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How Do Cats Show Affection? Look For These 7 Affection Signs

How do cats show affection? Let's examine some forms of cat affection using body language, postures and vocalizations right here.
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How do cats show affection? Cat kisses, grooming, tail fluffs, chirps and mews — these are a few of the sweet ways that cats show affection to the people they feel close to. Because some signs of cat affection are subtle, they are often misinterpreted and sometimes overlooked. So, how do cats show affection? Typically, kitties do not demonstrate their warm feelings toward people in loud, boisterous ways. They don’t wag their tails or shower their loved ones with sloppy kisses like some dogs do. Instead, cats whisper their affections. Here are some signs of cat affection that every cat parent should know.

1. Cats show affection through their eyes

A gray tabby cat with his eyes closed or blinking.
Slow blinking is a common sign of cat affection. Photography ©KandM-photography | Thinkstock.

How do cats show affection with their eyes? It is a pretty good indicator that your cat trusts and enjoys your company when she looks at you with half-closed eyes while slowly blinking. These special eye blinks are called cat kisses and are reciprocal. You can tell your cat you love her too by giving her cat kisses. This sign of cat affection conveys relaxation, contentment, affection and trust; they help build and strengthen your relationship with her. She may respond with more slow blinks.

2. Cats show affection through their tails

A cat tail curled at the top.
Tails are a good way to tell what your cat is feeling. Photography ©Photodisc | Thinkstock.

How do cats show affection through their tails? Tails are emotional barometers, accurately conveying emotions through how they are held and positioned, and the degrees of fur puffiness. When combined with body language and other indicators, they communicate a gamut of emotions from fear and aggression to affection and happiness. Whereas most people readily recognize signs of fear and aggression, they are not as aware that tails are indicators of cat affection, too.

Cats often show their emotional attachments through tail placements. Connection is demonstrated by twining tails around the legs and arms of their favored buddies. Sometimes kitties express warm feelings as they relax next to their people while physically touching or resting their tails on them. Although I try not to anthropomorphize, the sweet behavior reminds me of holding hands with a best friend.

In addition to tail wrapping and touching, kitties express happiness and warm feelings by fluffing out the base of their tails while subtly quivering them. Simultaneously they hold their tails upright with a slight curve at the top. This behavior is sometimes called the happy tail dance. Usually it is accompanied by an endearing kitty love blink.

3. Cats show affection through cheek rubs

A cat man getting a head rub from a gray cat.
Check rubs are another sign of cat affection. Photography ©Matteo Viviani | Thinkstock.

How do cats show affection when they rub their cheeks on you? One friendly way cats greet those they trust and feel safe with is by rubbing their cheeks on them. Cheek rubs are a sign of cat affection that are also invitations for socializing. Kitties have scent glands on their cheeks that produce pheromones. 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.

With cats you don’t know, you can encourage socialization by extending your index finger toward the cat at about her nose level. It doesn’t matter whether she is a few feet away or across the street. If she wants to say hello, she’ll approach your finger and touch it with her nose and then turn her head until your finger is on her cheek. If she trusts you, she will rub your hand with her cheek, indicating that she is open to socializing. This may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

4. Cats show affection through head bunting

how do cats show affection
Cats show affection through head bunting. Photography ©CasarsaGuru | E+ / Getty Images.

How do cats show their affection through head butts, or head bunting? This is a sign of cat affection that also marks you and mingles her scent with yours. This is a social cat affection behavior that does double duty. In addition to showing trust and friendship, head bunting proclaims ownership. Scent that is produced from glands located on your kitty’s head is transferred on you when she butts you with her head.

5. Cats show affection through language

how do cats show affection
Certain vocalizations . Photography ©graphixchon | Thinkstock.

How do cats show affection with cat sounds? Chirrs, chirps, purrs, trills and mews often communicate endearments and trust. Although mom cats communicate reassurance to their kittens through chirrs and chortles, these sweet sounds of cat affection are often reserved for special people whom cats feel close to. Endearing emotions are also expressed through other vocalizations such as special meows and mews — some are soft and kitten-like, while others are louder.

