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How Do Cats Show Affection?

By Langley Cornwell

I’ve always been a “dog person.” Growing up, we had hamsters, turtles and dogs as family pets (and a horse, but he was imaginary so that probably doesn’t count). As an adult, I became active in rescuing and rehoming shelter dogs. For some reason, cats never really hit my radar.

Then along came my future husband, an ardent “cat person.” When we decided to make a life together, cats were a non-negotiable for him and dogs were a non-negotiable for me. So we agreed to make room in our hearts and our home for both.

At first, I didn’t know how to relate to cats. I believed everything I’d been told about them: that they’re independent and aloof, that they aren’t affectionate, etc.  Still, my clumsy attempts at interaction didn’t faze the little kitten we adopted whatsoever. Jet chose me to be his best buddy and that’s what we are. He’s my special little guy. He has introduced me to the wonders and joys of living with felines, a pleasure I’d missed for many years—but never will again.

Our cat is clearly affectionate; he shows me affection in ways that are impossible to miss. We’ve fostered other cats, however, that are harder to read, but it helps that we’ve studied and observed the different ways that cats show affection.

Bringing home gifts

Our cat is an irrepressible hunter. I won’t go into details but we’ve had a variety of gifts deposited on our porch. (As an aside, there is nothing cute about a mole). My husband keeps telling me I need to acknowledge my gifts because our cat is expressing his love for us, but I had a hard time buying it until I looked deeper. Catster confirms that when a cat brings home the spoils of his hunting activities, he’s presenting you with a prized gift and he expects you to be pleased with it. In fact, they liken the action to a child seeking approval from his parents.

Blinking slowly 

If you’ve ever seen an Animal Planet show or Disney movie that highlights felines, you’ve seen how they approach strangers with an unflinching, laser-like stare. Same with domestic cats, when they encounter strangers or unknown cats they hit them with that direct stare. But when a cat feels affectionately towards you, he looks at you with his eyelids soft and half-closed, or he blinks slowly when he’s gazing at you. These slow eye blinks are also known as “kitty kisses.” Because I want our cat to know I return his affection, I blink slowly back.

Showing his belly or positioning his tail

When a cat rolls over and shows you his belly, he’s allowing himself to be completely vulnerable. If a cat is comfortable enough to be completely unprotected in your company, it shows that he trusts and loves you enough to let his guard down.

Some cats position their tails in a question mark shape or a full, upright position to show affection.

Head bumping and rubbing

It’s especially endearing to see our cat head bump our dog, which he does all the time. When he bumps or rubs his face on her, he’s marking her and signaling that he’s comfortable with her and feels affection for her.


Another heartwarming activity to watch is our cat grooming our dog. It looks like he’s giving her a facial. When the dog is lying down, the cat will lie beside her, face to face, and lick all over her face. Cats groom each other as a way of bonding, so when he grooms the dog he’s bonding with her and showing affection.


A true sign of love and affection is kneading. This paw action is instinctual and starts at birth. I wrote about kneading in this article: Why Do Cats Make Biscuits? To sum it up, kneading indicates contentment and adoration and is sometimes accompanied by drooling.

Following you around or showing excitement when you return

If your cat follows you around like a dog or is always in the same room you are, he’s interested in what’s going on with you. He wants to either be involved or at least keep tabs on where you are and what you’re doing.

Some cats act excited when you come home. Not with the jumping around, tail-wagging enthusiasm that dogs display but excited nonetheless. If your cat runs to the door when you arrive, he’s showing that he missed you and he’s glad you’re home safely.

This only scratches the surface. When you have a special bond with your pet, there’s a language that only the two of you share. I’d love to hear about it. How does your pet show affection towards you?

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell
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