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Furry Friday: Mother’s Day for Pets

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Birta og Rjómi

“This is MY purr-son!” Copr. Maria Magnus/Flickr

There’s no doubt we love our pets—but do our cats and dogs love us back? Kitty and doggy shows of affection aren’t always what humans expect. In fact, a pet’s lovey-dovey wishes might instead puzzle, aggravate or even offend some people. To celebrate Mother’s Day here are 14 ways dogs and cats show love.

Cat purrs can mean everything from delight to expressions of concern. A cat that purrs while snuggled in your lap expresses deep trust and love for you.  Return the favor and talk back—say, “I love you!” She’ll understand the emotion, if not the exact words.

Dog howls aren’t nearly as subtle as kitty purrs but can be a canine Valentine. A howl can mean your dog is lonely. Try scheduling extra face time with your special dog, or offer puzzle toys filled with treats to show your love. It’s harder to howl when chewing something yummy.

Kitty rubbing against you 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.


“I trust you no matter what…” Copr. Paul Loades/Flickr

Dogs lean against us. Yes, it can be pushy or awkward especially with big dogs, but it’s a way of showing and asking for love and attention. Either sit down so he can lean and love, or teach him to “sit” before you dole out the attention.

Kitties groom other cats—or humans—that they like. 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.

Dogs jump up, not to knock you down, but to give a big kiss. A dog kiss isn’t exactly the same as human kisses. Puppies lick the mom-dog’s eyes and face to show deference. Adults give doggy kisses to humans they love and respect and aim at the face. Kneel to let him kiss you (if doggy smooches don’t bother you). Or offer your hand for a sniff-and-smooch instead.

Cats scratch and pee to calm themselves down, and seek out items that smell most like their beloved human. So scratching your favorite chair or “baptizing” your bed with urine actually is a backhanded kitty compliment. Relieving stress and providing legal scratch and potty opportunities encourages kitty to love you in more appropriate ways.

Puppies pee and roll on their back when owners come home—another way to show deference and declare their love and respect. Most pups outgrow the pee-party, but not the rolling over. Baring his tummy invites a friendly rub, so answer his request to show you love him, too.

Cats knead—honestly, we’re not sure why. Kittens do it to prompt mom-cat’s milk to release. 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.

Dogs chew to relieve stress and calm upset feelings, and also seek out owner-scented items like shoes or that Gucci handbag. Why not offer him a Valentine’s gift of a legal chew toy—stick it inside your shoe overnight so it has the appropriate “cologne” to really show your love!

Dog crotch sniffs may not seem all that loving but are the equivalent of a human hand shake. Request a “sit” instead, then pay him with attention.

A kitty butt-in-your-face is an invitation to sniff—that’s a very friendly and loving gesture! (Not that you want to indulge). Scratch the base of her tail, instead.

Doggy wags that are low, loose and wide are technically a “distance-decreasing signal” that invites attention and love. Tail-less dogs wag their whole body.

Kitten tails held straight up with the end tipped over use this to greet mom-cat, and the tippy-tail is a kitty Valentine when directed at humans—in effect calling you “mom.”

What have I missed? How do your fur-kids show you love–on Mother’s Day and the rest of the year? You can show your Mother’s Day love by “gifting” the pet lovers in your life with something for their pets–maybe even a book (hint hint!).

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? 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 excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and 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.

11 responses »

  1. LOVE it Amy. I feel like I have a whole new understanding of how Tess shows me her love and affection. When I get home, she LOVES to run to her bed, burrow her face into it and then roll over on her belly for TONS of belly rubs…and then she growls and makes all these snarly sounds. If you didn’t know her, you’d think she was going to rip your arm off but it’s the way she and I speak to each other. I say “you like that…you miss me…you want more belly rubs???” and she just garggles and giggles away…it’s HILARIOUS and wonderful and warms my heart! I should take a video sometime for the blog. LOL!
    FAB post!

    • Hi Natalie, Tess and the belly rubs (growly enjoyment) made me smile. I would love to see a video. The researchers now have identified “dog laugh” sounds (a special kind of panting) but individual dogs also have their own happy-signals. Such fun! Thanks for sharing that.

  2. Simba likes to lick my head, especially when I’m sick. She’ll climb up on the arm of the couch when I’m napping there and sit and groom me and keep me awake. LOL It’s both sweet and annoying at the same time.

  3. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    Dogs with tails can also wag so hard that their entire body wiggles. Our girls are full beagle and part beagle, and both wag their tails so hard, that the entire dog wiggles. It’s quite funny to watch!


  4. These are great. I didn’t know some of these behaviors actually meant they love me. So cool! We call our Aussie an attention slut because he could seriously be loved 24/7. If you put your hand on him and stop petting, he’ll bop you so you start again. We also call him happy puppy wiggle butt because he gets so excited and shakes all over like he’s doing the hula.

    Now I know definitively that our cat loves me. She’s super aloof and only shows affection to our son, but every now and then she’ll rub against me or purr to me. Yay! I always thought she just saw me as an automatic door opener and cat feeder. 😉

    • Love the “wiggle bum” dogs–and I am SO going to steal your “doing the hula” description. Ha! And sometimes cats do see us as their handmaidens but just forget themselves and give a little purry luv before they catch themselves. 🙂

  5. My beloved Twygal was a very touchy girl, would only allow petting at her discretion. However, she loved to nibble and lick my wet hair. She would jump up on the back of my chair and work on my hair intermittently rubbing my head with hers. I miss that.

    Love your list of “love signs”


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