How Cats Show Love and Affection
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.
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).