Our cats love us. They worship the ground we walk on. They spend hours gazing at our faces, trying to decode our every expression. So it only seems fair for us to return the favor.
What’s going on in our cats’ little fur brains? Popular culture likes to joke that cats glare at their owners with narrowed eyes filled with murder, but is that really the case?
(Hint: Of course not.)
To the untrained eye, cats can come across as standoffish and coldly practical. But cat owners know the truth. Cats are hopelessly, pathetically fond of their peoples.
Don’t believe me?
Oh, let us count the ways…
Now would you look at that! The number one most-cited sign of a kitty’s supposed homicidal tendencies is actually a sign of affection.
Cats are natural predators, and retain nearly all of their primal instincts. In the wild, alertness is the key to a cat’s survival. Just look at a cat’s ears—always alert (even in sleep) to scan for sounds of ambush or prey.
The same goes for their eyes: wide eyes and dilated pupils indicate alertness, caution, or aggression. Conversely, narrowed eyes are actually a sign of relaxation, trust, and affection.
A cat narrowing her eyes is lowering her defenses, displaying vulnerability, and conveying trust. And for cats, vulnerability is the ultimate sign of love. This is the root of the famous “kitty slow blink,” and the reason why it’s considered such an intimate sign of cat affection.
So, while narrowed human eyes may well be indicative of impending murder, the same assumptions don’t apply to our fur turkeys.
Sign #2: The Head Bonk / Face Rub
Ok, a head-bonk is hardly subtle, but it is a little misunderstood. You wouldn’t typically think of a head-butt as an affectionate gesture, but hey. Apparently cats live in opposite land.
Head-bonking is usually followed by face-rubbing, where a cat will enthusiastically smear her cheeks all over you. Why? She’s scent marking you!
Certain people claim that this behavior is possessive and dominating—as if the cat were tagging you as her property. “How sinister!” they cry. “How incredibly vindictive!” Not so.
Think of it this way: Cats go through painstaking lengths to get comfortable with every nook and cranny of their territory. No corner goes unexplored or unmarked. A cheek-smear effectively establishes each part of the house as safe, familiar, and “known.”
Try bringing in a new piece of furniture. Before long, your cats will be rushing to rub their faces all over it. They’re eager to “neutralize” this foreign object (once they’ve carefully inspected it) as a nonthreatening addition to their space.
So when your cat rubs on you (for the Nth time), they’re simply reassuring themselves, and you, that all is well. Everything is gravy. You are their home.
Sign #3: The Exposed Underbelly
Another sign of extreme trust. While not an overtly affectionate gesture, a cat exposing her tender belly, which houses all her vital organs, is displaying incredible vulnerability.
Now, this is generally not an invitation for a belly rub. Cats are not peoples. They are also not dogs. Remember—we’re in opposite land here. If you go lunging for their exposed bellies, you’re likely violating all the trust that they placed in you to NOT prod their tender bowels. Some cats dig belly rubs, but for the most part, belly-rub trust needs to be gradually built up over time.
But the fact remains: exposed bellies = vulnerability. And vulnerability = trust/love. (Cat math)
Sign #4: The Endless Shadow
Far from being the title of a bad horror/romance novel, this is actually yet another sign of your cat’s secret devotion. A cat shadowing you isn’t behaving like a stalker. They’re not trying to be manipulative or demanding. “They just want you to feed them!” the doubters howl.
Yet even with their food bowls reassuringly full, many cats will stealthily trail their humans from room to room.
If you migrate from one part of your house to another, expect a slow trickle of kitties to make an appearance.
Some will curl up right by you and resume their nap. Some will stalk nonchalantly in, make awkward eye contact, and then stomp off, as if they never intended to follow you in the first place. And yet others will keep their distance, but ensure you’re always in their line of sight.
Assuming you’re not loud and grabby, your cats just want to be around you. They like you. They want to keep tabs on you. Having you close by makes them feel safe and comfortable.
Sign #5: Twitchy Tail Tips
That’s right, the three T’s. Cat tails are a darn near-perfect barometer of their moods, given how incredibly involuntary the movements are.
Much of a cat’s tail movements are subconscious, or controlled by their autonomous nervous system (like breathing or blinking in humans). Ever seen a cat try to pin down their own tail? It’s hilarious how frustrated they get.
So while cats may have a great poker face, their tails do not. A delighted cat who’s pleased as punch to see you will hold her tail straight up, with the tip curled in or twitching back and forth.
Or even better, the whole thing will vibrate in a ripple, like the little bugger’s being electrocuted. A vibrating tail is the surest sign of a giddy, happy cat.
But every cat is different. Cats who are more affectionate by nature will do the tail wiggle. Cats with slightly less happy-go-lucky personalities may not. But most, if not all, will carry their tails in a high salute when they’re pleased to see you.
Sign #6: The Delivery Of Dead Things
While perhaps not the most pleasant gesture to be on the receiving end of, a cat bringing you dead critters is acting out of love.
Female cats are the most likely to partake in this slightly gruesome behavior, especially if they’ve been spayed and don’t have young of their own. Their instinct to mother and care for their family doesn’t go away and—without an appropriate outlet—they resort to mothering and caring for us. And this, of course, includes feeding.
Worse, this sometimes includes training. Many cats will bring home small injured mammals for us to destroy. “Here, try your hand at killing this,” they’re saying. “I’ve handicapped it for you.”
As their human family, we take on dual roles—as our cat’s parents and as their children. We care for them and they reciprocate. That’s how this works, okay? Ohana means family, and family means.. you know the rest.
So try not to freak out when you see dead or maimed critters dragged into your house. Your cats will almost always be hanging around close by, waiting for your reaction. They’ll be expecting excitement and pleasure, like a best friend who just dropped by to surprise you with a McDonald’s happy meal. Shrieking and scolding will take your cats by surprise, and most likely hurt their feelings.
If you don’t want dead critters dragged into your house, please consider keeping your cats indoors. They’ll live longer, healthier lives, and you’ll be keeping them from decimating local wildlife populations.
And there you have it. 6 subtle signs that your cats find you groovy and irresistible. Almost as groovy and irresistible as you find them!
How do your kitties show their devotion? Anything I missed?