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Feline Friday: How Cats Show Love

In the Spotlight

Placing himself in a vulnerable position shows you love . . . (Image copr. mhstrp2009 via Flickr)

There’s no doubt we love our pets — but do our cats love us back? The answer is yes. But cats and kittens show affections in ways that aren’t always what humans expect. In fact, a pet’s Valentine wishes might instead puzzle, aggravate or even offend some people. Here are 7 ways cats show love.

1. Cats (sometimes) scratch and pee to show affection. Cats seek out items that smell most like their beloved human — and they find scratching and peeing calming. So marking up your favorite chair or baptizing your bed with urine actually is not only a backhanded kitty compliment but a stress reliever. Providing legal scratch and potty opportunities encourages kitty to love you in more appropriate ways.

2. Cats put their rear ends in your face. This is a friendly gesture we swear! The cat is offering you an invitation to sniff — and to the feline way of thinking, that’s a very loving thing to do. But as you will not want to indulge, respond by scratching the base of her tail instead.

3. Kitties rub against you. This leaves the cat’s scent — marking you as “owned” by them. Cats repeatedly head bump their most favorite people. Bumping your face is the ultimate show of trust, since it leaves eyes vulnerable.

4. Cats knead your thighs. Honestly, we’re not sure why they do this. We know that kittens do it to prompt mom-cat’s milk to release and we suspect this instinctive behavior hearkens back to that feeling of comfort and joy. So a cat kneading her human certainly can be a kitty valentine.

5. Cats purr. Now these noises can mean different things, including delight or concern, but a cat that purrs while snuggled in your lap expresses deep trust and love for you. Return the favor and talk back in a warm, caring voice. Say “I love you.” She’ll understand the emotion, if not the exact words.

6. Cats will groom you. Licking your skin or hair, or even nibbling or sucking on your clothing spreads “family” scent and is an expression of feline love. Return the favor — petting your cat is the kitty equivalent of a love fest of mutual grooming.

7. Kittens curve their tails. When a kitten greets her mom-cat, she holds her tail straight up with the end tipped over. If your kitty directs this tippy tail at you, she is, in effect, calling you “mom.”

These are just some of the ways your pet may be expressing his love. And they certainly don’t apply to all animals, as some cats become very creative and keep us guessing! But there’s no doubt that pets appreciate our love and love us back. The best Valentine’s gift we can give them is learning to understand them, foibles and all. Of course you can learn lots more about kitty behavior in the book COMPLETE KITTEN CARE.

How do YOUR cats show love? Seren also “guards” me to keep the (spit!) unworthy dog from soiling me with his presence. And she taste-tests my food so that I don’t run the risk of poisoning (puts her lil’ life on the line just for me…and that potato chip). Please share how your cats and kittens love you!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

27 responses »

  1. Am so glad to that EmmaRose’s rear end in my face, a daily occurrence, is the good thing I thought it was, although have to admit, I was a bit stumped for a response, usually trying to see around her as she’s only 5.5 pounds. Thanks to you, I now know how to respond appropriately. Enjoy your blog.


  2. My kitty only shows the head bumping love in the kitchen. Makes me think she’s being less genuine there and more manipulative. 😉

  3. My kitty who is gone now, slept with me every night and groomed my face and my arms and hands and then curled her paws around my hands – I had to be careful of what I put on my face and hands before bed! I have a kitty now who always presents her rump to me and another who loves to lay on the bed stretched out on her back but I can’t touch her beautiful white belly because she will grab my hand in her mouth full of sharp little teeth to tell me that I can look but I can’t touch….

  4. Joy Held's Writer Wellness Blog

    Did not know this. Now I won’t be so offended by our cat’s “rear offerings”. Retweeted this today. Hugs.

  5. Love those kitty head bumps! The second best part about spending time with our two totally adorable youngest grandchildren, are their two lovable cats. My husband is allergic so keeps his distance but I revel in getting my kitty fix!

    • Last night I had my writing group over and had to move Seren’s bed off the dining table (don’t ask!) and she was not a happy kitty. She wanted to check out all the snacks (loves potato chips, go figure…) so I had to close her into my office. But when she came out later she gave me multiple head bumps–didn’t hold a grudge. *s*

      Patricia, when I was cat-less many years ago, I’d get my cat fix visiting friends. *s*

  6. Oh this reminds me of the joy I had with my two cats (now passed on)! The rubbing, belly showing while rolling on their backs and head bumps were my favorite. It was obvious they were happy and marking me as all theirs. My sister’s cat now kneads on her chest when she holds him on her lap. He was abandoned on the streets young so he totally thinks she’s his mommy. Great post, Amy!

  7. Hi Barbara, Don’t you just love it when they make it clear that YOU belong to THEM? *s*

  8. Simba is our extra-lovey kitty, and does all of the above, plus INSISTS on demanding pets as soon as you get home, clings to the bed to try and stay next to me at night (clearly we need a bigger bed LOL), and her sole goal in life seems to be to please mommy and daddy.

    Anubis is the standoffish kid, has to pretend not to like snuggles (even though as soon as you catch him he turns into a fluffy marshmallow – he wants you to chase him down for cuddles, if you work for it, it means you love him more). But he watches us like MAD if either of us is sick, and gives us the evil eye if we try to leave the house when we’re not feeling well.

    • Karyl, love your Anubis c’attitude, LOL! “…means you love him more” is such a cat-thing to do. And it’s always such a comfort when the kitties become little furry nurses when we’re under the weather.

  9. I had no idea this is why our cats do all they do. Why do you think our youngest enjoys finding our socks and dragging them down the stairs? Ha! She’s so cute.

  10. I had no idea this is why my cat does all she does. Why do you think she likes to drag our socks or shirts or any clothing she finds on the floor down the stairs? You think she’s giving us a hint to tidy up a bit? Ha!

  11. My six-month-old kitten, Cinnamon, loves to sleep in my lap while I work on my computer. He purrs a lot, loves to be picked up and carried around, and he also bumps and rubs agains our legs, but only when he wants to eat 🙂 Kneading is what he loves to do especially if I wear a fuzzy sweater. He also puts his nose deep in a sweater while kneading it. It’s so lovely!

    • Fuzzy nose to fuzzy-ness, what fun! My Seren kitty at the moment is curled up “pretending” to sleep beside my laptop. Once I shut down for the night she’ll want to get in my lap. Bliss!

  12. My cat Jingles will be on his tummy and put one of his front paws on my leg….he wants me to hold his paw. I love to be able to feel each one of his little kitty pads and the sharp points on each of his claws.

    • Hiya Donna! Another friend had a cat named Jingles (he showed up at Christmas and held the white tip of his tail like a bell *s*). Your comment made me hum The Beatles…”I wanna hold your PAW!”

  13. enjoyed this article -.found it on my The Hairball Alley Mews -I have 5 male cats who really can’t decide who owns me:)..

  14. Great article, but you forgot to mention, cats snore. Velveteen curls up on my desk and makes the strangest little noises when she’s asleep. But she’ll never cop to it when she’s awake. Silly kitty.

  15. Oh, you’re missing out! I have known at least two snoring kitties – Simba and my mom’s old cat (who I’m told could snore louder than a grown man LOL)


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