Weird things cats do when they love you
Sure, cats seem like fickle creatures, but they can actually be extremely affectionate to the humans that they love. Head ‘bunting,’ kneading, and slow blinks — these are just some of the things cats do when they love you.
1. They moon you
Seriously. They will stick their little booties in your face when they love you. The meaning is gross, yet sweet at the same time.
“This is especially true if your cat is performing the elevator butt pose (lowered chest and raised rear end with tail up high),” says Emily Parker of Catological.“In this position, your furball has put herself in a vulnerable position and is allowing you to smell her … if you wish. The act of smelling is a form of communication for cats and this is her way of saying ‘Let’s talk.’”
2. They reveal their bellies
Ah yes, the elusive belly reveal.
“Some cats will show you their belly, which means they trust you. But often times it could be a very tempting trap so approach bellies with caution!” Melanie Deisz of cat-sitting company Meowtel says.
Some cats are not keen on getting belly “scritches” even if they’re showing their big ol’ bellies to you. I know, it’s confusing and totally seems like mixed signals. Just take Deisz’s advice to heart and you’ll be scratch-free!
3. Their tails are ‘emotional barometers’
If you’re ever confused as to how your cat is feeling, take a look at their tail. Depending on the shape it’s making and how it’s moving, your cat could be expressing whether they’re annoyed, happy, scared, etc.
For example, a wagging tail usually means that they’re annoyed or angry.
A tail that’s tucked between their legs might mean they’re scared — just like it does for dogs.
As for loving behaviors, a cat wrapping their tail around their human’s legs indicates affection. An upright tail with a slight curve at the end is also a telling tale (get it?) of love.
4. Their tails vibrate
“Cats that love you will put their tail straight up in the air with a hook on the end (like a candy cane),” says Karen Reese, the animal behavior manager at Operation Kindness. “They may vibrate their tail when they see you indicating their excitement.”
Remember what I said about cats’ tails being “emotional barometers”? This is a perfect example of the various cat tail behaviors that indicate a cat’s emotions.
Don’t confuse tail vibrations with tail-wagging, says an April 2019 report in Catological. Tail wags mean they’re angry, usually.
5. They give you ‘gifts’
“Outdoor cats may bring their owners clothes, shoes, sponges, leaves, flowers, and pretty much anything they can find and transport,” Emily Parker of Catological says.
Sometimes, an outdoor cat might bring you a small dead animal as a gift. If you get angry at your cat, they’ll be confused because they understand it as bringing you a present.
If you’re worried about vermin dying, it’s best to keep your cat indoors. (It’s safer for kitties, too!)
“Indoor cats may pick things out of the laundry or stuffed animals from around the house and bring them to you,” says Parker. “Just remember … it’s the thought that counts.”
6. They bite you — but it’s not what you think!
If your first thought is — wait, what? Biting = love? We don’t blame you. It seems unlikely that a bite from an animal would be loving, but you’d be surprised.
“If your cat is giving you small bites, they may actually be saying that they love you,” says Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM. “The bites are usually more playful and do not hurt.”
If your cat is biting you HARD and doing other behaviors that indicate anger — e.g., hissing, ears back, growling, etc. — then that isn’t a bite of love, that’s a bite of hatred. If your cat is angry, then back off!
7. They puff out their tummies
So, I’m not entirely sure on this point, but my cat does this while doing her vibrating tail move (see slide four).
“I have seen them do this when they are marking their territory,” Dr. Ochoa told me. “I would think that (she) is marking you as (hers).”
Combine a vibrating tail with a puffy tummy and you get a happy, loving cat is my reasoning. Why would she “mark me as her territory” if she doesn’t love me? Right?
8. They blink slowly at you
When a cat stares deeply into your eyes and blinks slowly, that’s their way of saying, “I love you.” It seems weird, but it’s legit a loving act of cat kindness.
“Cats take blink-less stares as a challenge whereas slow blinks is a sign of affection,” Melanie Deisz of cat-sitting company Meowtel says.
“If you want to tell a particularly difficult cat that you can be trusted, try slow blinking. Sometimes it works! Other times, they’ll turn around and walk away.”
If the slow blinks don’t work, do not fret! Sometimes it takes cats a bit of time to get used to you.
