By Amy Shojai
People who love cats know they love us back. When I walk in the door, Seren runs meowing to greet me and twines around my ankles until I “make” her a lap. When she gets what she’s after, she shows how she feels with her purrs. Because cats reserve meows for their humans, and purr to show they mean no threat, I understand the cat language for love.
Other cat behaviors can throw savvy cat folks for a loop, even though they’re declarations of feline devotion. Some of these weird and wacky love notes offend us. And when you spurn kitty love that could do more than offend the cat. So there are no misunderstandings, it’s important to learn just what kitty means by her sometimes-wacky behavior.
8 Unexpected Loving Cat Gestures
More accurately called bunting behavior, cats become obnoxious when they insist on cheek rubbing and head bumping nonstop. That could trip you on the stairs, hurt your eyes or mess up makeup. Seren’s first six months with us was spent with pink lipstick on her forehead from head bonking my mouth. I couldn’t bring myself to stop her, because the behavior declares love two ways:
- it puts the cat’s eyes in a vulnerable position and so shows extreme trust.
- it leaves behind the cat’s signature scent, telling the world you belong to them.
Cats lick themselves and others not just to groom, but also to share self-scent. This kitty cologne spreads on you with licking, and cats only target loved ones with this attention. They may also nibble or groom your hair or suckle your clothing. Take it as a compliment and expression of undying kitty affection.
Spraying urine also spreads self-scent and marks the pee-mail target as owned by the cat. So if your cat baptizes your belongings, it should be considered a declaration of love, however onerous it may be. Remember, when cats feel unloved and insecure their anxiety makes them redouble their efforts at buying attention in this “backhanded” way.
Seren runs across the room, throws herself onto the carpet and rolls back and forth calling for attention. My husband calls this “flipping” behavior. Some cats throw themselves at your feet, nearly tripping you with their antics. Dog people might misunderstand it to be an invitation to rub the cat’s tummy, and could get bitten. Flipping is a solicitation for attention, but not tummy rubs (although a few cats do like that). Presenting the tummy serves as a loving greeting because it places cats in a vulnerable position. It’s usually only offered to individuals the cat trusts.
Yes, cats are all about kitty cologne and marking territory, and cat scratches do both. The places where your cat claws are important feline real estate with a strong association to you—like the mattress on the side of the bed where you sleep. Cats also scratch more when stressed, so yelling about scratching probably will increase the behavior when kitty wants to deflect your angst with even more of this loving gesture.
Kneading behaviors—pawing soft surfaces like your lap—are a holdover from when your cat nursed and kneaded against mom-cat’s breasts to release the milk. The association to comfort, safety, a meal and – yes, love—are an obvious cat expression of affection.
A slow “eye blink” from a cat is a sign of trust and affection. It’s known in cat-centric circles as a “cat kiss.” So the next time your cat offers a slow blink, return the favor and “eye kiss” back.
Butt-sniffing is the feline equivalent to a human handshake, and used as a polite greeting between cats. When he truly loves you, your feline friend treats you like another cat when he jumps onto your lap, and presents kitty assets for an up close and personal look. Cats know we’re not cats, though, so I suspect this behavior is more of a courteous gesture than expectation you’ll actually sniff. Don’t feel compelled to accept the invitation–and for heaven’s sake don’t return the favor.
Hey, September is Happy Cat Month! Be on the lookout for ways your furry friend shows appreciation, and make sure you scratch that spot just behind her ears. Yeah. That’s the one. She loves that.
What’s a weird and wacky way your feline friend shows you love?
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant and the award-winning author of 24 best selling pet books.Amy has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101.She’s been a consultant to the pet products industry and brings her unique pet-centric viewpoint to public appearances, writer conferences keynotes/seminars and thriller fiction (which includes “pet viewpoint”).