Everyone has their own love language. Some of us show affection by actually saying “I love you” out loud, while others demonstrate devotion by taking out the trash or standing in line for that Supreme sweatshirt their partner’s been eyeing. If cats had a love language, it would be...subtlety. Well, at least to us their gestures seem subtle, but in cat talk, tiny hints have big meanings. We know you’re not desperate or anything, but here are signs that your cat loves you.
Purring on or near you is a huge indication your cat loves you, though in recent years there’s been chitchat among cat experts that purring could mean a lot more. Just after being born, when kittens can’t see anything, they purr to communicate with littermates and make sure their mother can find them at feeding time. When they purr in adulthood, it’s thought that felines are expressing contentment and happiness (as it typically happens during snuggle sessions). However, some people have noticed a correlation between purring and fear. Cats actually use their own purrs to calm themselves down in stressful situations. Which, if you ask us, is pretty resourceful.
2. Saying “hi”
Though cats rely more often on nonverbal cues with each other, they have lots to say to us. If you hear yowls or hisses, it’s not exactly a sign they’re pleased to see you. However, meows, chirps and trills can all indicate your cat is ready to play. It’s basically a text that says, “You’re the best, can we hang out today?” If she sits there, staring at you and meows, it might be more of an attention thing, like, “Hello? You never texted me back. Let’s do something!”
3. Calm expression
Cats are so subtle that a neutral expression can mean they’re ecstatic to see you. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University, a calm cat displays relaxed whiskers and ears pointed upwards, facing forward. In contrast, anxious or aggressive cats would point ears and whiskers backwards or flatten them against their head. Calm expressions mean everything’s good and they enjoy being in your presence (they’re just not going to alert the media).
Beyond that, the American Association of Feline Practitioners reminds folks that cats are, despite what we may sometimes think, social animals. They like being around other animals and their favorite humans, and have thus developed nonverbal methods of communication. If and when your cat makes prolonged eye contact with you, this is their way of checking in and saying, “I’m here. I love ya. Be chill about it.”
4. Rubbing faces
Another way the AAFP states cats communicate is through smell. Cats release pheromones when they rub their faces on stuff, essentially marking something as their own. If your cat rubs her face against your leg or forces her face into your hand while she’s lounging on your lap, this is her way of telling other cats to find their own human, this one’s taken. Also known as head bunting, this behavior melds your two scents together, creating an inseparable bond to everyone else’s noses. Ca-ute!
5. Tall tail
The Humane Society notes that a tail straight up in the air when the rest of the cat’s fur is flat and his expression is calm means…happiness! So, if your kitty has made a habit of parading around the house tail up, reminding you of Aunt Gayle’s paintings from Bob’s Burgers, know it’s his way of expressing joy.
If you aren’t sure whether your cat kneads or not, consider if you’ve ever seen her “make biscuits” or give your leg a mini massage. She’ll scrunch her paws into tiny paw fists over and over again, kneading whatever’s under them. As newborns, kittens do this to their mother to squeeze more milk out of her. As adults, cats do this when they feel utter bliss. They might push their paws into a blanket while you scratch their heads or into your side while they sit on your lap. Either way, take note. They love you!
7. Belly baring
A cat’s stomach is considered off-limits most of the time. Exposing it is a vulnerable move for him, and he won’t do it often. If and when he does, embrace this pivotal moment in your relationship. Baring his belly to you means he trusts you implicitly. He may even let you pet it—for a few seconds—or you may want to dangle a string toy above him for a little playtime. Bottom line: He feels safe with you, which is really lovely.
Some cat behaviorists believe cats delivering freshly killed rodents to their owners is a sign of affection. This may very well be. It’s their way of showing appreciation for all your work feeding them and keeping their litter boxes clean. On the other hand, cats tend to see their human companions as fellow cats, rather than another species, so they may just be sharing their accomplishment, thinking you’ll appreciate it since you’ve got the same feline hunting instincts.
Keep in mind, all cats are different and have distinct personalities. Some are more up front about their feelings than others—don’t take it personally.