Cats are often considered to be aloof, independent creatures that don’t need the same level of care and attention that dogs do. However, cats are actually very social, affectionate animals who show their love in many different ways. These displays of affection are simply different from what most pet owners and registered breeders are used to when compared to dogs. If you pay close attention to your cat’s behaviour, you can learn how to understand them better and build a stronger bond.
Cat Body Language
To begin, let’s take a brief look at how cats use their body language in general.
When a cat is content and relaxed, its ears may be slightly forward, tilted backwards or even slightly flattened against its head. Its eyes may be open wide or partially closed in a dreamy gaze, and its tail will likely be held low but relaxed. This is a good sign that your cat is happy and comfortable around you.
On the other hand, when a cat is feeling anxious or threatened, its ears will usually flatten back against its head and its eyes will narrow. The tail may also twitch rapidly back and forth as it gets ready to flee from perceived danger. This behaviour signals that the cat is feeling uncomfortable with whatever situation it’s in and wants to leave as soon as possible.
If a cat is interested in something or someone, it will look at them with an intense gaze while standing very still with its tail up in the air. Its pupils may also dilate if it’s particularly curious about something or someone new entering into its space.
When cats are playing with each other, they often display similar behaviours such as pouncing on one another while holding their tails high in the air and making playful chirps or meows. These sounds let other cats know that they are just playing around instead of being aggressive towards one another.
Cats also express themselves through scent marking by rubbing their cheeks against objects (a behaviour known as bunting). This releases facial pheromones which act as a way for cats to mark their territory by letting others know where they have been recently and who else has been there before them.
How Cats Show Affection
One of the most common signs of cat affection is purring. Cats will often purr when they’re content and happy, usually when they’re being petted or scratched in just the right spot. They may also purr when they’re feeling threatened or scared as a way of calming themselves down. Purring is a sign that your cat trusts you and feels comfortable around you.
Another sign of affection from cats is rubbing against your legs or body while you’re walking by them. In the same way that cats mark their scent on their territory, they will mark their humans and claim them. They may also rub against your hands if they want some attention or petting, similar to a dog wagging its tail and jumping up at you. Some cats will press their heads against your hand, face or other body parts as a way of showing love and trust in you, transferring their scent even more intensely.
Kneading is another display of love from cats that looks like kneading dough with their paws on soft surfaces like blankets or pillows (or even on people’s skin, as some cat owners have no doubt learned). This behaviour is believed to be rooted in kittenhood when kittens knead their mother’s teat to stimulate milk flow while nursing. Kneading can also be a sign that your cat feels relaxed and secure in its environment. They’re essentially marking whatever surface they’re kneading with their scent as part of claiming it as theirs.
If your cat brings gifts such as dead mice, birds, lizards or other small prey over to you then this could also be seen as an act of love! This behaviour is instinctive for cats, who are natural hunters. In the wild, they would bring food back to share with members of their family, so bringing “gifts” for you – no matter how gross – could be seen as them wanting to include you in this group as well.
One of the strongest displays of cat affection comes from grooming each other. Cats will sometimes groom each other by licking each other’s fur, which helps keep each other clean and removes parasites such as fleas. When your cat tries to groom you, it shows that they’re completely comfortable in your presence and want to take care of you.