Do cats love their humans? People who don’t understand cats think our feline friends are permanently aloof and don’t care about us one way or another. They think that all cats want to do is put one hoity-toity paw in front of the other and then sit with their backs to us.
But cat lovers know better. We understand that cats are independently-minded, but we also know that they love us. They just have their own special ways of demonstrating their affection.
It could be the way they run to greet us when we come home, how they choose to sit next to us, or when they give us a little kiss with a wet nose.
Science proves that cats love humans
But is there any scientific proof that cats really do love their owners? It turns out that there is. A study by Oregon State University says that “cats display distinct attachment styles towards human caregivers”.
Researchers looked at the behaviour of both kittens and cats in the presence and absence of their owners, and even evaluated different types of meow. They discovered that cats form bonds with their owners in much the same way that dogs do.
They suggest that, just like dogs, cats may have adapted to develop relationships with people in order to live successfully in our world.
7 ways that cats show their affection
Here’s our round-up of the seven top ways that cats show us they love us.
1. The close-up
Cats are extremely picky about people. When some people come into a room, that’s your cat’s signal to make a swift exit. On the other hand, some people are clearly firm favourites. Cats seem to have a sixth sense about who to avoid and who to trust. If a cat chooses to come and say hello, sit on your lap or drape themselves around your neck, that’s a clear sign that they’re comfortable with you and that you are one of their chosen special people.
2. The tail salute
If a cat raises their tail high in the air as they walk towards you, they’re showing that they’re feeling happy and confident. It’s the equivalent of a dog wagging their tail or someone waving at you across the street. This is the perfect moment to reciprocate the affection by stroking your cat, tickling them under the chin or offering them a treat.
3. The figure of eight
This behaviour often follows on from the tail salute. Once your cat has shown they’re delighted to see you and you’ve given them a stroke, their next move is frequently a figure of eight as they weave in and out between your legs. A cat has to feel safe to rub against your legs in this way, so this counts as another clear sign of affection.
4. The head butt
You know that adorable way that your cat has of giving you a little head butt? They’re not just trying to convince you to open another can of tuna. It’s actually something that cats do to reinforce social bonds. The technical name for this behaviour is ‘head bunting’ and it’s a sign that your cat trusts you and sees you as part of their family.
5. The purr
Cats purr in a variety of situations, but if they’re purring while they’re lying next to you on the sofa, you can be pretty sure it’s because they feel relaxed and happy in your presence. One theory is that cats have learned that purring creates a positive feedback loop: if they purr when we stroke them, we’re likely to carry on. Clever things!
6. The slow blink
When a cat blinks their eyes at you slowly, it’s the equivalent of them smiling at you, scientists say. What’s more, if you blink slowly at a cat, they’re more likely to want to approach you – and to blink back. A recent study from the Universities of Sussex and Portsmouth says that blinking may act as a form of positive emotional connection between cats and humans. So if you want to get closer to your cat, try blinking!
Did you know that adult cats don’t meow at other cats? They usually communicate with other felines through hisses or growls. But cats have learned that a meow is a great way to get a human’s attention. Cats meow for many reasons, including when they’re hungry or in pain. But if your cat unleashes a stream of multiple meows when you walk through the door, you can take it that they’re pleased to see you.
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