8 Ways Cats Say 'I Love You'

woman with glasses smiles at orange tabby cat as he head bumps

Westend61 / Getty Images

Unlike dogs, cats don’t greet their owners with wagging tails and sloppy kisses, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have genuine affection for their human companions.

Cats simply express their affection in more subtle ways, and all you need is a basic understanding of feline behavior and body language to see all the little ways your kitty says, "I love you."

Head Bumps and Leg Rubs

Cats have scent glands concentrated on certain parts of their bodies, including their cheeks and heads. When your kitty rubs her head or face against you, she’s marking you with her scent and claiming you as part of her family group. This scent is a source of both comfort and familiarity for your kitty.

Grooming Sessions

Grooming is another way that cats spread their scent to mark territory. If you have multiple cats, you may have seen them grooming each other, a social practice cats use to establish a common scent among the family group. By sharing a scent, your feline friend is creating a sense of belonging.

Slow Blinks

When your kitty looks at you and slowly closes his eyes, as in the video below, he’s showing that he’s content and comfortable around you. In fact, this slow-blinking behavior has even earned the nickname "kitty kisses."

"The concept of closing their eyes to you in a slow way is not something that they would do," says cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy. "They’re letting you know that they are vulnerable to you."

Exposing the Belly

Another way cats can show that vulnerability is by rolling over and exposing their bellies. This is a sure sign of trust and shows that your cat is comfortable around you.


When kitties knead your lap or a surface near you, it means they’re relaxed and content. As kittens, the behavior is used to stimulate a mother’s milk flow, but continuing the action into adulthood can express comfort.

Kitty Underfoot

If your feline friend follows you from room to room, jumps onto tables and counters to be near you and always seems to be right where your step, she clearly enjoys your company — especially if it’s not near feeding time.

Tail Position

How your cat holds her tail can tell you a lot about how she’s feeling. A tail held straight in the air is often used as a greeting, so you know your kitty is happy to see you. In fact, Dr. John Bradshaw, author of the book, "Cat Sense," says this is "probably the clearest way cats show their affection for us."

A tail held upright with a curve at the tip like a question mark also indicates familiarity, friendliness and affection.


While a cat's purr isn't an always indication of love and happiness — cats also purr when they're scared or injured — a happy cat may express affection by purring when he's curled up in your lap or rubbing against your leg.

Want to show your kitty you love him too? Jackson Galaxy tells you how in the video below.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our cats, the better we can support and protect their wellbeing. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.