Does your cat ‘love’ you? RSPCA cat behaviour expert sets the record straight
St. Valentine’s Day might make the perfect romantic occasion for some, but for those who aren’t loved up, it can be a bit of a drag. This year, the RSPCA is encouraging cat owners to celebrate Pal-entines with their affectionate pet pal instead.
Pets are complex and without being able to ask them, it’s sometimes hard to tell how they really feel. But just in time for February 14, RSPCA cat behaviour expert, Samantha Watson, has shed a little light on the mystery and revealed five ways cats show affection for their owners.
Samantha, scientific officer at the RSPCA said:
There are a number of ways our cats tell us that they enjoy our company and feel safe with us. Learning to read your cat's body language is hugely beneficial as not only can it show you how they feel about you, but it will enable you to spot signs of stress and understand when they want to be left alone.
Cats are often thought of as being a bit aloof, but they do give away some subtle body language cues that show how much they like you. Humans are always keen to feel their pets adore them, but it is important to remember that every cat is an individual, and sadly not all cats will want to interact with you.
According to Samantha, the top five ways to tell if your cat enjoys your company are:
Whenever a cat rubs their head or cheek against you, they are actually transferring some of its own scents onto you and marking you as a trusted friend rather than a foe.
By marking you with their scent they are effectively recognising you as part of their social group. Scent is one of the most important senses to a cat, and mixing their scent with yours is a key part of bonding.
2. Eye contact and slow blinking
For cats and many other animals, eye contact can be something very threatening, so if your cat is looking at you with relaxed, soft, or almond eyes this is a good indication that they feel comfortable in your company.
Slow blinking is also a sign your cat is fond of you, that they trust you and don’t feel the need to be on guard in your company. Researchers have found that cats are more likely to approach a person who slowly blinks at them. If you want to show them you return their trust, mimic their slow blink back to them.
3. Tail up greeting
You can tell a lot about how a cat is feeling by looking at their tail position and movements. A low swishing tail can indicate they are feeling stressed or unhappy, but a tail pointing upwards with a downward curve at the tip is a sign they are really happy to see you.
They might even approach you with a short ‘peeping’ or ‘trilling’ sound which is also a sign they are pleased to greet you.
4. Social roll and showing their tummy
A popular misconception is that when a cat shows you their tummy, they want it rubbed. The stomachs are a very vulnerable area for a cat, and most cats don’t like to be touched there.
When a cat rolls over to show you their belly, they are greeting you and testing out whether it can trust you. A good response is to give them a head rub and show them their trust has been well placed. Don’t be surprised if you get a scratch or a nip in response to stroking their belly!
Cats lick or groom other cats in their social group to both create a bond and to create a group odour. This scent helps cats to tell who is part of their social group. If your cat licks you, it's a pretty safe sign that they are trying to bond with you. However, owners should be aware of excessive licking, which can be a sign there is something wrong.
Find out more about how to give a cat in need a forever home.