9. They roll
Sometimes when they’re happy to see you, cats will throw themselves down at your feet and start rockin’ and rollin’! When kids do this, they’re having a tantrum, writes Amy Shojai in The Spruce Pets. But when cats do this, it’s all about love.
“This is a loving greeting and means they want your attention, especially if they show you their belly,” Shojai writes.
In slide two, we talked about that elusive belly reveal being a sign of affection. However, proceed with caution if you’re trying to pet the belly.
10. They scratch areas associated with you
Cats scratch for various reasons — to remove dead outer layers of their claws, to stretch their bodies and feet, and to mark their territory visually and scent-wise. Keeping this last point in mind, pay attention to where your cat scratches.
If they’re scratching in areas associated with you, they might be leaving visual and scented marks of ownership on those areas. These scratches all over the couch prove they’re not YOUR cat, you’re THEIR human.
How cats love is flipping the script on us, huh?
11. They headbutt you (aka ‘head bunt’)
Cats show affection for their humans by “headbutting” them — correctly called “head bunting” by animal behaviorists.
“Head bunting refers to a range of behaviors that includes anything from a gentle pressing of the cat’s head against yours, to a rough ‘bonk,’” says Dawn LaFontaine of retailer Cat in the Box.
“There are temporal glands on a cat’s head and these are what are being deployed in a head bunt,” says LaFontaine. “The scent glands secrete a fatty substance that can be transferred from the cat to other objects, cats, and people, and when a cat is head bunting, she is transferring her scent to you.”
12. They lick you
“It’s the height of love or at least acceptance to groom their human by licking, nibbling skin, hair or their caregiver’s clothing,” Layla Morgan Wilde, cat expert and founder of Cat Wisdom 101, says. “This spreads a familiar group scent making the human part of the kitty tribe.”
With their sandpaper-like tongues, cats dedicate a large part of their days to self-grooming. You should be honored that your kitty wants to include you in this sacred ritual.
13. They play with you
Just like we watch TV or practice our hobbies, cats have things they like to do for fun. No. 1 on their list — playing! And what makes playing even better for them is playing with a trusted companion (e.g., YOU or another beloved human).
“Some cats may actually control the interaction by moving just out of reach so you are forced to come to them and start playing,” writes Shojai in The Spruce Pets.
Now that’s just plain sneaky. Seems like Fluffy is a bit smarter than you thought, huh?
14. They follow you
“If your feline friend follows you from room to room, jumps onto tables and counters to be near you, and always seems to be right where you step, she clearly enjoys your company,” Laura Moss writes in Mother Nature Network.
They might especially be underfoot when it’s nearing feeding time.
So that’s why Fluffy always follows you into the bathroom! They want to be by your side always — even at your most vulnerable moments on the porcelain throne.
15. They hug you — with their tails
This goes back to cat tails being emotional barometers (slide three). The sturdy force often used to help with cats’ balance can indicate approval and possession. This is expressed when cats brush up against a human and wind their tail around them.
According to an article on PetMD, cats do this move to tell the world, “Yes, this is my human.”
When taking my cat to the vet for her annual checkup, I saw her wind her tail around the vet’s leg and felt a pang of jealousy, having just read that PetMD article …
16. They spread out
If your furry friend is feeling relaxed and happy around you, they might stretch out and lounge the heck out! This is an undeniable sign of comfort. If a cat wasn’t comfortable and calm around you, they might hide or hiss till you go away and leave them be.
My favorite pastime is reading a book about radical feminist theory on my bed while my cat, Zoe, stretches out next to me. I imagine she feels comforted by my presence as well as my pro-woman choice of literature. (She was a critical gender studies major at Meowingtons University.)
17. They knead you
To the feline-unaware, the whole notion of “kneading” might seem strange. This is when cats push their paws in and out against blankets, pillows, other cats, and even YOU, in a rhythmic fashion. If you’ve made bread before, you’ve likely done the same move.
“If your cat is curled up and kneading your lap while you’re petting him, he’s returning the affection and telling you he loves you right back,” reads a post in PetMD.
Unfortunately, this cute behavior can be painful for humans. To prevent scratches, put a blanket between you and your cat’s claws.
