps the most famous sign of feline contentment, it literally radiates happiness. Bear in mind, however, that cats also purr while frightened or threatened due to the reassuring comfort of the action itself (much like a nervous person smiling).


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    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      A cat lover from way back, it's safe to say I have had feline babies, one after the other, sometimes 2 at the same time.....since birth. The most interesting thing about cats to me are their very unique, individual personalities.

      People who have not raised cats nor have interest in them, would never believe this, but it's very true. I have had some incredibly lovable, funny & unusual cats.

      I do understand their body language, which is how they communicate. Mostly James, IMHO, cat owners need to remember one stock rule: Our relationships with our feline kids are without a doubt, on THEIR terms, in their time, in their ways and at their convenience! LOL. UP+++

    • profile image

      Evan44 4 years ago

      My cat Curby only has half a tail so it's kind of hard to tell

    • Zabbella profile image

      Zabbella 4 years ago from NJ-USA

      Great hub. My cat really lets me know that I am HIS property! I am ok with that. I have just ONE question: Why does he like to walk ahead of me with a serpentine walk? Always wondered about that.

      Every morning, after he had thoroughly walked all over my reading material and sniff my morning cuppa coffee...we sit near each other while I read, he likes to rest his head on my arm...( he is not a lap cat)

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 4 years ago from United States

      The notion that cats are unemotional and not affectionate (like dogs) is totally not true. Thanks for disproving that notion. Owners who think that way may not have noticed when their cats are acting any of those signs -- they're really acting sweet on you. :)

      Voted up and awesome. :)

    • profile image

      babysownroom 4 years ago

      Ha great article. I'm sort of lost in the clicking from this to that. This was really very interesting. I have a cat who fetches! He's more like a dog than a cat. Super loveable with humans but bad a$$ when it comes to the cat kingdom! :)

    • profile image

      Lybrah 5 years ago

      Great article. I have a cat, and my cat does all of the above!

    • Vintagetreasures profile image

      Terri 5 years ago

      Great hub! We have 2 cats that are different as night and day. One likes to be "the baby" and the other is extremely smart. I swear she can meow 30 different ways and I know what each one means!

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I love hearing about what routines your cats have, mine has some really weird ones hah. Thank you all for your time and feedback!

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      Our cat certainly likes to leave little gifts, sometimes three or four a day. She's a terror for "kneading dough", which we call "diggy pokey," she goes into a trance-like state. Sniffing armpits is also a passion of hers, which is a little weird. I enjoyed reading your hub, thanks.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Cats are awesome, and I can tell that you are well attuned to feline behavior. My cat likes to lick my hand and cup into it. Licking has always been her habit: my hands, face, and arms. She is quite clear in communicating a need for food, affection,play, and bedtime also by engaging my attention then checking that I am following her lead.

      Thank you for an enjoyable read. It's always nice to meet another cat person. :)

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Cats arrived on this planet to help humans learn about unconditional love and to help with the rodent population after humans had learned agriculture and how to store food through the winter.

      Since humans still have difficulty with the unconditional love part they decided to stick around and continue their efforts.

      Choobaka the Wooki in Star Wars was modeled after the sentient part of the cat species. The domesticated house cats and wild cats all came from the same Star faring species and are here to try to enhance our spirituality.

      All cats select their 'owners' not the other way around!

      Great Hub thanks for sharing.

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Wow, something new I got to read about cats and the way they show affection. Voted up! Awesome!

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      I'm more of a dog person, and can sometimes 'read' the larger dogs. But cats are a different story. Thanks for the info. Rated up and interesting.

    • jennzie profile image

      jennzie 5 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

      I love my cats and all the ways they show their love. Great hub!