Caturday blogging: Does your cat actually love you?


Experts argue, behaviorists analyze, and people give advice in blogs. This Caturday, we ask: does your cat actually love you? How would you know?

It’s a common question in my household. At least once a week, my husband and I reflect on some cute, cuddly, or especially affectionate thing a cat has just done and wonder: do our cats love us? Or do they only act affectionately because they want something out of us like food, scratches, or a clean litter box?

It seems like every expert has an opinion on this. Every few months I’ll see a post shared around my Facebook friends talking about how cats are actually conniving little devils manipulating us into doing their bidding (probably true) and that they do not, in fact, actually care about us (up for debate). The next day, though, I’ll have a purring, furry friend in my lap. Her bowl is full. Her box is clean. She wants for nothing. But she’s still electing to come lay next to me and rub her face all over me for some reason.

Truth be told, I don’t know the answer. Love is a heavy philosophical topic, and I’m not inside a cat brain currently. I do know that cats can be incredibly affectionate in a myriad of ways, most of which are actually enjoyable to humans.

Photo Credit: Rebekah Valentine

The most obvious lovey gestures from cats are ones we know quite well: purring, head-butting, and rubbing up against you. Has your cat ever rubbed his cheek on you, probably making your hand or wherever they rubbed smell weirdly fishy? It’s a bit gross, but the cat is marking you with its scent, conveying that she wants to be social. Cats you’ve just met may do this, which is a good start to becoming friends with them.

There are other, less overt signs of affection too, and these can sometimes mean much more. Does your cat ever look at you and very slowly blink her eyes at you? This is a sign of love and trust, and one you can reciprocate, which may result in even more slow eye blinks. Another physical gesture that you, unfortunately, cannot replicate is a cat’s happy tail. If a cat has her tail high in the air with the very tip curled in your presence, she’s happy to be with you.

In fact, a cat simply opting to be in the same room with you is usually a good sign for your relationship. Does your cat regularly sit next to you on the couch? Even if she’s not obnoxiously laying across your laptop when you’re trying to get work done, simply sitting or sleeping near you conveys trust–they know they can relax if you are there, and they will be safe.

Finally, let’s talk cat talk. Did you know that cats don’t meow at one another? Cats communicate with other cats via body language, but somehow they’ve figured out that we can’t read that as well, so they make noises at us the same way they do kittens. Many cats meow to indicate that they need something (just try opening a can of wet food in my house, yeesh), but some cats may chirp, mew, or chortle at you just because. You might get a vocal greeting just for walking in the room!

Next: Caturday blogging: Friends of all stripes

Personally, I’m in the camp that this is an awful lot of effort for a laidback creature like a cat if she doesn’t actually genuinely enjoy the company of the human she’s with and, in whatever cat was she can, care about them. Whether it’s a silly human delusion or not, I’m happy to think that my cats love me, and love them right back whether they’re snuggling with me on the sofa or sitting on my laptop, again, battling me for attention as I finish writing this.