How cats display affection
Updated: Feb 26, 2019
Whether or not your cat is affectionate depends on her personality, her breeding, and her upbringing. Some cats are aloof; some can't wait to shower affection upon you. When a cat chooses to express affection, she's more likely to show you than tell you, so understanding the feline lexicon of love requires that you understand feline body language and how they interact with fellow cats as well as humans.
Slow Eye Blinks
When cats encounter strangers or other cats, they usually greet them with an unblinking stare. Slow eye blinks - often called "Kitty Kisses" - are a sign of contentedness and affection. You can make a game of this by slowly blinking back at your cat and see how long the interchange can last.
Grooming is not all about hygiene. Cats groom each other both as a stress-reliever and as a bonding mechanism. If your cat grooms you, it's a sign that she accepts you as part of her feline "family." It can also be a way of claiming "ownership" of you.
Head Rubbing and Butting
If your cat rubs her face on you, she is "marking" you as her property. There are glands on her face that secrete pheromones which act to mark territory as well as signal comfort and familiarity. Each cat's pheromone signature is unique, just as our fingerprints are. When she leaves behind this calling card, she's saying "MINE!"
If your cat follows you from room to room and hangs out wherever you are, it's a sign that she's interested in you and wants to be where you are. Some cats who otherwise do not display affection can still express their love just by "being there for you."
Bringing You "Gifts"
As repugnant as it is to find that Fluffy has left a mutilated mole or dead bird on your doorstep, do not yell or hurt her when you find it. She has bestowed a cherished gift upon you and is hoping you'll be pleased with the offering, just as a child seeks approval from his parents. The best way to discourage this behaviour is to keep her indoors.
Excitement at Your Return Home
You may not witness this, but your spouse or roommate might. Most cats who are bonded to their owners will respond with excitement when they hear your car in the driveway, or when you make distinctive sounds (like jingle of the key in the lock) when returning home. If they run for the door when you come through it, they've missed you and are relieved that you've returned safely home to them.
When your cat rolls over and exposes her belly to you, she is signalling that she trusts you and loves you. Exposing her belly exposes her vulnerability. If she did that in the wild, she'd be toast. She's comfortable enough with you to let down her guard.
Many cats use a question mark-shaped tail to greet someone they like. A tail in the full upright position also indicates familiarity, trust and affection.
This instinctual gesture originates from birth, when your cat kneaded her mother to stimulate milk flow. In later life, kneading signifies contentment, pleasure and adoration, especially if accompanied by drooling. This is one of the greatest expressions of love that your cat can bestow upon you.
Cat love can be Subtle
Unlike dogs, cats usually won't shower you with sloppy kisses, but that doesn't mean they don't love you. In their own subtle way, cats will let you know where you stand, and petting a purring, head-butting cat in your lap is a quiet pleasure that can make your day.