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Why Is My Cat so Affectionate? Understanding a Cat's Body Language

Thanks to my lovely cameo-colored Persian cat named Capsurr, I have lots of information and expertise to share.

How to Communicate With Your Cat

Almost since the beginning of recorded time, cats and humans have had a long history together. In exchange for food and shelter, cats do many things for us. They catch vermin, they allow us to pet them, and they prettify and enrich our lives.

Although we have a long history of close cohabitation, we humans still have not accumulated much understanding about our feline companions' emotional lives. This is a mistake. Cats are highly intelligent animals that have an eloquent body language that they use to communicate their needs. As any cat lover might agree, close observation of the cat will reveal rich levels of cat-speak.

The following list is intended to help those who wish to have a closer and happier relationship with their pet cat by understanding their body language.

Why Is My Cat Suddenly So Affectionate?

Generally speaking, healthy cats are a bit stand-offish, some more so than others. If you wake up to find your cat staring at your face every morning when this never happened before, or if your cat suddenly starts jumping into your lap or cuddling up to you and this new behavior is accompanied by other behavioral changes such as change in appetite, change in litter box habits, lethargy or withdrawal, restlessness, chronic vomiting (hairballs included)—be concerned. This could indicate emotional distress or physical illness. On the other hand, sometimes, as a cat gets older, they simply develop new emotional needs. Take stock of your cat and bring it to the vet if necessary.

Though you might enjoy the sudden attention, it could indicate a problem. They may need extra warmth, care, and attention for a medical reason. Distress can often make them realize that you are the one who loves them the most and can help them. So take heart, take stock, and have the vet check them out.

My Cat Is Blinking: What Does It Mean?

If your cat makes eye contact with you then slowly closes both eyes at once, you should consider yourself lucky, as you have just been kitty kissed! The slow blink is a sign that your cat feels comfortable and secure in your presence. If translated, it might say something like "I love you so much I close my eyes and trust that you'll still be here when I open them again." You can return the feeling by catching your cat's eyes and blinking slowly and deliberately. One blink is sufficient, although you may try two.

If your kitty returns the blink, then you have just completed a loving conversation in cat-speak! Don't get upset if it doesn't blink at you right away, because you might have surprised them with so much warmth and affection. But don't worry, your pet will be blinking back soon enough!

The Slow Blink = "I Love You"

Did My Cat Really Just Kiss Me?

Another version of the kitty kiss is when your cat gently puts its nose against yours. Your cat may also choose to put its nose on your forehead, once or several times. A kitty kiss on the forehead is also a kitty blessing! If your cat kisses you often, it either misses you greatly or is feeling some anxiety about your love. Either way, know that your kitty loves you a lot!

Why Does My Cat Bite Me?

Yes, of course a bite sometimes means that the cat is angry, scared, or defending itself. However, not all cat bites are bad. Some are gentle and playful "love bites." When they're in a playful mood and you're petting them, they might sink their little teeth into your hand—not enough to leave a mark, but just enough pressure to let you know they care. To learn more about why cats bite, read Why Does My Cat Bite Me?

Why Does My Cat Keep Showing Me Its Butt?

A cat has so many adorable parts. So why does she keep showing you her butt, of all things? Although there are several different theories as to why cats do this, everyone agrees that it is a friendly gesture (even though it might seem a little rude to a human).

  • One theory has it that since devoted and loving mama cats regularly lick their kittens clean from head to toe, your cat might be giving you the same opportunity because they consider you as a maternal figure.
  • Another theory is that smelling each other is one way cats say hello and get to know each other, so the offering of the butt is similar to offering a hand for a handshake.
  • Cats that keep their tails down are likely feeling intimidated, shy, or in no mood to say hello.

In any case, you should rejoice at the sight of your cat's butt and take it as a compliment.

A List of Ways a Cat Can Say "I Love You"

Is My Cat's Tail Trying to Tell Me Something?

Cats don't wag their tails like dogs do, but still, you can tell a lot about how a cat is feeling by looking at their tail. For example, you might wonder sometimes why your cat stalks you, demands a proper petting, and then plops its tail on your leg or your arm. In the cat world, this can sometimes be a sign of dominance or ownership. This is why some cats get a bit miffed if another cat puts its tail on them.

But when a cat drapes its tail on a human being, it takes on a whole new meaning. It can mean that they feel connected to you. If they are bonded with you, they hug you with their tail. This is called "affiliative behavior." In larger feline species, such as the tiger and lion, cats tend to drape their tails on their families. It really is a sign of affection. They think you are family!

cats-speak

What Your Cat's Tail Is Telling You

what the tail does. . .what the tail says. . .

swishing or wiggling

I feel playful. I might pounce!

slashing or whipping

I'm angry and ready to attack!

slow swish or twitch

I'm watching something and feeling mildly excited.

twitching tip

I'm alert and curious.

straight up, held high

I'm feeling friendly and saying "hi."

curled around its feet or body

I'm having a pleasant moment by myself.

tucked down between the legs

I'm feeling scared and powerless.

puffed-up and bristly

Look out! I'm extremely upset and alarmed!

wrapped around someone or something

This is mine. I love it!

A cat's ears can communicate quite a bit, if you know how to "read" them.

A cat's ears can communicate quite a bit, if you know how to "read" them.

Why Do My Cat's Ears Twitch?

Those twitch ears could mean one of two things: Either she's miffed about something, or her ears are bothering her. Cat ears can become overwhelmed with bacteria or parasites that make them itchy and irritated (think skin allergies, excessive yeast, or ear mite infestations). Take a close look at her ears to see if you can see the cause; if not, maybe she's just mad at you (and even madder now, since you're fiddling with her ears!).

