One of the Worst Pet Misreads That Robs You of Affection

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance -

  • Cats are an independent versus social species, which is one of the reasons it’s often difficult to read the intent of their behavior
  • Our cats absolutely love us — they just show it in more subtle, complex ways than dogs do
  • As cat parents, it’s important we don’t assume our kitties are looking for food when they’re actually seeking attention and affection from us

Our feline friends can be inscrutable, meaning hard to read. You're not alone if you wonder sometimes if your cat even likes you. Chances are he does, and very much.

Whereas dogs are a social species, cats are designed to live independently, which is one of the reasons they can seem so mysterious. Since feline behaviors are both subtle and complicated, cat parents often need a little help understanding when kitty is being affectionate and loving.

An additional very important point is that if you make the mistake of assuming your cat is looking for food rather than attention, you may be missing opportunities to be affectionate with him and deepen the bond you share. Given the cat obesity epidemic in this country and elsewhere, we definitely need to be giving our cats more one-on-one time and fewer snacks!

10 Moves Your Cat Makes That Say 'I Love You'

1. She rolls around on her back, exposing her belly — This is typically a greeting behavior, and when your cat does it, she's showing you she feels relaxed, comfortable and trusting in your presence. What she's very likely not doing, despite appearances, is asking for a tummy rub, which is why she may dig her sharp claws into your arm if you attempt one. Instead, give her head a gentle scratch.

Most cats (not all, but most) don't enjoy belly rubs. This is because if your kitty lived in the wild, predators would be a constant threat. The most vulnerable spot on your cat's body is her belly. Just beneath the surface of that silky skin lie all her vital organs.

2. He sits on you — If whenever you sit down your cat settles onto your lap (or perches on your shoulder or even your head), he's showing he trusts and feels safe with you, and wants to feel connected to you. He may also approve of the clothes you're wearing because they're soft or smell like you, and also, you're nice and warm!

3. She blinks slowly at you — If your cat gazes 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 a kitty kiss. You can return the gesture by blinking slowly at her and then turning your head slightly to the side to show her you're relaxed and not at all threatening.

4. He gives you love bites — This show of love from your kitty can 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 quickly get your face, finger or other body part out of his line of sight!

5. She kneads you — Also known as "making bread" or "making biscuits," kneading 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 might be showing contentment, self-soothing when they feel stressed 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 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 build nesting places with grass and leaves in which to rest or give birth, since kneading in most pet cats precedes settling down for a snooze.

6. He approaches you with his tail pointing straight up — When your cat walks toward you with his tail straight up in the air and perhaps with a slight kink at the tip, he's happily greeting you. Be sure to acknowledge his "hello" and give him a gentle head or face scratch.

7. She head-butts you — This is a form of feline affection also known as head bunting. 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 cats use their entire noggin when marking their human. So the next time kitty bonks her furry little head on yours, smile through the pain, because kitties only scent-mark objects that are very important to them!

8. He bunny-kicks you — Bunny kicking, also called rabbit kicking, is when your cat rolls onto his back or side and kicks with his hind legs. While this behavior sounds harmless, and even cute, it depends on why kitty is doing it. There are playtime bunny kicks that typically involve your cat grasping your hand or wrist with his front paws while he kicks your arm.

However, depending on how he interprets your movements in response, those bunny kicks can quickly become more intense and aggressive (and painful). This is one of the reasons feline behavior experts advise against using your hands or feet during play with your cat. Instead, use cat toys, and if your kitty is a bunny kicker, consider investing in a few nontoxic kickable cat toys infused with organic catnip.

9. She sleeps on you — Your cat is most vulnerable when she's sleeping, so where she chooses to snooze must feel safe and secure to her. If one of her favorite nap spots happens to be somewhere on your body, consider yourself well-loved by your kitty.

10. 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 soothe 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.

Advertisement
Get Over 40% Off on Select Items DailyGet Over 40% Off on Select Items Daily

+ Sources and References