How Do Cats Show Affection: Understanding Your Cat’s Love Language

Close-up of a persian cat laying down
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Some people believe that cats do not love their owner the way dogs do. That’s not true—they simply have a different way of showing affection. Do you sometimes feel as if your cat does not reciprocate all the love you shower on him? Do you feel like you have to work extra hard to appease your feline buddy? Exactly how do cats show affection? The answer to this question will help dispel your doubts regarding kitty’s love for you.

Cats are in fact very loving. But they love differently. They send soft, subtle signals; they prefer to whisper their love rather than display it out loud. We will assist you in decoding all those hidden gestures that kitty uses to show you affection so you’ll have no more reason to doubt your kitty’s devotion to you. You won’t feel like you are the only one fighting to make this relationship work again because the feeling’s mutual.

Kitty laying down on her back and looking at her owner

More often than not, cat owners are oblivious to their feline’s loving gestures. We are here to help. Misunderstanding is often the reason behind the loneliness that cat owners feel. It may surprise you to discover that kitty bringing home a dead snake is equivalent to a loved one bringing you flowers. Sounds weird right? Keep reading for more unique ways that cats use to show their love, so you’ll finally realize how much your cat adores you.

How Cats Show Affection

Some of the ways through which your cat displays affection are pleasant, loving gestures which will not strike you as odd. But most of the gestures can be a little unnerving, even upsetting.

Without a proper understanding of these gestures, you may be tempted to discipline your cat for misbehavior. Imagine how much that would devastate your cat! This article will help you avoid such a misunderstanding.

Pleasant Ways through Which Cats Display Affection

Here is a list of ways through which cats express their affection without upsetting their owners.

Pleasant Way #1: Love in a Tail

A cat uses their tail to display a variety of emotions. It could be fear, anxiety, aggression or affection. So how can a cat owner tell when kitty’s tail is signaling love? Your cat may hover around you while rubbing his tail against you. While you are resting, you may find kitty attempting to wrap his tail around your legs.

A cat couple showing affection to each other

Also, if you spot kitty holding up his fluffy tail with a slight curve at the tip, he’s conveying his affection. This is commonly referred to as the “happy tail dance.” Your cat is having a happy moment and wants to share it with you. When cats hold their tail straight up—without the curve at the tip—that is also a display of immense affection and happiness.

Pleasant Way #2: Blinking His Eyes

Cats also use their eyes to convey affection. They do this by locking eyes with their favorite humans followed by a soft blink. If you are lucky, you may have your cat give you the soft eye blinks repeatedly. These blinks are commonly referred to as “cat kisses.” It is your cat’s sweet way of telling you how much they are fond of you.

Pleasant Way #3: Head Butting/Rubbing

Cats also register their affection by head-butting or rubbing their faces against their loved ones. Various spots on their head have special glands that release pheromones. As they hit or rub their head against you, they are depositing these scents on you.

A cat Head Butting/Rubbing his owner

They do this to mark you as a part of their territory. They conduct this act not because they want to dominate you, but because they love you. So the next time kitty’s head is all over your legs or face, allow that gesture to warm your heart.

Pleasant Way #4: Grooming

Cats spend a lot of time grooming not only themselves but their fellow kitties as well. They groom each other as a way of bonding and creating a sense of community. As they groom each other, they are also exchanging and mingling their scents.

a kitty grooming in her owners hands

Cats also groom the people they adore. They will snuggle up with you and start licking your face, hands, or legs. In so doing they deposit their scents with you and mark you as a part of their family.

Pleasant Way #5: Showing Their Belly

Cats will roll over on their backs and expose their bellies just for you. They do this hoping you will realize how much they are fond of you. Rolling over on their backs puts them in their most vulnerable position. But they are not afraid to be vulnerable with you. How sweet!

Pleasant Way #6: Following You Everywhere

Have you noticed that at times your cat wants to follow you everywhere? This is another way through which they show their affection.

Woman and cat showing their affectionWoman and cat showing their affection

It means they are well pleased with you and cannot bear to have you out of sight. Consider yourself loved.

Pleasant Way #7: Can’t Keep Calm when You Return Home

If your cat jumps and runs around when you get back home, they are really fond of you and can’t contain their excitement. This excitement is a way of saying how they’ve missed you when you were gone.

Pleasant Way #8: Purring

Cats purr for various reasons. They may purr when feeling stressed or as a way to register discontent. However, they also purr as an expression of love towards humans. To be able to tell when your kitty is purring affectionately, look out for other accompanying loving gestures.

A cat purring and a man touching her

If you cat purrs while rubbing themselves against you or touching you with their paw or tail, count that as a loving purr.  On the other hand, if your cat is purring in a secluded corner alone while looking really lethargic, it could be a sign that your cat is feeling unwell. We suggest that you take him to the vet immediately.

Pleasant Way #9: Sleeping Near You

Cats are sleep experts. They spend an average of 16 hours in slumberland. Kittens and senior cats may sleep for as long as 20 hours. Because while asleep they are a tad vulnerable, they do not just sprawl themselves anywhere.

A cat sitting in bed on his owner

They choose places where they feel most secure and loved. A loving kitty will lose himself to sleep beside your legs. They may also prefer to snooze away on your lap. Also, it’s not uncommon to find your cat curling up with you in bed at night. They just want to share their warmth with the person they adore the most.

Unpleasant Ways through Which Cats Display Affection

Apart from the nine ways we have discussed above, your cat has other not so pleasant ways through which they may express their love. Without the knowledge that your cat means well, you may be wondering where kitty picked up these unpleasant habits.

