When your cat looks at you and meows, do you wonder: Is he communicating love and affection or is he just asking for something to eat? If you’ve been a cat parent for some time now, you probably understand “cat speak” better than you realize.
According to author Arden Moore’s The Cat Behavior Answer Book, cats can vocalize up to 30 different sounds, including 19 variations of a meow. So, one of those meows could certainly mean a request for food or an expression of affection.
Is it even possible for a cat to say “I love you” with a meow? Are felines able to feel love?
An experiment led by Paul Zak, a researcher at Claremont Graduate University in California, concluded animals and humans share the ability to release a “love hormone” called oxytocin when they either interact with each other or across species. In a variety of experiments, oxytocin increased during a cat's playtime.
Your cat’s expressions of love, however, go beyond his vocalizations. He can demonstrate his affections for you in several different ways. Here are 13 behaviors beyond the meow that indicate his ability to express fondness:
Face rubs | Your cat rubs his face against your face, your arm or your legs, a behavior that suggests he’s marking territory. When your cat does the face rub, he’s claiming you as his own.
Butt first | When your cat shows you his backside, he’s exhibiting a behavior he exercises upon meeting other cats. He doesn’t expect you to sniff his rear end, but he is giving you a thumbs-up in the trust department.
Slow blinks or one-eye blinks | Cats who trust their human counterparts do this thing with their eyes. They’ll blink ever so slowly at them, peer through half-closed eyes or close them for several seconds during a stare-down. It’s their way of saying, “I feel safe with you.”
Kneads you | Kneading is a learned behavior leftover from kitten life when newborn kitties, to stimulate their momma’s flow of milk, used their paws to knead her underside while nursing. When an older cat kneads you while she’s resting calmly in your lap, she’s showing contentment and trust in you.
Follows you from room to room | Does your cat follow you everywhere you go in the house? It’s because he really digs your company! Cats show affection by their desire to be in your presence.
Shakes his tail “feathers” | The position and action of a cat’s tail say a lot about his mood. Learn to read him by how his tail wags. If he’s happy, he holds his tail up straight. If he’s threatened, his tail might be erect and puffed accompanied by an arched back. A cat that whips his tail signals agitation and your sign to steer clear!
Treats you like a peer | When your feline friend curls through your legs, raises his tail or grooms himself while lying beside you, he’s acting like he would if you were a cat, according to a National Geographic report. It’s the feline way of connecting with human parents much like they do when cohabitating with other felines.
Purrs pleasingly | Although the exact reason cats purr remains elusive, if your four-legged friend is lying calmly in your lap and purring, it’s safe to say she’s expressing her contentment not only with her current situation but with the company she’s keeping.
Grooms you | Cats lick and groom for comfort and soothe themselves. When you are the object of his licks—whether on the face or hand—he’s considering you family.
Shows you his belly | A cat that rolls around on the floor is leaving behind his scent. When he rolls over when you walk in the room, he’s giving you permission to take notice of him, but not necessarily asking for a belly rub. A cat that exposes his belly simply denotes trust in you.
Head bunts | Head bunting is your cat’s way of depositing his scent, marking you safe. When he rubs his head against you, it’s just another way your cat expresses his trust in you as his cat parent. If he trusts you, he certainly is fond of you.
Curls up in your lap | With the amount of sleeping your cat does throughout the day, you’d think where they choose to slumber isn’t all that important. But a cat chooses his sleep locations carefully. It must be a safe place. Therefore, you should feel honored when your furry friend chooses to sleep on your lap. She’s proclaiming it a safe-haven while she snoozes.
The next time your kitty meows at you, consider it just one of the multiple ways she’s expressing how she feels about you. She’s got countless other ways she names you “cat’s best friend,” too.
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Adopting a cat can be one of the best choices you ever make. Not only do you gain an entertaining companion who will (probably) be glad to see you at the end of a long day, but you'll be saving a life, too.