Purring can also indicate that your kitty is feeling secure, safe and reassured around you. Her purrs may show affection, especially when she accompanies them with kitty kisses and other expressive cat affection signals such as touching you with a paw or tail.

6. Cats show affection through grooming

how do cats show affection
A cat who grooms you may be showing his affection for you. Photography ©Murika | Thinkstock.

How do cats show affection through grooming? Cats who feel connected and close to each other will mutually groom (allogrooming). The behavior helps them relax, shows trust and builds a community scent — important for recognizing family members and buddies. People are not exempt from this sign of cat affection — grooming isn’t reserved just for those of the same species. Cats will sometimes lick their human friends, displaying affection while mingling their scents.

7. Cats show affection by hanging out on and around you

A gray kitten on a couch, licking with his tongue out.
Even if your cat isn’t a lap cat, hanging out around you still indicates that she loves you. Photography by 5second/Thinkstock.

How do cats show affection when they follow you? Felines like being around those they feel an affinity for. Your special kitty might be relaxing near you or napping on your lap. 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 a lap cat, she may still demonstrate she feels connected to you by hanging out nearby.

Some kitties follow their people around the house. Food isn’t part of the equation — they trail their humans because they like being with them. Some tag along, following those they feel connected to from room to room.

The bottom line on cat affection and cat communication

Cats are very good communicators, using a combination of body language, postures and vocalizations to express their feelings. Although cat affection is subtle and at times complex, they have a variety of ways of showing affection and trust to the people they are attached to.

Tell us: How do cats show affection, in your experience?

Thumbnail: Photography ©igor_kell | Thinkstock.

This post was originally published in 2010.

Still stumped on cats showing affection? Meeowcat.com reviews the 10 most affectionate cat breeds >>

About the author

Please follow Marilyn on Facebook!

If you suspect a behavioral problem, always rule out any possible medical issues that may be causing the behavior by first having your cat examined by a veterinarian. Marilyn can also help you resolve cat behavior challenges through a consultation.

Marilyn, a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, LLC, solves cat behavior problems nationally and internationally through on site, Skype and phone consultations. She uses force free methods that include environmental changes, management, clicker training and other behavior modification techniques.

She is also an author. Her award-winning book Naughty No More! focuses on solving cat behavior problems through clicker training and other force-free methods. Marilyn is big on education — she feels it is important for cat parents to know the reasons behind their cat’s behaviors. She is a frequent guest on television and radio, answering cat behavior questions and helping people understand their cats.

Read more about cat behavior on Catster.com:

81 thoughts on “How Do Cats Show Affection? Look For These 7 Affection Signs”

  1. Kneading is also a cat behavior that many people find strange. Kneading basically refers to when cats press their paws on things. There can be several reasons why cats do this. Naturally, this behavior begins among cats during their kitten days – they would knead the tummy of their mothers with their paws in order to stimulate milk flow. As cats grow older, they tend to develop this behavior into a habit. More often than not, if your cat kneads, it just simply means they feel contented and relaxed.

  2. My cat Oscar talks to me and it just feels like a conversation lol. He miaows at me as soon as he sees me and he jumps on the kitchen counter and rubs his face on me and when he has eaten he comes back to me and miaows again and rubs me telling me thank you for my food lol. Throughout the day he seeks me out for attention and purrs and climbing on my lap and sometimes on my chest.

    I think Oscar definitely shows me just how much he loves me and mummy cuddles

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  4. All cats love to be petted, of course, but have you ever been petted by a cat? Our cats use their tails to lightly stroke the people they love. It’s like being stroked by a feather duster!

    1. You know that you are loved when your cats try to get you up at 4:30 am to eat. Mine will tap my arms and walk all over you until you get their attention. We have two brothers that we had adopted thru the Protectors of Animals in CT, and they do everything together. They are sure a joy to have around, and they know their home is safe and warm. They have lots of windows to look out at and to bask in the sun. Every night when I go to bed, they will follow me to bed and want me to pet him until they fall asleep and they will sleep by my side until my husband turns in, and then they lay right next to us the whole night.

