The author is a lecturer in animal behavior and welfare at the University of Bristol, England.
Even the most dedicated cat owners wonder at some point, perhaps waking up sweaty in the middle of the night, if their cat really loves them. Those who prefer dogs claim that these animals have long been humans’ best friends.
Research shows, however, that cats’ reputation for coldness and reserve is undeserved.
Due to their evolutionary history, domestic cats are, by nature, more independent than dogs. Their wild ancestors did not live in groups like canines do. However, during the process of domestication, cats developed the ability to establish social relationships not only with other cats, but also with humans.
While they don’t depend on humans to feel safe like dogs do, many cats show affection towards their keepers and seem to enjoy their company. Their attachment to humans is partly influenced by their experiences as kittens.
Cats behave towards humans the same way they behave towards their feline friends. Thus, to know if your animal feels connected to you, it is enough to observe its behavior.
1. A matter of smells
The ability to communicate with other cats over long distances and when not physically present was a boon to their wild ancestors. Pet cats have retained this “super sense” and often use this form of communication.
Cats use smell in particular to identify the members of their social group or their family, with whom they share the same olfactory profile. Cats have scent glands on their sides, head, and around their ears, and they often rub their heads against familiar and comforting people and objects.
Is your cat rubbing its head or flank against your legs? The feeling of softness against your calves is a sign that your cat considers you a friend and that’s a huge compliment.
2. How does he welcome you?
The way your cat greets you is one of the most obvious signs of affection for you. When cats meet members of their social group, they emit signals that demonstrate their friendship and desire to get closer. They do the same with humans.
If a cat comes towards you with its tail raised, it’s a good sign.
An erect tail indicates friendly intent (the feline equivalent of a wave), showing familiarity, trust, and affection. Some cats place their tail in the shape of a question mark to greet someone they like or to signify that they want to play.
Cats sometimes intertwine their tails as a sign of friendship, and the equivalent of this practice with humans is to wrap their tail around your calf.
Rolling onto its back and exposing its vulnerable belly is another gesture that shows a cat has absolute trust in you. However, cats prefer to be petted on the head and neck. So, in this position, the cat generally does not want its belly rubbed. Attempts to stroke a cat’s belly will often result in a hasty tuck, or even scratching.
Chirping or cooing is a melodious sound cats make when they say hello to their favorite people. So, if your cat greets you like this, know that he is happy to see you.
When your cat hits you on the back of the knee, it could also be a sign that he feels an extremely strong bond with you. A feline version of the “head there,” the headbutt is usually reserved for the closest feline friends and the humans they trust the most.
Your cat may be secretly signaling his affection to you by the way he looks at you. When cats encounter unfamiliar humans or cats, they usually greet them with their eyes wide open. But they are more likely to blink slowly in front of cats they have a good relationship with.
According to several studies, slow blinks are associated with a positive emotional state and can be a sign of confidence, satisfaction and affection, like a smile in humans. If you want to return the compliment, blink and your cat may respond in the same way. It’s a great way to bond with cats who don’t like to be touched.
Cats are very protective of their personal space and don’t like intruders invading it. If a cat lets you get close to it, it’s likely a sign of a close bond, especially when contact is frequent or prolonged.
When a cat sits on your lap for a nap, it really trusts you.
Grooming is only done between cats in a warm relationship, so licking your hand or face can show affection, even if their tongue isn’t the sweetest.