How Cats Show Affection: Signs Your Cat Loves You · The Wildest

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What’s Your Cat’s Love Language?

Five surprising ways cats show affection (and how you can show it back), according to a cat behaviorist.

by Charles Manning | expert review by Cristin Tamburo, CFTBS, CAFTP
Updated October 13, 2022
cat snuggling man
I Wei Huang / Shutterstock

Cats often get a bad rap because they’re not as demonstrably affectionate as dogs. But just because your cat doesn’t greet you at the door with slippers in their mouth, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They just have different — less desperately thirsty — ways of showing it.

How to Identify When Your Cat Is Showing Affection 

Some signs of cat affection are obvious: purring, rubbing up against you, allowing you to stroke or hold them. But others can be difficult to decipher, especially if you’re new to cats or have one who seems particularly aloof. Once you know how your cat likes to show affection, you can use that information to show affection back (speak to them in their own language, as it were), strengthening your bond and leading to even more affection down the road.

How do cats tell their pet parents “I love you”?

There are a few ways to say “I love you” in cat. Below are some common signs of cat affection.

1. Slow Blinking

According to LA-based feline behaviorist and Cat Counselor Cristin Tamburo Coll, CFTBS, CAFTP, a slow blink is a cat’s way of showing you that they trust you and feel safe with you — an essential component in any loving relationship. “Intense staring with wide-open eyes can sometimes be a threatening gesture in cats and staredowns among cats often turn into fights,” she says. “But when a cat slow blinks at you, they are showing you that they feel calm and safe in your presence.” So, the next time your cat slow blinks at you, slow blink back and let them know the feeling is mutual. 

2. Putting Their Butts in Your Face 

If you have multiple cats, you’ve probably seen them sniffing each other’s butts from time to time (just like dogs). But what you might not realize is that the sniff-ie is just as active in this exchange as the sniff-er. It’s just another way for cat’s to say, “we’re cool.” Now, we’re not suggesting you stick your butt in your cat’s face, but if you want to give it a shot, it probably couldn’t hurt. 

3. Showing You Their Bellies 

Don’t get it twisted, though. This is not always an invitation to touch said belly. Some cats like belly rubs, but many do not and might bite, hiss, or scratch. “A cat’s belly is their most vulnerable spot,” says Tamburo, “so when they show it to you, they’re saying ‘I trust you,’ not necessarily ‘I want you to touch me.”

4. Being in The Same Room as You

Not all cats are snugglers, but just because your cat isn’t big on cuddles, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. The fact that they don’t leave the room when you enter is proof that they do! If your cat is particularly aloof, try opening time where they are. Read a book, mess around on your phone, just let them see that you want to spend time in the same space. 

5. Bringing You Presents

Cats are hunters by nature and an outdoor cat will often bring their human dead rodents (or pieces of dead rodents) as tokens of affection. Indoor cats, on the other hand, might bring toys, pieces of string, or whatever else they find around the house. Accept your cat’s gift in the spirit in which it was intended and give them a little stroke, cuddle, or treat to show your appreciation. Or play with them! Cats love play. Sometimes it’s just a matter of figuring out exactly what gets their motors running. 

How can I make my cat love me?

The truth is, there’s no way to make an animal love you. Trust is built over long periods of time. If you show them lots of love, they’ll come to love you back — even if all animals show that love in different ways. Give your cat lots of space and time, and never punish your cat.

Just as cats can slow blink to show you love, you can say “I love you” to a cat by slow blinking at them. Dr. Karen McComb, a professor who worked on a study on cat slow blinking for Scientific Reports, recommends: “Try narrowing your eyes at them as you would in a relaxed smile, followed by closing your eyes for a couple of seconds. You’ll find they respond in the same way themselves and you can start a sort of conversation.”

Are treats and rewards effective as a love language for cats?

If you’re wondering if you can buy your cat’s love with treats and rewards — well, it’s worth a try. Cats love being mentally stimulated, so try incorporating treats and rewards into playtime and training for your cat. And keep an eye on the amount of treats you feed them, because a healthy cat is a happy cat.

FAQs (People Also Ask)

How can I show affection using physical touch as a love language?

Petting a cat can be a great way to bond, but be sure to follow their cue on whether or not they want to be pet. Check out our guide on cat petting lessons.

Can a cat have more than one love language?

Like humans, cats can definitely have more than one love language. Plenty of cats show love in a variety of ways.

What if my cat doesn’t seem to respond to any particular love language?

If your cat doesn’t seem to respond to any particular love language, have patience. Cats aren’t always the most expressive and may show their appreciation with subtle cues. If they aren’t resisting your affection by hissing, leaving, or taking out their claws, they might be happier than you think.

What does it mean if my cat values a safe environment as their love language?

All cats should have a safe and quiet environment, and providing them with a cozy home is one way you can show your love. Make sure they have a calm space all to themself, especially for eating and using the litter.

How do I know if my cat’s love language is quality time?

If your cat’s love language is quality time, they will spend a lot of time near you or in the same room as you.


Charles Manning

Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.

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