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  8. My dearly beloved Honeycat used to sleep all night every night curled up on my chest with her head right over my heart. I believe she found the sound of my heartbeat a great comfort. She had had a hard life before we met — someone must have loved her before because she was so eager to be close, but she had been abandoned and was literally starving. Initially I called her NoName, but one day she was sitting with me kneading and purring ecstatically. I was murmuring endearments to her and I heard myself say “You’re my little Honeycat”. The truth of that statement was immediately clear!

      1. I often give my pets nicknames, in addition their official name. My niece brought Sheba to me, and had named her Spook, because she showed up at her house in October. My mom took her to the vet, but couldn't remember her name, so she called her Sheba. I was fine with that, especially since she's the Queen of Daddy's Heart. But if I had waited, I would have named her Squeaky, because of the way she meows. So that's her nickname now.

  9. Claudia Schumann

    My Ginger shows affection by bringing me her toy mouse after she captures it and puts it at my feet as a gift to me. Truly a loving cat and I’m glad it’s not a real mouse!

  10. Not always been a cat lover. All our lives we have had dogs. Twenty years ago I lost my dog. I swore I’d never have another pet. It’s so heartbreaking when you loose them. Then three years ago a came into my house and gave birth to four kittens. To say the least I was hysterical. I always feared cats. Like my mum before me. I phoned the R S P A. Who came my house. And the cat and kittens way. That was on 19th November 1917. I rang the R S P A up every week to check on her. Eventually we said if no one was going to claim her. We would adopt her. So we did. I picked her. Up the 29th march. We named her kitty. We spoil her rotten. Our friends and family say. She is one spoilt cat. Lol. And she is. She does all the above. And more. Kitty brings so much love to our lives. I couldn’t imagine live without her. She is so pleasant and loving. She loves to sit on my knee. And watch the football. Manchester United being her favourite. I think it’s the colour red that does it. I believe kitty feels our love. And we certainly feel hers. She never really leaves the house. Unless she comes with me. When I peg my washing out. Or in the summer she sits with me all time in the garden. When we are doing the garden she comes out just sits there and watches. Then follows you back in. Thee years in March we’ve had her now. So glad and happy that we found each other. All my friends and family around me say. I don’t believe you a cat lover. But got to say it’s true. I truly love my cat. And she truly loves me. Thank you. Anne.

      1. Oh my gosh, Max, your comment had me rolling laughing for 10 minutes. :) I just caught what Anne typo’d! Haha!

    1. Man United men or women’s? We are Man United womens fans. One of my cats likes to get up against the TV and chase the ball with the players ???? its so cute. She is the lap kitty. Her sister is not and is more mischievous. Its amazing how different siblings can be.

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  13. I’m honoured that our 3 furbabies do all of these signs of affection to us and also the will roll on their backs and want belly rubs
    my 2 year old peanut coloured tabby is highly affectionate and a real “mummy’s boy” and as a result will sleep next to me on my bed with his head on the pillow next to me and his body under the covers as that’s how humans sleep and he is firmly convinced he is human!!!! for those of you that went ewwww its okay as my cats enjoy a shower with us or regular baths every 2 weeks so they are always clean and totally free of any nasties
    my bib boy who is a Bengal cross also likes to hang around our neck like a scarf and be carried around with us that way
    in our household our furbabies are treated as family members just like any human member so quite often they will vocalise to chat with us and are very loving and affectionate to us
    we know very quickly if they don’t like or trust someone as they will omit a cat version of a dog growl and avoid that person completely while sitting and glaring at them from a distance
    we are lucky and blessed to have such beautiful loving cats that love us as much or more than we love tham

  14. My Samson rescued me 7/9/19. I love him so much and could never be without him now. He displays all of the 7 signs of affection. He is a lap cat and every morning I say, “Good morning my love, who’s the best kitty in the world?” He responds with purrs and the slow eye blink. Me: That’s right, it’s my Samson!
    Then I say, “Do you love your mommy?” Response: more purrs and slow blinks. He’s so sweet and such a sweet boy!