Unpleasant Way #1: Scratching

Cats also use scratching as a way to mark their territories. So they will scratch away on places they feel most secure. If kitty adores you, these places will often include your favorite sofa or your bed.

A cat scrathcing a scratcher

This may upset you, but your cat is just imprinting his love on the places he associates with you. Take his loving gesture kindly, yet at the same time firmly tell him that ruining the couch is not an acceptable display of affection.

Unpleasant Way #2: Kneading

Cats learn the art of kneading as small kittens. To stimulate milk production while suckling, they press softly against their mother’s body. Adult cats carry on with this behavior and use it to express affection.

Your cat may hop onto your lap and start making biscuits on you with his paws. Though he may start off gently, he may gradually dig in deeper and cause you pain. The more he feels affectionate towards you, the harder he will want to knead away.

Tabby cat kneading her cushion

You may be appalled at his behavior, but your kitty is actually expressing his love for you. If your cat is fond of kneading and it sometimes gets painful, you can ward off the pain without stopping him. Just place a soft barrier such as a pillow on your lap and let him sit on it—or let him knead on the palm of your hands. This way you will be shielded from pain.

Unpleasant Way #3: Spraying

Cats spray as a way of marking their territory. This is where they spray strong-smelling urine on walls, furniture, and other places in your house. But did you know that they at times spray as a means of showing affection?

A cat Spraying in the yard

When you have been away from home for long, your kitty may suffer separation anxiety. He then looks for places he associates you with, like your bed or favorite sofa. He can choose to mark it as his territory by spraying.  As unpleasant as it is, spraying one of his many ways of saying “I’ve missed you while you were gone.”

Unpleasant Way #4: Gnawing at You

You may have observed cats gnawing at each other lovingly. This is another way they express affection. Only that when they do it to each other, their coats are thick enough to allow them to bear the discomfort that comes with it, yet his love bites can get painful and leave you upset. Don’t misunderstand him; kitty means well.

Unpleasant Way #5: Odd Gifts

Naturally, cats are hunters. If you have an outdoor kitty, he is bound to be busy out there on a hunting spree. They also love to offer gifts to those they love. Now we all know you can only give what you have.

cats bring their humans unusual gifts

Your kitty will bring you his kill out of affection. These may be dead frogs, snakes, worms, birds, or mice. Whatever creepy gift your cat brings home, do not scold him. Look beyond the odd gift and appreciate his well-meaning intention.

As you can see, it is possible to miss out on your kitty’s affection since cats show love in a unique way. Having said as much, some felines are known to be more affectionate than others.

7 Most Affectionate Cat Breeds

Here is a list of seven of the most affectionate cat breeds:


Ragdolls will captivate you with their blue eyes and soft silky coat. They get their name from their tendency to go limp when picked up, just like a child’s ragdoll. They are calm and peaceful and love human company.

Ragdoll cat playing in the yard

Ragdolls love to be physically handled, and their favorite place is on their owner’s lap. They also love to follow their owners around. They love to play with kids and other pets.


The Sphynx is one of the cuddliest felines known to man. They are a hairless breed donning a fine layer of downy hair. Because of their need for warmth, they love to snuggle right under your covers as you sleep.

Sphynx cats kitten with mother

They have an outgoing nature and are very vocal. Yearning for some feline entertainment? The Sphynx is the ideal cat for that. They are famous for their acrobatic moves and other funny antics.

Sphynxes go out of their way to show their affection for their owners. They also love playing with other pets and children. There is never a dull moment with a Sphynx cat around.


The Tonkinese is a crossbreed between the Siamese and the Burmese cat. This breed has an outgoing nature and is very inquisitive. Tonkinese cats thrive on human attention and are good at reciprocating the same. They are warm, lively, and playful. They are considered people pleasers.

Scottish Fold

The Scottish Fold has an “owl-like” appearance due to their folded ears. They are calm and pleasant to have around. They get along well with all, even strangers.

Scottish Fold cat looking at the camera

Scottish Fold cats resent loneliness. They, therefore, become very attached to their owners and will often follow them around.


Birman felines have a calm demeanor. They are gentle, loyal, and intuitive. A Birman reads his owners mood before engaging in play. If he senses you are not ready, he will wait till the right time. They are also affectionate and love to snuggle.

Oriental Shorthair

With their almond-shaped eyes and triangular-shaped head, these felines are playful, intelligent, and vocal. This cat breed is known for their athletic prowess and their love of perching in high places.

Picture of a Oriental Shorthair cat

Orientals are very loving and devoted to their owners. They are with you for the long haul and are not shy to let you know about it.


The Persian is a long-haired feline that adores human attention. They are also friendly to strangers. Persians are peaceful and will often be found trying to snuggle beside their owners. Because of their long fur, they require constant grooming. Their owners often take advantage of their grooming sessions to bond with them.

Wrap Up

Cats are undoubtedly very affectionate pets. They, however, express their love in a rather unique way. You may never have realized that your cat is showing you affection when he raises his tail with a curve at the tip.

What about when he shows off the results of his hunting spree to you? Do you always assume that he is up to some mischief? Now you know that he does this to let you know that you are his favorite human.

a cat showing his affection to his owner

It is possible for cat parents to miss out on these subtle gestures. Though some of these love gestures are a bit disturbing, they come wrapped up in love. Whether kitty is gnawing at you, kneading on your lap, or spraying on your bed, look beyond the nuisance and appreciate his love. We’re not saying that you should encourage him to keep spraying everywhere in the house—just that you shouldn’t get angry with him because he means well.

We trust this article has helped you understand your cat’s love language better. What are some of the loving gestures you may have been overlooking from your kitty? Have we missed out on any? We would love to hear all about it. Please let us know in the comments.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.