Does my cat love me? How do cats show love? We look at the signs of cat love and how to make your cat feel loved in return.
Living with cats has its rewards, and its challenges.
Some days, your cat can make you feel like the most beloved human on the face of the planet.
On other days, they can make you feel like the lowest form of can opener – good only for serving food and little else!
Not all cats are this hot and cold, but they certainly have a bad reputation as a species. And are often depicted as being aloof or disinterested in their owners.
But is this true? Do cats love us, and if so, how do we know?
Luckily, scientists and veterinary behaviorists are coming up with some of the answers!
Do cats feel love?
The first step along the road to finding out the answer to the question “Does my cat love me?”, is to look at whether cats can love at all!
This is where scientists have long struggled. It is hard to measure love.
It’s also far too easy to want to read human emotions and behaviour into the things our cats do.
Cats are descended from what were originally territorial animals who were mostly self-reliant – and this is important to remember. To them a secure territory is much more important than social attachments.
This is where cats differ so much from dogs, and humans, that are social animals who rely on the pack. Is it a wonder that cats are so aloof? And why you often ask yourself “Does my cat love me”?
A recent study confirmed that cats are not dependent on humans, or other cats, for a sense of safety and security. The researchers did, however, point out that this doesn’t mean that cats don’t form affectionate relationships.
The bond is more like the one you form with a friend. Unlike the relationship with our children and dogs where they are emotionally dependent on us.
Dr Allen Schoen, veterinarian and behaviorist, in his book “Kindred Spirits” confirmed that humans and cats form a relationship. “I’ve been studying animal behavior since 1974 and can say without a doubt that cats can and do bond with their favorite people,” he wrote.
Some cats even show signs of separation anxiety when their human friends aren’t around for a while. Surely this is a further sign that they’re attached to us.
So your kitty does have a bond with you, but they can’t tell you that they love you in so many words. But when it comes to love, we all know the saying that actions speak louder than words.
Let’s have a look at how your cat shows affection.
How do cats show love?
It’s easy to know when a dog loves you. They wag their tails, follow you around, and in general go to a great deal of trouble to please you.
Cats are very different and mostly show their love with serene body language. And sometimes sounds. You might not even know what signs to look for.
Like us, each kitty also has its own distinct personality. I’m sure you’ll know all about this if you’ve had a few cats during your lifetime.
A large study recently found that cats differ along five main personality traits – extraversion, dominance, impulsiveness, agreeableness and neuroticism.
It stands to reason then that the way a cat shows affection will also depend on their unique personality.
An extroverted cat might rub themselves against anyone who walks through the door. Other kitties are more reserved and may show their love only in very subtle ways to their special person.
Does my cat love me? Let’s look at how cats deliberately connect and show they accept you as their friend.
Signs your cat loves you
One of the first ways in which cats show that they love you is by rubbing their cheeks against you – whether it’s your fingertip, your hands, your legs or your cheek.
Cats actually transfer their scent and mark their territory in this way. Sure, this may mean she considers you her territory, but there are plenty of humans who feel the same way about their loved ones.
Eye contact is another early sign of affection. Whereas some dogs may shy away, cats are all about eye contact.
If your kitty stares at you and blinks slowly this is the equivalent of giving you a kiss. She’s telling you that she loves you and you can respond by blinking softly back
The head-butt is a very special form of affection. When your cat gently presses her forehead against you it releases endorphins – feel good hormones – in both you and your cat. A similar sign is when your cat touches their nose to yours.
A sure sign that you cat likes and trusts you is when they choose to lie near – or on you. Cats are at their most vulnerable when they’re asleep.
Unless you live in an apartment the size of a closet, there are lots of places your cat can nap that are not next to you on the couch or on your lap. Or on your bed, your desk or even your keyboard when you’re trying to work.
After all, if he didn’t like you, he would probably stick with the sunny windowsill or that expensive cat tree you bought him.
You might associate a twitching tail with irritation, and you would be mostly correct. However, if your cat saunters up to you with a lazily hoisted tail that twitches at the very tip, he is actually communicating affection.
More Signs Of Cat Love!
Real proof that your kitty sees you as one of her family is when they start grooming you. If your cat licks your hair, ears, eyelids, or any other part of you, feel honored. Cats only groom other cats they like and trust, and you are no exception to these strict rules.
Cats really do need us – pun intended – which they show by kneading us with their paws. Kneading, making biscuits, whatever you call it, it is a sign of kitty love.
Scientists believe that this is a throwback to the secure and happy feeling they got as kittens when they kneaded their mothers while drinking.
And if your cat rolls around and shows you their tummy you can really be assured that the two of you have a good relationship. In most animals this is a very vulnerable and submissive posture.
There are further signs of cat love that we associate more often with dogs. Yes, some cats do greet you at the door or come out into the garden to meet you when you get home.
Or follow you around – at other times than when they know that food is up. They sometimes even try and get into the bathroom when you’re in there.
What about the gifts your cat brings you – those dead mice, birds, and lizard bits? This is a gesture of affection, so you may as well get used to it.
As we’ve seen, cats mostly show affection using body language. But sometimes we can also identify their loving sounds.
Cat’s love talk
Cats purr for a variety of reasons, among them contentment and love. As a cat owner, you will soon learn to tell that special, deep rumble that really does mean “I love you, human”.
