Cats are easily misunderstood. If you’re a not self-proclaimed cat person, you might question whether your cat loves you. And even if you’re a longtime feline fan, you probably wonder sometimes if the looks she gives you are signs of true kitty love. If you find yourself asking, “Does my cat love me?” you’ll get some helpful answers here.
Is It True Love?
Can animals show “love” in the same way that humans do, or is it just a feeling of trust that they have in us? Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist for pets and people, and a certified advanced Tellington Touch practitioner for horses and small animals, points out that cat love and trust aren’t mutually exclusive.
“Of course, animals show love for us, and part of that love is indeed built on trust,” she says.
Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSA, CDBC, KPA CTP, VSPDT, CBATI, VSDTA, and faculty at The Sophisticated Dog in West Los Angeles, CA, adds that “there is a lot of evidence that animals experience many of the same basic emotions as humans.”
Morgan agrees, citing a study by Dr. Paul Zak for a BBC2 documentary, in which cats’ oxytocin levels (the hug, cuddle, bonding, trust hormone released in a mother bonding with an infant) increased by 12 percent after 10 minutes of playtime with their owners. Solid evidence of cat love!
But Is It Based on Food?
Cats in particular have been accused more than once of showing kitty love to their owners only because they are the supreme food givers. While there may not be solid proof one way or another, cat people like to think that cat love goes beyond feeding time.
It is true that there are many times when cats “show love” and they clearly aren’t looking for food. Morgan recalls that several cats that she’s treated as physical therapy patients recognize her years later as they purr and climb into her lap, even if their person says they’re generally standoffish with people. So, there is kitty love outside of dinnertime.
Bloom doesn’t rule out food-based love for some cats, but it’s not the only way to encourage an animal to love you.
“Being respectful of all the cat’s needs—not just the need for food—and paying attention to the cat’s communication will all help make a cat feel fonder of you,” she advises.
Of course, a tasty topper certainly never hurts.
Dog Love vs. Cat Love
It’s true that a dog’s show of love might be more obvious than a cat’s, but then again, every animal has their own personality. Some cats can even be dog-like. But the way they show their love for humans in general is slightly different.
“Many dogs will be happy to hang out with any human,” says Bloom, because they are social predators who form friendships easily. Cats, on the other hand, “do form colonies in some situations, but they are much less likely to spend time with strange cats, and instead tend to focus on spending time with their special friends.”
Morgan adds that cats can be prideful animals who “have wild ancestors that hunt in groups, and so there is a sense of cooperation being advantageous that’s bred into our house kitties.”
Both agree that cats are likely to single out a certain person—someone who might not even feed them—to show some pure kitty love.
“If you are that individual for the cats you know, you’re obviously a special human!” Bloom says.
Perhaps you can say that cats are more selective when bestowing their special brand of cat love upon a lucky recipient.
Look for the Signs
If you’re unsure of your cat’s love for you, here are some clear-cut signals:
The Slow Blink: This is the famed “cat kiss.” If your cat has half-closed eyes, she’s relaxed around you. And if she blinks slowly, you’ve definitely captured her heart. Next time you get a cat kiss, try to return it by slowly closing your eyes, counting to two, then slowly opening them.
Kneading: Cats can show affection by kneading their people. “This is a behavior kittens do with their mothers to stimulate the flow of milk, and it is strongly associated with happy times,” explains Bloom.
Head Bump: Consider yourself special if your cat butts your head. It’s like a fist bump, but even better. Cats do this to create physical contact, says Bloom, and to leave their scent on you.
Belly Show: This is the ultimate display of trust and cat love. It’s not that often that a kitty will roll over and expose their belly. When they do though, Bloom suggests noting whether their body looks relaxed or tense, because some cats roll onto their backs to get their claws ready for attack.
Backing Up: Don’t be offended if your kitty shows you her back end. If it happens regularly, you might be a favored human. You can scratch right above the tail, but only until your cat tells you it’s time to stop.
Rubbing: Brushing up against you and marking you with their whiskers is a form of kitty love, says Morgan. They usually do this to let everyone know you’re theirs.
Quality Time: Even if a cat’s not a cuddler, she can show love by sleeping near you or greeting you at the door when you come home. Morgan points out that your cat wouldn’t do this if she didn’t love you.
Know Your Cat’s Love Language
Just like us, cats have their own love language—we just need to understand it. You can bond over playtime, using a variety of stimulating cat toys like the KONG Active Feather Teaser or Petstages Tower of Tracks. You can dip the wand toy in a little Sojos Catnip or sprinkle some in the tower for extra fun.
“With toy play, there is no need to touch the cat, and the cat can always leave the game when [she] wants to. By playing with your cat without forcing petting or other physical contact on him, you show the cat that you respect his boundaries,” Bloom says.
On the other side, during quiet time, you can make yourself calmer and therefore more approachable with a little meditation, explains Morgan. Take deep breaths, which will slow your heart rate and calm your mind. You might find that your cat is more drawn to you in this state.
The key to cat love, says Bloom, is to just pay attention. Make note of the times your cat comes closer, and learn what drives her away. Find out what kind of food and treats she prefers. Give her plenty of chin scratches, on her terms, and even try out the slow blink to give a cat kiss.
Don’t Lose Their Love
There are also things that will definitely upset any cat, and will not earn you any kitty love. These are the same things that humans dislike:
- Forced cuddling
- Holding your cat down when she wants to get away
- Rough handling and petting
- Patting her head instead of gently petting it
- Rubbing your cat’s belly.
If you can’t understand a cat’s signs, start by not doing any of these things, and really pay attention to your cat’s reactions to you.
“Cats are usually pretty clear about what they like and don’t like, so watch your cat, and always give your cat room to escape when you are in physical contact,” says Bloom.
She adds a secret insider tip, which is to pet your cat in places that another cat would lick during grooming—the head and neck.
So, after reading this, do you feel that you’re truly worthy of the feline feels? Do you get cat kisses on the regular, or do you have some work to do before you see more signs of kitty love? If so, remember to start with the yummy treats, spend time getting to know what your feline really likes, and you’ll soon be experiencing true cat love.
Nikki Naser, Pet Central Senior Editor
Instead of owning 30 cats, Nikki has an impressive collection of 30 cat-themed T-shirts, and just 4 pets—a ginger-haired senior cat, a senior Maine Coon, a middle-aged Choodle, and a young kitty who showed up one day on the back steps. A former Orlando resident, Nikki worked on several tourism publications before moving to South Beach. When she’s not stopping to take pics of community cats to post on Instagram, Nikki spends her time with the office pets at Chewy, writing for their Pet Central blog.
Feature Image: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock.com