18. They sleep next to you
In case you haven’t noticed, cats sleep 12 to 16 hours a day.
“Since they are the most vulnerable while sleeping, the place your cat chooses to snooze must be a secure and trusted location,” writes Shojai in The Spruce Pets.
Sometimes sleeping by their human’s side might be that secure and trusted location they seek! Think about it: You’re a big, warm cuddly buddy for your kitty to be comforted by. They might sleep on your lap when you watch movies or sleep on your bed while you get beauty rest.
19. They ‘talk’ to you
Cats use meows to communicate with humans. In particular, cats like to give you a little trill.
A trill “is a sound that a cat makes when they are feeling content, and it often is used as their ‘greeting’ to the humans that they admire,” writes Modi Ramos in Cole and Marmalade.
I think it sounds like a little chirping noise and honestly, really darn cute.
It’s often said that cats don’t really meow at other cats. They’ll reserve other noises for fellow felines — perhaps hissing if they really don’t like each other …
20. They rub their cheeks on you
Cats show their love “dancing cheek to cheek” — aka rubbing their cheeks on you.
“Kitties have scent glands on their cheeks that produce pheromones,” writes Marilyn Krieger in Catster. “In addition to showing their favorite people trust and affection, felines mark ownership through the behavior and mingle their scents with those they are attached to.”
This is a similar behavior to “head bunting,” aka head butting. (See slide number 11.)
For cats that might be new friends, you can invite them to be friends by extending an index finger or a hand out for them to sniff. Cats that accept your invitation might rub their cheeks on your hand in appreciation.
21. They hang out with you
“Felines like being around those they feel an affinity for. Your special kitty might be relaxing near you or napping on your lap,” writes Marilyn Krieger in Catster. “She might position herself so that she touches you — her back may be against your leg or she reaches out and pats you with a paw.”
Even if your cat isn’t super cuddly, they still want to be around you. They might just want to put their paw on you or sit next to you. They want to be around people that they feel close to — aka YOU or another person in your household that may care for them.
22. They sit on you
Cats may sit on you because they want to rest and hang out on a place — in this case, a person — that makes them feel safe and comforted. Also, cats love the warmth of a human lap. They sleep for about 12-16 hours and want their beauty rest to be cozy as heck!
“Like most … busy pe(ople) you also perhaps stay out of your home … most of the time,” reads a post on Cat Facts for Kids. “Wh(en) you finally get back to your house, your furry buddy likes to adore you, by sitting on you or sleeping on your lap.”
23. They sleep on your clothes
“Cats find comfort and familiarity in scents that they associate with their territory, and things that they like and that makes them happy,” reads an article in Pets4Homes. “This includes, of course, the scent of you as their person, and clothes that you have worn will be imbued with your own distinct scent.”
If you want a cat to use that $50 cat bed you purchased for them (but they never used), try placing a piece of your clothing on the cat bed. (Make sure it’s one that you don’t mind getting cat hair on!) The kitty in question might climb into that cat bed!
24. They rub against your legs
This behavior is similar to slide number 15 — cats hugging humans with their tails. We know that cats like to rub their cheeks on humans and head bunt humans in order to express affection. Cats also rub against their human’s legs to show their love.
“Rubbing against another creature is how cats show affection. If your kitty rubs up against your leg … he’s putting his scent on you as a way of claiming you as his own,” Dr. Karen Becker writes in Healthy Pets via Mercola.com.
25. They greet you when you get home
“The easiest way to know that your cat loves you is if they’re excited to see you after you’ve been out of the house — meaning minutes or hours,” Melanie Deisz of Meowtel says. “Cats show their excitement by chatting with/at/towards you upon your arrival.”
You might expect this is just a dog’s behavior, but no — the doorstep greetings are also a feline method of indicating affection. Your kitty is just letting you know that they’re super glad to see their favorite person in the whole wide world — YOU!
26. They purr
You don’t have to be a cat expert to know that purring is an indication of happiness.
“You’ll often hear this rumbling, vibrating noise while you are petting your cat,” writes Shojai in The Spruce Pets. “Purrs can also mean your cat is upset but it’s not as common.”
