Feline Affection And The Way They Show It
By Hannah Baker October 06, 2018
It’s a universally recognized fact that cat owners absolutely adore their kitty companions. But the converse? It’s up for debate. While some are confident that their cats show definitive, lasting love day in and day out, others argue that this pseudo-affection is actually just aggression in disguise. Some go so far as to say that our cats not only hate us, but that they bring us dead animals to show us what they’d like to do to us (if they were 20x bigger in size) However, regardless of what side of the debate you are on, there are a few things that cats do that are undeniably precious, innocent, and almost drip with affection. Are these actions their way of showing us they care? Let’s explore.
Do Cats Feel Affection?
In short, yes! Cats actually have a pretty complex system of emotions. Even more, they express this emotion in a variety of different ways. (But we already knew that, didn’t we? Cats are extremely smart.) Cats can cycle through a variety of different emotional states, from excitement to affection to fear. Unlike dogs, cats express how they are feeling in ways that are universal to the feline family while at the same time being unique to each individual cat.
Do Cats Show Affection?
It’s one thing that cats have these feelings, but do they express them to us humans? We love to personify our cats by guessing what they’re thinking and feeling. But what’s actually going on in their heads? Behavioral experts say that yes, they do express affection towards us. It may not be in the most straightforward way, though. While cats cuddling with us do tend to indicate affection, there are many more indicators of the love that cats have for us.
How Do Cats Show Affection?
Perhaps the most obvious way that cats show affection is when they cuddle. Known for being rather selective as to who they let into their life, cats choosing to cuddle with you is a pretty blatant way of showing you that you are in their favorable graces. Most cat owners agree that it’s the greatest feeling in the world to be one of the Chosen Ones.
The feline family is, in general, very aware of their surroundings, and they guard themselves accordingly. When in the wild, cats must choose wisely where they rest so that they do not leave themselves open for an attack in the middle of their sleep. So when house cats choose to sleep on their owner, this means that they trust them and feel safe with them. This is the ultimate compliment, if you ask us.
When cats are content or happy, they purr. This can happen when they’re doing a variety of things, from relaxing to hunting. However, if they are hanging out next to you and letting you pet them or even falling asleep, purring likely indicates that they are feeling very content in your presence.
Perhaps the sweetest and most intimate way that cats show affection is when they rub their cheek against your face. Generally, this means that a cat is trying to leave their scent on something that they love. (Psst… that’s you.) Another possible meaning, though, is if somebody has rough facial hair. Then, the cat probably very much enjoys the scratch they receive from this rubbing action.
Similar to cheek rubbing, cats may bump their heads against your forehead and apply the slightest bit of pressure. This indicates that they favor you and, like cheek rubbing, want to leave their scent behind so that they can mark their territory. (Have you ever been happier to be marked as something’s territory?)
The action of kneading originates from kittenhood when kittens would knead into their mother’s fur while they milked. When kneading into adulthood, this likely means that a cat feels comfortable and has maternal feelings to the human that they are kneading. Milking is one of the most primary feelings of comfort for kittens, so adults who knead are likely in a heightened state of peace.
Exposing their belly is a bold move for a cat. Lying on their back is not the most powerful position. So when a cat rolls over to show you their belly (or, heaven forbid, let you rub it), they are showing you that they trust you not to attack them.
Following You Around
A cat simply wanting to be in your presence is a pretty good indicator of affection. If a cat didn’t favor you, they likely would not follow you around. If you are lucky enough to have a cat that waits by the door for you to return, follows you around the house, and prefers to hang out in the same room that you are in, then you have a pretty loving friend.
Kittens are likely to play very often and with anybody, but when cats continue to play with their owner into adulthood, it indicates a level of trust. Playing is one of the purest forms of entertainment for a cat, and it is one that releases their aggression in a careful and controlled way.
You can tell a lot from a cat’s eyes. Generally, when a cat is squinting, blinking often, or even closing their eyes, it means that they are happy being around you. On the contrary, a cat who is stimulated and on the hunt will have dilated pupils and bright, open eyes.
A cat that approaches you with a high tail that is slightly curved at the end probably likes you well enough. If, when you’re petting a cat, they stick their butt in the air (we’ve all seen this), it probably means that they are thoroughly enjoying the petting process and would like you to continue. What an honor.
In many species, licking is a primary way that animals show affection. Cats are no exception. When in kittenhood, baby cats are groomed by their mother. They reciprocate this action into adulthood to show their maternal feelings for other cats or humans.
Meowing can certainly mean a multitude of things such as hunger, discomfort, and anger to name a few. However, if your cat loves to “talk” to you by responding to your words with meows, it’s likely that they find you favorable. While sometimes they may just be begging for a snack (cats always seem to want more), they also might just want your attention.
Bringing You Gifts
We use the term gifts loosely here. Cats sometimes bring us dead animals. It’s not the best sight to see, but just take comfort in the fact that your cat likely intended this to be a gift or peace offering for the one they love: you.
Cats aren’t the easiest type of animal to demystify. But that’s why we love them, right? Cats are complex and mysterious in the most beautiful way. While each cat is unique, there are certain ways that we can universally tell that our cats love us. And hey, even if they don’t, they have a pretty adorable way of hating us.
At the end of the day, the effect they have on us is the best of them all. Cats can cure a heartache, cheer up their owners, and be the best friends that we’ve ever had.
And that’s pretty cool.