By Dr. Avanthika Chaithanya (Cat-mom to Gundu)
Cats, with their independent nature, have a reputation as reserved and mysterious creatures. However, beneath their mysterious behaviour lies a deep capacity for affection and connection with their human companions. When we brought my cat Gundu home, it took us a while to understand the nuances of her behaviours. Understanding how cats express their love is essential for creating a bond between cats and humans. Here are some common ways your cat can show you his/her love!
- Gentle touches and friction
One of the most obvious ways cats show affection is through gentle touches and rubbing against their humans. When a cat rubs its head, chin, or body against a human, it marks them with its scent, a gesture known as bunting. This behaviour conveys trust and contentment because the cat feels comfortable sharing its scent, creating a sense of belonging. In addition, cats often extend their paws to touch their humans, a behaviour known as “making biscuits” or kneading. This rhythmic movement mimics their kneading of their mother’s teats during breastfeeding and is an instinctive expression of happiness and comfort.
Purring is the universal language of feline affection. Cats purr when they are happy, relaxed, or seeking comfort. Although the exact mechanism of purring remains somewhat elusive, it is widely believed to involve the contraction and relaxation of the cat’s laryngeal muscles. The soothing vibrations produced by purring create a calming effect not only for the cat itself but also for the people who are lucky enough to experience it. When a cat purrs when petted or held, it serves as a surefire sign of trust, affection, and overall well-being.
- Grooming and mutual bonding
Cats are careful groomers, and engaging in mutual grooming with their humans means a strong bond and affection. Mutual grooming is an intimate act in which cats carefully clean each other’s fur. When a cat cares for its human companion, it shows a deep level of trust and affection. This behaviour is rooted in their natural instincts, as grooming releases endorphins and strengthens social bonds. By grooming their humans, cats express their desire for companionship and treat them as members of their social group.
- Eye contact and slow blinking
Direct eye contact with a cat can be interpreted as a sign of trust and affection. Maintaining eye contact, especially during interactions, shows that the cat is comfortable in the presence of its human companion. In addition, when a cat slowly winks at its owner, it is referred to as a “cat kiss”. Slow blinking is a form of feline communication that conveys relaxation, contentment, and love. Responding with a slow blink creates positive feedback and strengthens the bond between the cat and its human.
- Bringing “gifts”
While it may not be the most attractive display of affection for humans, cats often bring their owners “gifts”. These “gifts” usually take the form of dead prey such as mice, birds, or insects. Although it may seem strange or even disgusting to us, this behaviour stems from the cat’s natural hunting instincts. By making these offers, cats are essentially sharing their successful hunts, treating their human as part of their family and caring for them. While we may not appreciate this gesture, it is an unmistakable sign of a cat’s affection and desire to care for those it considers part of its social group.
Cats, while often misunderstood as aloof creatures, have unique and subtle ways of expressing their affection for their humans. Through gentle touches, purrs, combing, eye contact, and even special gift-giving, cats demonstrate their trust, contentment, and love. Recognizing and appreciating these displays of affection is essential to strengthening the bond between cats and their hooman companions. The next time your kitty does any of the above things, know that she’s showing you that she loves you!
Dr. Avanthika Chaithanya is a pediatrician and a loving cat mom. Her cat Gundu is an indie cat who was adopted by her in January 2022. Gundu is now nearly 2 years old, and loves playing with feathers, eating tuna treats, meowing at her humans when they sleep, and going on evening walks!