Further, meowing is not the only sound cats use to communicate. Cats also use chirps and trills to express friendly overtures, and you can even trill back to show them that you care.
These sounds are used mostly by mother cats to reassure their kittens, but sometimes cats use them to show their special affection to us.
But how do you know if your cat loves you more than other people, or tuna fish, or catnip, or the many other things she appears to enjoy?
Does my cat love me?
The best way to find out how your kitty friend feels about you is to watch out for the signs that your cat loves you listed above.
If your cat is exhibiting one or more of these behaviors, chances are he is more than fond of you.
But what if she’s not showing these behaviors? You may need to be patient. Your cat could could take a little while to warm up to you. It could also take you a while to learn how to accurately identify the signs of love shown by a particular cat.
Some cats have behavioral issues like biting and clawing that can make you feel unloved.
These issues do not necessarily mean that your cat doesn’t love you. In fact, in some cases biting can mean the opposite, but this undesirable behavior may require some training for both you and your cat so that you can learn to share affection in other ways.
If your cat has behavior issues, consult your veterinarian or a behaviorist to see what you can do to improve your relationship.
Have you read the above signs and are now worried that the answer to the question “Does my cat love me” is no?!
Can you make your cat love you?
First of all, if you think your cat doesn’t love you, don’t panic. There are ways to earn your cat’s affection and put these fears to rest once and for all.
Always remember that above all, cats want to feel safe and secure. Your new kitty might be afraid of people because she is not used to them or even because she’s been treated badly.
Also keep in mind that cats have their own unique personalities. This means that each cat will respond to different overtures from you.
Let’s have a look at the ways in which you can win your cat over and become her best friend.
How do I make my cat love me?
Cats, like most animals, don’t enjoy being forced to do things they’re not comfortable with.
Forcibly placing a cat on your lap, or picking him up against his will, is not a great way to show them that you’re a person worthy of love.
Instead, take some of veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker’s advice on how to turn your cat into a lap cat.
The first thing he suggests is keeping calm. Cats dislike sudden movements, loud noises, and aggressive actions – act calm around your cat. This will help her to feel more comfortable around you.
Cats seem to think that staring is rude, or scary. Gently blinking at your cat, on the other hand, communicates affection and love. Think of it as a kitty kiss without the raspy tongue.
Wait for your cat to come to you to be petted – consider this as kitty consent. Cats can also be particular about where and how they like to be pet.
Most cats don’t like their tummies rubbed at all – you’re likely to end up with a scratch or a bite. On the other hand, one of my cats just loves it when I roll her onto her back for an extended tummy rub.
So don’t pet your cat the way you think she wants to be petted. Instead, observe her carefully to see what she likes, and mold your interactions to suit her tastes.
Gentle grooming is a great way to bond with a cat, as long as you have enough of a relationship to get close to them.
Cats show trust and affection through grooming, which you can use to your advantage. Take the time to find a brush they love and learn their favorite spots to be brushed.
You can also interact and make friends with you cat through play. Especially if they’re still playful kittens or outgoing, adventurous and curious cats.
If all else fails, bribery is an option! Keep delicious kitty treats on hand, unless the cat in question is overweight. Offer tasty morsels to your cat until he decides that you are the bearer of all good things.
If you do all of these things, your cat will know without a doubt that you love her, and will begin to show you affection in their own way.
If your cat still doesn’t seem to want to be near you, it might be time to consult a feline behaviorist or veterinarian to get to the root of your relationship problems.
Do cats love their owners?
Scientists have at last provided us with some answers about the ultimate question: do cats love humans?
The answer, according to their research, is a definitive yes.
A study performed by researchers at Oregon State University measured cat love. The researchers gave 38 cats the option to choose between a toy, food, an interesting smell, and human attention.
Thirty-seven percent of the cats chose food, eleven percent preferred toys, and one cat was preoccupied with what we can assume was a particularly fascinating smell.
The other half of the cats chose humans over all other choices. Yes, you heard that right. Half of the cats preferred humans!
This may come as a surprise to readers who have spent years wondering if cats actually loved humans, but it might not surprise those of us who have close bonds with our feline friends.
So if you’re wondering “Does my cat love me?” look out for the signs of kitty affection. Show your affection back in ways that you know your cat appreciates.
We would love to hear your stories about how your cat shows that that she loves you. Please share them with us in the comment section below.
This article has been extensively revised and updated for 2019.
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Further Reading and Resources
- Becker, M. 2015. 5 Ways to Turn Your Kitty Into a Lap Cat.” VetStreet.
- Bishko, A. What your cat’s body language is saying. WebMD.
- Bradshaw, J. 2018 Normal feline behaviour …. And why problem behaviors develop. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
- Litchfield, C.A. et al. 2017. The “feline five”: an exploration of personality in pet cats (Feline catus). PloS ONE.
- Moore, A. 2012. “10 Ways Your Cat Shows You Love.” VetStreet
- Muth, F. 2016. What we understand about cats and what they understand about us. Scientific American.
- Potter, A. & Mills, D.S. 2015. Domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) do not show signs of secure attachment to their owners. PloS ONE.
- Vitale Shreve, K.R. et al. Social interaction, food, scent, or toys? A formal assessment of domestic pet and shelter cat (Felis silvestris catus) preferences. Behavioural Processes. March 2017.
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