For those that haven’t heard a cat purr, it sounds like a little motor that makes the whole kitty vibrate with happiness. (Unless those are upset purrs like Shojai mentioned.)
Now for some ways you can show love back … Click “Next” to find out!
27. Play with your cat
True, cats do like to lounge about in the sun for a good portion of their day. However … “That doesn’t mean cats don’t need or enjoy playing games with their owners,” reads a post on Vetstreet. “Cats love to be mentally and physically stimulated and they love to spend time playing with their owners.”
Cats are extremely curious creatures. When they get into your bags or rip up toilet paper, they’re not “acting out,” but rather are bored and trying to be mentally stimulated. To reduce the chances of your entire toilet paper stash being shredded, play with your cat!
28. Slow blink back!
“By blinking slowly at your cat, you are communicating that you are aware of its presence and pose no threat,” writes Adriane Bishko in Fetch by WebMD. “So the next time your cat blinks at you, try returning the gesture.”
This might be especially useful as a tactic when trying to befriend a fearful cat. If you blink at them, you’re trying to tell them that you “come in peace.” If that doesn’t work, leave that scaredy-cat alone, my friend.
29. Let them sleep next to you
A lot of people let their pets sleep in the bed with them — the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated in a 2011 report that less than 60% of people in the U.S. share their bed with a furry friend.
While this’ll make your kitty super pleased (sleeping with humans makes cats feel comforted, safe, and warm), there’s also a risk for diseases to get spread to humans, the CDC report details. In particular, “zoonotic diseases.”
30. Pet your cat
Some cats love nothing more than to be pet and will purr with delight if you do so.
“Many cats, despite the common and persistent myth that they are aloof, welcome affection from their people,” writes Christine O’Brien in a blog post on Hill’s.
“In fact, petting and holding your cat helps build a loving relationship between the two of you,” O’Brien continues.
Some cats do want their space and minimal petting (read: tortoiseshell cats with “tortitude”) and some cats don’t like petting at all, like feral cats.
- Becker, Karen. “10 Ways Your Kitty Says ‘I Love You.’” Mercola.com. Accessed February 12, 2020.
- Bishko, Adriane. “What Your Cat’s Body Language Is Saying.” Fetch by Web MD.
- Cat Facts For Kids. “Why Do Cats Sleep and Sit On You.” Accessed February 12, 2020.
- Chomel, Bruno B. and Sun, Ben. January 26, 2011. “Zoonoses in the Bedroom.” Centers for Disease Control.
- Deisz, Melanie. Meowtel.
- iFamCare. March 30, 2018. “Top Signs That Your Cat Is Happy.”
- LaFontaine, Dawn. Cat in the Box.
- Kelley, Jane A. October 22, 2019. “All About the Cat Belly — Why Cats Show It and If You Should Pet It.” Catster.
- Krieger, Marilyn. January 1, 2020. “How Do Cats Show Affection? Look For These 7 Affection Signs.” Catster.
- Moss, Laura. June 24, 2015. “8 ways cats say ‘I love you.’” Mother Nature Network.
- Mutz, Phil. December 4, 2015. “The 10 Incredible Ways Your Cat Shows You Love.” HuffPost.
- O’Brien, Christine. October 30, 2019. “Do Cats Like to Be Petted?” Hill’s.
- Ochoa, Sara. DVM. Dog Lab.
- Parker, Emily. “Why Do Cats Shake Or Vibrate Their Tails, And What Does it Mean?” Catological.
- PetMD. “Does Your Cat Love you? 7 Signs to Look For.” Accessed February 12, 2020.
- PetMD. “Why Do Cats Knead?” Accessed February 12, 2020.
- Pets4Homes. “Why Do Cats Like To Sleep On Items Of Clothing.” Accessed February 12, 2020.
- Ramos, Modi. Cole and Marmalade. “8 Signs Your Cat Loves You.” Accessed February 12, 2020.
- Reese, Karen. Operation Kindness.
- Shojai, Amy. August 22, 2019. “How Cats Show They Love You.” The Spruce Pets.
- Wilde, Layla Morgan. Cat Wisdom 101.
- Vetstreet. August 6, 2015. “Why Play is Important for Your Cat.”