FIDO: Hey, Fluff, you look very pensive today. What are you thinking about?
FLUFFY: Hi, Fido, I’m feeling misunderstood.
FIDO: Misunderstood? About what?
FLUFFY: Well, not me, exactly. My mom understands me just fine. But a lot of cat parents don’t. They think we’re being cute, or funny, or just plain annoying (and sometimes we’re all of those!), but we’re really telling them we love them.
FIDO: I don’t get it. How can people not know when you’re saying “I love you”?
FLUFFY: We’re cats – we’re subtle! And if pet parents haven’t read or heard about how we give love, they may not recognize it.
FIDO: We can’t have that! When you say “I love you”, you should get an “I love you” back!
FLUFFY: You’re right, Fido. I think this is a job for Meryl. Let’s get her to spread the word.
…And so they did. Cats have an unfair reputation of being standoffish and aloof, in large part because we humans just don’t know how to interpret many of their loving gestures. Here are some of the more common love notes our cats leave us. How many have you gotten lately?
The head butt: When your cat lightly – and sometimes not so lightly! – touches her forehead to yours, or to any other part of your body, she’s sending a message, and it’s not “get out of my way”. The head butt (or bunt, as it’s more formally known) is one way she leaves her scent on you, and is reserved for those she truly loves.
The cheek rub: A relative of the head butt, the cheek rub is truly intended to mark territory. You’ve noticed your cat rubbing his cheek against furniture, curtains and even the rug as his way of saying “this is mine”. You know you’re loved when he does the same to you.
The slow blink: Cats don’t like eye contact. They avoid it completely with strangers, and even with most acquaintances. When a cat holds eye contact with you, it’s a big deal. When she offers a slow blink, it’s true love. Let her know you love her, too, by returning a long, slow blink. You will make her day!
The purr: Cats purr for many reasons. They purr with contentment, with fear, or when they’re in pain. But if kitty is in your lap or next to you and starts purring away, he’s saying more than “I’m content here”. He’s saying, “I love you!”
The cuddle: Cats love soft, warm surfaces for napping and relaxing. You have many of those in your home. When Fluffy passes on all of them in favor of sitting on your lap or curling up near you, she’s saying, “You are my person!”
The knead: Kittens knead their mothers when nursing, and they never forget that feeling of safety and contentment. When your baby kneads you, she’s saying “Thank you, mom!” (And that means you, too, dad!)
The keyboard conquest: It never fails that just when you sit down to work, your cat decides that the keyboard is the only place for his nap. This can be extremely annoying, though also quite cute. But when you stop to think about it – why would your cat want to nap on an uncomfortable keyboard when there are so many more comfortable places to sleep? There’s only one answer – he wants to be near you! (Bonus tip: I’ve solved this problem by bringing a chair into my office and placing it close to mine. My cat gets to be near me, and I get to keep working!)
The lick: If you live in a multi-cat household, you may notice one cat occasionally grooming another. This is fairly rare, as cats don’t take kindly to being groomed by others unless they truly adore them. If your cat licks you, or gently tugs at or chews your hair, you’ve been accepted as a very special, albeit very large, cat. Now that’s love!
The “gift”: It may not be your favored method of receiving affection, but when your cat leaves a dead mouse, or lizard, or even a chewed over toy on your pillow, or drops it at your feet, you know you’ve arrived. Cats only gift their most trusted and favored friends.
The trill: If you’ve been lucky enough to hear your cat trill or chirp, you are well loved. Of all the vocalizations cats make – and they are capable of more than a dozen different types of sounds – the trill and the chirp are the two that are exclusively about affection. When you hear those, you know that your baby is not expressing fear, or looking for a treat, or asking you to fill his food bowl. He is saying, without question, “You, mom and dad, are the cat’s meow.”
The tummy flash: Cats don’t turn over and show their tummies to just anyone. When your cat flashes hers, it’s a sign that she feels safe with you, and trusts you completely. Do remember – this isn’t necessarily an invitation to rub that tempting tummy. While some cats will accept that, others will draw blood pretty quickly. Be careful and alert for signs of irritation and stop immediately if you see them.
You may have seen and experienced many of these and thought they were just random behaviors. Now you know that they are anything but. Your very smart kitty is sending you the best message of all – s/he loves you!
We hope you enjoyed these tips, and that you learned something, too! We’d love to hear from you, so please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meryl Schwarz, M.A., M.Ed., is an animal lover and Certified Professional Coach specializing in grief support for people grieving their beloved animals. Whether you’re grieving a terminal diagnosis, the normal aging process, a disappearance or a death, Meryl offers compassionate and caring support with the wisdom of experience. Visit her website at www.merylschwarz.com to schedule an appointment by Skype or phone.