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  18. My little cat wilfy does all the seven above behaviours and a couple of others, he loves to roll over and have his chest and tummy stroked but only by me and he loves to climb up on to my shoulders when he has a fuss to which is Uber cute.
    And presents, he brought me two live and unharmed bats just the other day, perfectly laid at me feet. Not bad for a cat rescued from a pet shop, poor thing still had milky eyes where he was so young.
    Took him because he was jet black and that’s really not popular with people and reported the pet shop.
    There was even one kitten in the cage that had died. My wolf is 3 years old today bless him.
    Wolf is short for willful little bast**d which I think covers his nature perfectly.
    He’s a bugger but still the best cat I have ever had.

    1. Love it.the name would fit my little bitty cat. That is her name. She came to our yard and was eating roaches that comes to the outside light.bshe was so small she would have fit on a hamburger buns.we had another cat 11 years old that kitty hottie followed around. She learned from our blackie that we were ok. After two months she would in and let us pet her. Then the awful day our blackie died. Still crying over that. I am sure that God sent this little one to help heal the pain. We love her and will do our best for her since she is truly ours.

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  20. Julinah Mohd Shariff

    I must say that all the seven signs of cat affection are true and I am blessed to have experienced all of them with my 2 cats. I love them and convinced that they love me too.

  21. The first cat I had I rescued from some young kids who were throwing him up in the air to see if he would land on his feet. He was a stray and probably not more then 6 weeks old. We named him Peak-A-Bo because he would play peakabo with us around the table legs. As he got older he pretty much became Mom and Dads cat. Every night Dad would play with Peak and ruff house. Dad always had little scratches on his arms. But with Mom it was a total different story. Every morning Peak would quietly walk up her side of the bed, go to the night stand, look at the clock and if it was 6:30 he would go to Moms face and gently pat her cheek to wake her up. When it came to a Saturday, Mom told him not until 7:00. He would go to the foot of the bed for a half hour and then repeat going up to the night stand and look at the clock then again pat on the cheek to wake her up. He was always right on the time. Sometimes I believe some cats, like humans are very intelligent.

    1. The first part of your comment broke my heart, but what a wonderful ending. So glad your kitty was found by your family.

    2. My MADDIE IS THE SWEETEST CAT, SHE JUST LOOKS AT ME WITH LOVE, SLEEPS WITH ME(HAIR AND ALL) I GOT HER AT 2 SHE IS NOW ALMOST 11, SHE PICKED ME AT THE HUMAIN SHOPE ALL THE CATS HISSEST AT ME, SHE PUT HER PAW ON MY HAND

  22. I always tell my husband that I’m our cat’s favorite as he gives me a daily bath. Quite thorough, too. He just says I must be filthy and NEED the bath.

    Think he’s just jealous.

  23. I have 3 kitties, one was raised by my oldest corgi and thinks he is a corgi. My black kitty, a boy gives me “love bites” on the tips of my fingers that is his way of saying he loves me and wants to be petted and loved. My 3rd is a little girl and is still scared, but I am winning her over with treats and love. PS all 3 are rescues.

  24. I/we here are blessed with five stray cats. Molly (mama) had three lil girls about three months old and she was pregnant with five more when she came here. We kept her, the three girls and one boy from her last litter. Molly is very sweet and follows me where ever I go. The girls are precious too, the little boy (Roki) is the most affectionate cat I´ve ever had and a real hoot at times. Believe me, I have had many cats. He likes to be in my lap (purring loudly like a motor boat) and if I don´t pay enough attention he will jump up, climb up on my belly and make biscuits (kneading) while staring into my eyes. I do kitty kisses with my eyes to all of them, make the purring meow and talk to them like they are little babies. I truly believe cats are gifts from Heaven. All of them prefer being outside, however they do enjoy coming inside for a little while. When I go outside they all come running with their tails stuck straight up in the air. I call them my monkeys.

