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How to Tell If Your Cat Loves You: 12 Vet-Reviewed Signs to Look For

Written by: Emma Stenhouse

Last Updated on March 11, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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How to Tell If Your Cat Loves You: 12 Vet-Reviewed Signs to Look For


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats have an unfair reputation as aloof independent creatures that don’t need us humans—unless they’re hungry. While some cats can be self-contained, others are incredibly outgoing when it comes to letting their owners know that they love them. Whichever side of the fence your cat is on, we bet that there are subtle and not-so-subtle signs that they display to show how much they love you. We rounded up the top 12 signs to look for.

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Can Cats Express Love?

In a strict sense, the scientific jury is still out on determining whether cats can love in the way humans would. The science does show that they are able to understand human body language and are definitely able to show signs we perceive as affection 1. However, cats are also masters of manipulation and may at times be showing signs of “love” to get something from us. They also don’t imprint on humans. Nonetheless, there are signs of affection cats show which many people may label as “love.”

It is important to note that some of these signs are somewhat anecdotal and not definitively proven to express affection or love in a strict sense.

A Note About Female Cats

An intact female may show the signs that follow due to the hormonal changes her body experiences during her heat. In such instances, the signs are often uncontrollable, and it can be confusing for first time owners to see their cats bounce in and out of their “affectionate phases” as they go into and out of heat. For more information about your female cat’s reproductive health, please consult your veterinarian.

The 12 Signs That Your Cat Loves You

1. They Headbutt You

This behavior is also known as “bunting,” and it’s a sure sign that your cat thinks you’re awesome. Cats will only carry out this behavior with other cats that they feel confident and happy around, so if they’re doing the same to you, it means they feel safe and secure in your presence.

Cats also have scent glands on their faces, including on their cheeks near the base of their ears. By rubbing you with these areas, they’re transferring their scent markers and effectively marking you as part of their territory. That’s pretty cute!

Girl butting heads with her ginger cat
Image Credit: Sari ONeal, Shutterstock

2. They Swish Their Tail at You

An upright, gently swishing tail is a great indication that your cat is happy and confident. If your cat also curls their tail around your arm or leg as they walk past you, that’s also a sign of affection and that they feel secure around you.

Don’t confuse this with a fast-swishing tail that your cat has puffed up, however. This, combined with an arched back, means your cat is feeling insecure or threatened.

3. They Show You Their Stomach

A cat’s most vulnerable position is lying on their back and presenting their stomach to the world. In the wild, cats would never voluntarily expose this delicate part of their anatomy. If your cat rolls over and shows you their stomach, it’s a sure sign that they feel comfortable and more importantly, safe around you.

If a cat that you’re unfamiliar with displays this behavior, on the other hand, we’d caution not diving straight in for a tummy rub. Sometimes, cats can show their stomach as a submissive gesture when they feel threatened. They may attack you if you try to pet them at this point, so keep your distance!

cat showing its stomach
Image Credit: mrs. pandora, Pixabay

4. They Purr Near You

Purring might just be the best sound that we can think of. Hearing that deep vibration from your cat means they’re super happy to see you. Adult cats don’t purr at each other as a form of communication; it’s something that’s reserved for mother cats and their kittens.

The frequency of a cat’s purr has been found to match the frequencies used for therapeutic healing. So, your cat’s purr might even be a way for them to heal small soft tissue injuries. Maybe the same beneficial effects will rub off on us humans!

5. They Bring You Presents

They might not exactly be presents that you want, but if your cat brings you a gift of a toy (or a real dead mouse), it’s a strong indication that your cat feels safe in your presence. Your cat isn’t bringing it to you as an offering, but they’re taking their treasure to the place that they feel is safest. Sometimes, that’s with you!

cat showing its toy
Image Credit: Gundula Vogel, Pixabay

6. They Gently Nibble You

There’s a difference between a full-on cat bite and a gentle affectionate nibble. The latter is one way that cats groom themselves and other cats within their inner circle. So, if your cat gently nibbles your arm, take it as a sign of affection!

7. They “Chat” to You

Cats make all sorts of lovely noises, and many cats will chitter or chat with their owners. They may also “chirp” when you call their name and come running over to see if you have any treats for them—which you probably do!

cat purring
Image Credit: Amandad, Pixabay

8. They Follow You Around the House

Many people seem to think of cats as loners who don’t need any company or interaction from their owners, but the rest of us know that’s not necessarily the truth! Some cats are independent, but others want to be close to their owners whenever possible.

Some cats will be subtle about this and will simply make sure they’re always in the same room as you. You might not even notice that they’ve been following you until you turn around and notice them curled up in a chair, watching you. Other cats will be far less subtle and announce their presence with loud meows and chirrups. Either way, your cat is making it clear that they want to be near you.

9. They Lick You

Mutual grooming in cats is only seen between cats that share a close social bond. If your cat decides to give your hair or skin a lick, then it’s a sure sign that they consider you to be within their inner circle. It might feel a little tickly or strange, but this is a true indication that your cat thinks that you’re the best.

Close up of cat licking human arm
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

10. They Knead You With Their Paws

Kneading, or “making biscuits,” is an instinctive behavior that cats possess; kittens display this behavior when feeding from their mother’s teats. Many adult cats continue kneading well into adulthood.

It’s thought to be a behavior that they carry out as a sort of self-comfort mechanism. So, if your cat snuggles up next to you and starts kneading you, it can mean they’re trying to bond and gain comfort from your presence. Cats also have scent glands on their paws, so kneading is a way of depositing pheromones and marking you as clearly theirs!

11. They Blink Slowly

This can be a subtle behavior that’s easy to miss. Cat behavior experts call this the “kitty kiss,” and it’s basically a series of slow blinks that your cat may show around people whom they know and trust.

Research has even found that if you initiate slow blinks or kitty kisses, your cat is more likely to approach you and seek out attention. So, your cat might not be able to talk, but they can certainly interpret our blinks!

cat slowly blinking
Image Credit: Oldiefan, Pixabay

12. They Run to Meet You at the Door

Cats might not be quite as demonstrative as dogs, but if your cat runs to greet you as soon as they hear your key in the door, you can be sure that they love you just as much.

Once you start to pick up on the subtle signs of affection that your cat is giving you, it’s easy to see how much they adore their owner!

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Cats can definitely form bonds with humans and are able to express themselves through their body language, actions, and sounds. Many of these behaviors are interpreted by us as love or affection. Though the scientific proof of calling these behaviors love is still somewhat lacking, it is nonetheless very much possible to tell when your cat is content, comfortable, and appreciative of your presence.

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Featured Image: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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