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8 Ways to Tell Your Cat 'I Love You'

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

how to say i love you in cat language

Story at-a-glance -

  • Cats differ in countless significant ways from dogs, which means making your kitty’s life fabulous requires the right approach
  • To provide your feline friend with all the basics and a few indulgences, it’s important to learn how to handle her the right way, how to communicate with her, and most importantly — how to feed her the food she thrives on
  • It’s also important to provide your kitty with a feline-friendly indoor environment and opportunities to be outside safely
  • One of the very best ways to give your cat an excellent quality of life is to find creative ways to bring out his inner hunter

Cats and dogs fall into the category of companion animals, but beyond that and the fact that both are furry, the similarities end. Said another way, cats aren't small dogs! Kitties are a fascinatingly unique species — different from other animals, as well as from each other. Each has individual likes and dislikes.

With that said, it’s really not difficult to give your cat all she needs and deserves to make her life with you feline fabulous. It just requires a bit of guidance (which I’m about to provide), some time, attention, and a little outside-the-box thinking.

8 Feline-Friendly Ways to Tell Your Cat ‘I Love You’

1. Touch her the right way — Some cats simply don’t like to be touched and find the whole petting and stroking thing quite stressful. If your kitty initially allows some petting and then abruptly lashes out, it probably means she can tolerate it for a short time, but then it begins to stress her out. She may be touch-averse, or it could be you’re touching her all wrong.

The right way to pet most cats is with an open hand and soft gentle strokes over the back, shoulders, neck, and the top of the head — never the paws, tail, or tummy. Spend some time learning exactly how and where your cat likes to be petted.

The right way to pick up a willing cat is with one hand under her chest and the other hand supporting her back legs. Hold her gently against your upper body so that she feels secure. If she pushes away, looks toward the floor, flattens her ears, or twitches her tail, that’s your cue to put her down quickly and gently.

Some cats love to be held and cuddled, but many do not, and some can only tolerate it for brief periods. If kitty’s tail is in motion and her ears are flattened, she’s had enough — let her go.

2. Learn his communication signals — No matter whether your furry friend is a talker or the strong silent type, learning to understand his body language, behavior, and the sounds he makes can deepen the bond you share with him, and improve communication between you.

The good news is it's not really that difficult to learn to read your kitty's messaging, including what that look in his eyes means, or the tone of his meow, or the position of his ears, or the way he's holding or moving his tail.

3. Feed her like a hypercarnivore — Felines are obligate carnivores (their bodies require animal meat) with very specific dietary requirements. I recommend feeding either a homemade or commercially available nutritionally optimal, species-specific fresh food diet, preferably raw or gently cooked.

If you go the homemade route, you must be absolutely sure the diet is nutritionally balanced. Keep carbs under 15% of your cat’s daily caloric intake.

4. Make his indoor environment stress-free and feline friendly — The term “environmental enrichment" means to improve or enhance the living situation of pets to optimize their health and quality of life. The more comfortable your cat feels in your home, the lower his stress level. Enriching your cat's surroundings means creating minimally stressful living quarters and reducing or eliminating changes in his daily life that cause anxiety.

Enrichment may also mean adding or changing things in your cat's environment that encourage him to enjoy natural feline activities like climbing to a high spot or hunting prey in the form of a cat toy. It’s also important to pay special attention to these 5 indoor environment zones.

Climbing and scratching are natural feline behaviors. Cats scratch to mark their territory with scent in their footpads as well as visually. They also scratch as a way to relieve stress, to stretch and to shed the older layers of their nails. Scratching feels good, too, which is why it's important to give kitty access to a variety of scratching surfaces. Offer burlap, cardboard and carpeted scratching surfaces, placed vertically and horizontally.

5. Use playtime and mealtime to encourage her hunting instincts — Daily interactive playtime is just as important for cats as it is for dogs. To help your little lion get the most from play sessions, think like a cat and buy or create toys that stimulate her hunting instincts.

A piece of string wrapped around the end of a stick that you drag on the ground will bring out the stalker in almost any cat. So will ping-pong balls or small balls of paper that you can flick across the floor.

You can make your own inexpensive kitty toys, but also invest in a few interactive toys that will appeal to your cat’s natural drive to stalk and bring down prey. I also highly recommend these indoor hunting feeders to enrich your cat’s eating and indoor hunting behaviors.

6. Give him opportunities to get outdoors — Even though your kitty lives indoors, it’s important for his mental health to have opportunities to experience the outdoors safely. It also allows him to ground himself. One option is to walk your cat using a harness and leash. Most cats, especially kittens, can be trained to walk on a leash, but not every kitty learns to enjoy the experience, so don’t force the issue if yours seems anxious or uncomfortable.

Another alternative is to create a safe outdoor enclosure or catio that allows him secure access to the outdoors. The enclosure should be open air but shielded enough to prevent escape or a predator from gaining access.

7. Help your fearful feline come out of her shell — It used to be that very timid kitties who spent most of their time under the bed or in another hiding spot, rarely if ever hanging out with the rest of the family, were left mostly to themselves. They had all their physical needs met by their humans, but it just didn't occur to anyone to try to help kitty come out of her shell.

Fortunately, things are changing. Feline experts and advocates are helping cat caretakers understand that shy kitties are often capable of learning to be more confident, approachable, and sociable. You can find some very helpful suggestions here: 10 Tips for Socializing a Shy Cat.

8. Enjoy his affection in all its weird and wonderful forms — Cats have many ways to show affection for their humans — some are quite subtle, while others are, shall we say, quirky.

There’s head butting (aka “head bunting”), kneading (“making biscuits”), grooming (often the top of your head), and the always-popular delivery of “gifts” from outdoors (e.g., dead or nearly dead mice or birds). To fully appreciate all the ways your cat says, “I love you,” it’s important to learn how the feline species shows affection.

Click here to find out Dr. Becker's top tips against seasonal pet allergiesClick here to find out Dr. Becker's top tips against seasonal pet allergies

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