What’s My Cat’s Love Language?

5 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
July 4, 2021
cat snuggling man
I Wei Huang / Shutterstock

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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. Some of them 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.

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. 

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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. 

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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.