    1. Lol how sweet you all are. Thank you for sharing your understanding of how angelic and divinely innocent are the hearts of these precious commodities. I too talk and treat them as tiny children they understand everything isay. Am quite certain they know me and like me better than any human could ever comprehend to know how. Their trust is smthg I cherish and my 1 rescue tomcat is the best kitties I e ever had the pleasure of calling my lil tigerbaby. He appreciates everything so much and has learned to not be afraid of regular noises he still has kitty nightmares from being abandoned as a littl baby kitten but ijust talk softly to him and he returns to his comfy calm baby snoring. It is the closest thing to heaven having them all 3 sleeping right around me enjoying the safety and protection imommy provide. From one who also sees their divine attributes, i salute you ! Keep up the gentle patient rewarding effort, for it is the best in all of us to be gentle and kind enough to win the heart(s) of these phenominal majestic creatures who sense the ability to love and gravitate toward it without exception.

  25. I have a male kitty named lil bit, and I recently got him neutered… he later around for the first week after surgery, but it’s been a few weeks now, and his temperament is so different than it was pre surgery. He acts like he’s afraid of every human that he see’s, other than me. He follows me literally every where in the house, and when I go to the bathroom, if I shut the door all the way, he sits at it and cries and puts his little paw under the door, until I let him in. ..lol it’s so cute! When he follows me, he meows constantly, and when he can’t see me he meows until he can. And he’s only like that with me.. he shy’s away from everyone else and really shy’s away from men! What is going on with my little fur boy??

    1. Hi AJ I hope someone in the know responds to your query regarding your lil bits post surgery behaviour. Love the name by the way. I adopted 3 male siblings, who probably stayed with mama cat a bit long cause I couldn’t take them due to family commitments. Now EVERY night, my Little Grey comes into my bed in the middle of the night and paddles and kneads and slobbers on my neck till I can’t stand it anymore and I put vapor rub on my throat. Poor little baby, 1 year old they are now. Only him, not the other two.

  26. I found a kitten along the road. He couldn’t have been more than three or four weeks old. He was all bones and could barely stand. I took him home and cared for him. He is now nearly five months old ( I think). He demands physical contact with me 24 hours a day. His favorite place being wrapped around my neck. He sleeps there as well. He even sits on my lap when I am in the bathroom. If I don’t pick him up he jumps up and hangs on when I try to put him down. His litter box is in the bathroom and he actually uses the box when I go to the bathroom. He sleeps on his back and sits upright like a human. He is a strange cat.

  27. My cat extends one of her paws (usually the right one) to me , right after waking up and whilst she’s yawning! I have to hold her paw for a few secs while I tell her how much I wuv* her. That’s our morning routine :)

    1. my cat does exactly the same, also he licks the end of my nose and rubs noses.
      maybe he knows i saved him from a cold wet road he was laid in at 5 months. he is now 3 years old. my remy is my life.
      martin

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  29. My friends young cat likes to sit on lap with 2 front paws with it,’s hind legs + bum towards my/her face + pours is that another sign of affection? Thanks

    1. Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for reaching out! There are tons of signs of cat affection. This article might provide some further insight:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/does-my-cat-love-me-signs-of-cat-love

  30. My male cat shows all the signs of affection you mention, which is great. But, he sometimes does like to attack my hands and arms with scratches or hard bites; often just after being affectionate. What does this behavior mean?
    Thanks Mena

    1. Hi Mena,

      Sorry to hear you’re experiencing this! These articles might provide some insight:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-love-bites-what-do-they-mean
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-aggression-during-petting
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/5-ways-stop-cat-biting-behavior-training
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-stop-kitten-biting
      https://www.catster.com/kittens/kitten-teething-stop-your-kitten-from-biting
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/how-to-treat-cat-bites-puncture-wounds
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-love-bites-what-do-they-mean

    2. I read an article that said cats attack (scratch, bite, etc.) after one is done petting them or after petting them for a period of time because the petting creates electrical-like feelings in their fur. This feeling overwhelms the cats & they naturally just bite or scratch. Hope this helps!

