The Secret Love Language of Cats: How to Know You're Adored

Story at-a-glance -

  • Even though pet cats are domesticated, they retain many characteristics of wild cats
  • In addition, kitties are independent creatures who prefer to interact with humans on their own terms
  • Cats who are bonded to their human families often display certain telltale behaviors, including head bunting, kneading and grooming their humans

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Even though pet cats are domesticated, they retain many characteristics of wild cats. In addition, kitties are independent creatures who prefer to interact with humans on their own terms. Cats who are bonded to their human families often display certain telltale behaviors, including head bunting, kneading, and grooming their humans and more.

10 Ways Your Cat Tells You You're Family

1. She head-butts you

This is actually called head "bunting" and it's a form of feline affection. If your cat rubs up against your leg or bumps heads with you, she's "marking" you with her scent and claiming you as her own.

Cats have scent glands in different locations on their body, for example, between the toes, and at the base and along the length of the tail. They also have them under the chin, at the corners of the mouth, the temples and on the ears. With all those scent glands on their head, it's no wonder many kitties use their entire noggin when marking their human.

So the next time Miss Fluffybottom crashes her little furry head into yours, smile through the pain, because kitties only scent-mark objects that are very important to them!

2. He kneads you

Kneading, also known as "making bread" or "making biscuits," is an instinctive feline behavior kittens display shortly after they're born to stimulate the flow of milk from the mother's mammary glands. Adult cats who continue the behavior with their owners might be showing contentment, calming themselves during periods of stress or marking their human with the scent from the sweat glands in their paws.

Kneading is also linked to feline mating rituals. Some intact female cats will knead more frequently as they're going into heat, while male cats usually become aggressive after kneading for a while. The behavior might also have its origins in wild cats who built nesting places with grass and leaves in which to rest or give birth. It does seem the behavior in most cats precedes settling down for a nap.

3. She twitches her tail

If your kitty approaches you with her tail straight up, she's feeling confident, comfortable and content. If her tail is standing straight up and twitching or quivering, it's a sign she's feeling fine and experiencing anticipation, pleasure or excitement.

4. He purrs

Newborn kittens can't yet see, so they are guided to their mother by her purr. That's why purring is a sign your cat is feeling content. Purring also lowers kitty's heart rate, so he may sometimes purr to sooth himself. Unless he's ill or feeling stressed, rest assured his purring means he feels cared for by you. An added bonus: research shows the sound of a cat's purr can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.

5. She demands your attention

Cats are independent but most still love regular attention, affection and playtime. Your kitty uses multiple methods of communication and will actually follow your lead in terms of how much interaction you have with her. So if you take the time to regularly give your cat love and attention, she'll reward you with the same in return.

However, if you've been preoccupied or busy and haven't been paying much attention to her, she'll eventually let you know it. She may stretch out across your laptop keyboard while you're trying to work, meow loudly and persistently or tap or grab at you with her paw.

6. He brings you "gifts"

If your kitty has free, unsupervised access to the outdoors (which I don't recommend), he might return home with a lovely little "gift" for you now and then. It's just what you've always wanted, too — a dead mouse or one that's about to be.

You can relax, because this is another entirely natural behavior of feline predators. If the critter your cat brings you is dead, it is purely a gift. If it's still breathing, he's bringing it to you so you can learn how to finish what he started. Mother cats often do this with their kittens to help the little ones learn how to kill prey.

7. She grooms you

Mother cats groom their kittens from the moment they're born, so being licked was one of your kitty's very first feelings of being cared for. Sibling kitties who are raised together often groom each other throughout their lives. So if your kitty is licking you, she's showing her love for you.

8. He gives you a "love bite"

This show of love from your kitty can prove to be a bit painful, especially if he nips at your nose or elsewhere on your face, as many cats do. Kitties nip each other affectionately, and their skin is tougher than ours, so your cat really doesn't understand his love bite isn't always pleasant for you.

Nipping seems to be an instinctive drive in some cats and so it's difficult to stop the behavior. But since it's pretty easy to predict when you're about to get "love bit," the best plan is to get your face, finger or other body part out of the way ahead of time.

9. She slowly blinks at you

If your kitty first stares at you, then blinks, then opens her eyes wide, then slowly blinks a second time, she's telling you she loves and trusts you. It's the equivalent of being kissed, in fact.

10. He sleeps on your lap

Your cat is most vulnerable when he's sleeping, so where he chooses to snooze must feel safe and secure to him. If one of his favorite nap spots happens to be your lap, consider yourself well loved by your kitty.

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