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Cats purr to express their love

Original Publication Date: April 20, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Some think cats are aloof and independent, but they are just as devoted to their owners as dogs.

Cats simply show their love differently. Cats can purr for many reasons, but purring in the presence of an owner is usually an expression of love. There are many other subtle ways cats express their love.

Kneading is a familiar way cats show affection. Newborn kittens knead their mother's breasts to encourage milk to flow, but adult cats knead you as a sign of adoration when they feel relaxed, content and loved.

Head bunting or butting is another way a cat shows love while marking you with scent glands on their head to claim you as their own. You may have experienced cat bunting without realizing its significance.

Similarly, a cat may greet someone they trust by rubbing their cheeks on them to show trust and affection. Pheromones released from scent glands in their cheeks also transfer her scent telling others you are theirs.

A cat's gorgeous eyes are one of their greatest features. Their keen vision is important for survival, but they also use their eyes to give cat kisses. If your cat looks straight into your eyes, blinks, opens their eyes wide and slowly blinks again, you have just been kissed.

Mimic the behavior, and your cat may return the favor.

A cat may also show their love by giving you a gift. You may be dismayed when your cat presents you with a dead bug or worse yet a limp mouse, but they are offering a reward much like you would give a present to a loved one.

Dogs wag their tails to communicate happiness. Cats also talk with their tails but the messages are a bit more subtle and can signal happiness, aggression or fear.

Kittens hold their tails high to greet their mother. Adult cats hold tails high to lovingly greet a favorite person.

Twining a tail around your arm or leg is another sign of connection and love.

On the other hand, a tail held high with bristling hair is a definite sign of aggression. A wagging tail also says "back off."

Cats sleep about 16 hours each day. They are at their most vulnerable when napping, so they choose a secure place.

If your kitty curls up next to you or on your lap for a nap, they are showing great trust reserved for someone they revere and love. Similarly, a cat that rolls on the floor tummy up before a person puts themself in a very risky position that shows limitless trust and affection.

Grooming, licks, tail puffiness, playing and other subtle behaviors signal even more cat emotions.

It is easier to interpret some messages than others. Reward your cat's devotion by learning to read her thoughts and respond in her language.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at