Cats may not be as demonstrative as dogs, but the idea that they’re incapable of love it a myth! Looks for the ways your own kitty shows her affection to you.
Many people regard cats as cold and aloof. They base their views on the widely held assumption that dogs are the only pets who are fiercely loyal and demonstrate affection. But when we examine more closely some of the common behaviors used by cats, we see strong evidence that they really do love their people and are highly capable of forming strong bonds with them.
In order to better appreciate the ways cats show their affection, I interviewed veterinarian and feline expert, Dr. Jean Hofve.
JS: We love our cats and treat them as family members. But how do we know our love is reciprocated? It’s easier with dogs since we are given observable signs that our dogs love us. Can you share some feline behaviors that indicate love and affection from cats?
JH: Cats have more subtle ways of expressing their love than dogs. Here are a few:
When your kitty twines around your legs, or head bumps you, or repeatedly rubs your cheek, he is depositing pheromones (scent marks) on you, in effect saying: “You are mine! You are welcome here in my space.”
2. Parking on your lap
If your cat falls asleep on your lap, up against you, or even a short distance away, he is saying that he trusts you completely, and knows you have his back. That open-hearted trust is a sure sign of love.
Have you caught your cat gazing at you with an adoring expression? That’s a hard one to miss! When he half-closes his eyes in a slow blink, it’s as if he’s blowing kisses to you.
4. Licking, mouthing, and love nips
Not all cats do this, but if yours licks you or mouths your fingers, you’re being told you’re loved! My cat Puzzle would lick the tips of my fingers, and sometimes get so carried away she’d sort of chew on them. Those gentle love nips, akin to suckling, were a great gift of love. Her brother Flynn would actually suck on my thumbs, a behavior he never outgrew.
5. Tall tail
If your cat flags his tail straight up when responding to your voice or while walking toward you, it means he’s really happy to see you!
JS: If cats can love, can they also hate? Do cats carry grudges? What can we do to turn the tide back to a loving relationship?
JH: Cats don’t “hate”. What may seem to us like anger or a grudge is far more likely to have its roots in anxiety or fear.
If your cat is doing something that seems like anger or revenge, understand that it is really a call for help. A cat who sprays around the perimeter of the home is likely stressed about something happening outside. Play detective and eliminate as many stressors as you can. Use play therapy, flower essences, pheromones or other means to help your cat feel more secure.
JS: Since a kitten’s socialization period with humans is so short – only the first seven weeks of his life – is it possible for him to form close bonds with a human after that sensitive socialization period? If so, what can people do to cement bonds with their cats?
JH: Yes, the socialization period is very short. It’s important for kittens to be handled gently by humans during that time, but all is not lost after that age. If a cat chooses you at another age, just allow her to be who she is. Learn her needs and her boundaries. Maybe she’ll turn out to be a total love bug, but every cat is an individual. Many cats dislike being picked up or hugged. Respect those limits. Be available for her, and devote time just to her. Flow your love to your cat…visualize your heart opening up and sending rays of love to her. I promise she’ll get the message!
Any cat lover will agree with Dr. Hofve that our feline friends are very capable of feeling and expressing love and affection. So the next time someone tries to point out that cats are cold or emotionless, tell them how your kitty runs to greet you, rubs herself around your legs or crawls into your lap while loudly purring. These behaviors clearly demonstrate that she’s communicating her love for you!
Jo Singer, MSW, CSW,LCSW (Ret.) is a member of the Cat Writer’s Association, and a retired Certified Social Worker and Psychotherapist. She is also a member of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, and recently completed their course, “Pet Loss and Bereavement Counselling”. Jo has been owned by cats for over 40 years, and shares her Florida home with her husband and three feline friends.