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  33. Robert Farquharson

    My wife’s 7 year old male cat violently bites her when she is in bed but he either runs away when he hears me approach the room, or he will start rubbing and bumping her, and then he will sometimes attack her about 10 minutes after I leave the room and out of sight.

  34. I have a cat that likes to lay on my face…like directly on my face so I have to crank my head to one side so I can breath. It’s not the most comfortable position but I still love that he does it because my ear is right against his side and I can hear him purring. Sometimes I wonder if he is trying to keep my head warm or if there is some other reason that he does it.

  35. I have two female torties. They both have some strange behaviors I have never seen in any cats I own. They both are extremely affectionate. Oktober was the more hesitant one as a babe but is now almost two. She loves to lay on or next to me…always putting a paw somewhere on my body. She does the same with my pup. She often sleeps most of the night curled to my left, sister on right. If I put my head near her, however, she turns away. If I kiss the top of her head, she will go away as if annoyed. Her sister is opposite and gets right up in my face, often grooming me. She likes the head to head contact. What is going on with Oktober? Sometimes I think she is a bipolar kitty lol.

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  37. I have a calico named Quinn. She is about 2 years old and whenever I sing loudly or with emotion she comes up and bites me. I have had this question for a very long time and I don’t know why she does it. Can someone help?

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi Ivy!

      According to this article, your cat might be stressed out by the sound:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-problems-tips-cats-aggressive-aggression

  38. Lorraine DeNunzio

    Hi I have a rescue kitten that I found in the woods.he is loving and sweet . He was 12 weeks when I got him and now is20 weeks. When we relax at night it seems he likes to bite and claw me when just sitting and he wants to play . I tell him no and it worked a few times but now it is getting harder for him to listen, I do keep my limbs still so he stops but that’s not working. Is there anything else I can do to get him to stop this behavior.?
    In the morning he cuddles with me , it is more at night he does this.

    1. Hi there,
      These pieces might help:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/is-your-cat-keeping-you-awake-at-night-heres-how-to-stop-it
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-meowing-at-night
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-keeping-you-awake-stop-annoying-nighttime-behaviors

  39. My seal point Siamese Lucy is 20 years old & lately she has been meowing very loudly more like screaming I think she’s going/gone deaf but she still comes running slowly when I call her. She’s still full of spunk & eats whatever I put in front of her. I am so lucky to have her as a best friend.
    Take care Coreen

  40. I have had cats that “own” me by drooling on or near me. Since I’ve had mostly male cats in the last several years, I know they do that for me maybe because I’m female. And generally it was when I was in bed either before going to sleep or after I woke up and they would come up next to me purring with a little drool coming out. Kinda messy! but you know they love you! Have you had reports of this behavior?

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thanks for reaching out. This article on cat drooling might provide more insight and you may want to check in with your vet: https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-drooling-should-you-see-the-vet

  41. Sometimes my cat will try to suck on my earlobes, though this is difficult since I wear earrings. Is this a sign of affection?
    Thanks,
    Cat

    1. When your cat wasctaken away from her mummy too soon they tend to suck on you , mine used suck my chin nose .
      I would say yes a sign of comfort

      1. We were blessed with a kitten.He was very young when he showed up at our home.T-Bear is our 6th rescue cat. He is a clown and has won over the others. But, at night he sleeps between my husband and I . In the day, he runs and plays , eats and sleeps. No touching , please. But, at night, between us and sucks a certain snuggle blanket. We’ve never seen a cat do this. He’s about 5 months now and still does this sucking. He gets upset and crys if he can’t find the right-place. We think it’s sweet.
        We have 2 other males that came from a stray mom. She ran off after her kittens were old enough. We kept all 3 kittens. The 2 males spray everything!! How can I get them to stop and why do they do it??? We talk to them,they are very smart..
        Thank you, Janet

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