What Your Cat's Ears Are Trying to Tell You

what the ear does. . .what the ear is telling you. . .

turned sideways or back

I'm getting angry or scared!

turned forward

I'm interested.

ears pressed flat against the head

Go away!!!

one ear turned

I think I heard something over there...

Your cat's ears can tell you a lot about how your pet is feeling.

Your cat's ears can tell you a lot about how your pet is feeling.

Why Does My Cat Groom Me?

When a cat starts licking you with that sandpapery tongue, you might wonder why. Am I dirty? Do I smell bad? Do I taste like tuna? Although all of these things might be true, it's not the only reason why your cat does this. Just as they lick themselves, just as their mama cat taught them, licking is a friendly, loving way for them to mark you as theirs. Cats lick each other as a sign of familiarity and affection and might extend that favor to you if you're lucky.

Why Is My Independent Cat Suddenly so Cuddly and Loving?

It's weird when a cat's personality changes overnight, and you're right to be concerned. Sudden mood swings might be a sign that your cat is getting older. Some cats get cuddlier, clingier, needier, and lonelier when they get old. Or it might indicate an illness of some sort—your pet is not feeling well, so they're turning to you for help. On the other hand, maybe your cat is simply (finally!) showing you some love.

Why Is My Cat Tearing Around the House?

If your cat is running laps all over the place like a maniac for hours every day, your cat has the cat crazies! The cat crazies are a surge of energy that enters the cat's body for a short period. It often happens at night, since cats are nocturnal.

Do not be distressed when your cat starts knocking over your CD collection or brushing things off of counters. These things are to be expected. Your cat might even decide to trip you as you're going to the fridge for a little midnight snack. Always expect the worst. It's the cat crazies! If the crazies start to drive you crazy, don't worry: the 22-hour nap will start soon.

Why Does My Cat Keep Dropping Things in the Water Bowl?

This behavior can be a little gross since you end up finding old Q-tips, store receipts, and little pieces of plastic your cat fished out of the garbage in the water bowl or other locations. Actually, your cat is communicating with you at a very high level. If you find a Q-tip in the water bowl, this means the water is not fresh or that it needs to be refilled.

If you start finding a collection of little bits of trash accumulate near a closed door, this may be because the kitty wants you to open it! There are many other examples and interpretations, but in general, if your cat starts using bits of trash for communication, you should thoughtfully examine what the cat is trying to tell you.

How to Interpret Your Cat's Meows

Soft meows indicate a hello. Medium meows indicate a hello and some level of demand. Big meows mean business, buster.

What does "meow" mean?

What does "meow" mean?

Meows Interpreted: What Your Cat's Vocalizations Mean

what the meow sounds likewhat it means

one short meow or mew

"Hi." "What's up?" or "Okay."

many meows or mews

Hi hi hi hi! Great to see you! Can we eat now?

whiny, incessant

I'm starving for either food or attention.

long, low mrrrrroow

I have a complaint.

high, loud RRROW!

Anger or pain. Ouch! Noooo!

low moaning

I caught a mouse/bird! (Also the sound of an unspayed cat in heat.)

a chirpy, rattly purr

I love you. (The sound a mother cat makes to her kittens.)

growl or hiss

Get outta here now!

chittering, chirping, twittery noises

I see prey, and I want to bite it!

Does Purring Always Mean a Cat Is Happy?

Purring means contentment. But beware, sometimes it also means distress! If your cat is hurt, sick, or stressed and purring, do not dismiss the signs. Some cats purr on both happy and sad occasions.

What Does Head-Butting Mean?

A cat has scent glands on its forehead, temples, chin, lips, and tail. When she rubs these glands on you, she's marking with her pheromones to show the other cats you belong to her. She's basically marking her territory.

Why Does My Cat Turn Its Back to Me?

Your cat is mad at you. Cats tend to do this also especially if you have gone away and left them alone. They feel they missed you too much and you have put them through an emotional roller coaster. Don't worry. This should end in a day or two. Your cat soon won't be able to resist your lovin'!

Jutting a Paw or Leg Out

This is an indication your cat desires some sort of attention or affection. Even if it does not show any other signs of need, this is often the biggest way for some cats to show they need some serious love.

Why Does My Cat Bring Me Dead Birds and Mice?

Your cat has brought a dead bird or mouse to the door or possibly inside! Bad kitty, you say. Seeing a beautiful bird or sweet innocent mouse laying limp in the hallway floor may offend our sensibilities. Our cute cat has suddenly turned into a monster! Not so fast.

Your cat was trying to give you a present. By bringing in its catch, it is giving you a gift and doing its fair share to support the household. Keep in mind that when some cats are young, their moms teach them to hunt. Your kitty will be surprised when instead of praise, you chastise them for their gift. All your cat wanted to do was impress you. Bear in mind that your cat might have spent the last few hours working on procuring you this special gift. This is possibly the biggest area of miscommunication between human and cat.

Why Is My Cat Pawing or Kneading Me?

Cats might rhythmically alternate pushing their paws in and out against your lap, a soft blanket, or anything that triggers memories of being a kitten. When a cat kneads with its front paws, it is reverting back to the time when it was nursing, drinking milk. You are its mum! It is expressing love and feelings of comfort when it paws at you.

Licking of Lips or Chewing Air

If your cat licks its lips or chews the air, it is most likely hungry or thirsty! Offer it some fresh water or a snack. On the other hand, continuous lip-licking is also a sign that something might be wrong medically. Pytalism (excessive salivation) and xerostomia (dry mouth) may trigger lip-licking behavior, as do dental or ulcer problems, underlying neurological problems, and stomach, pancreas, or liver issues. So if you also notice issues with appetite, nausea, or vomiting, or if you notice that your cat's gums are extremely dry, contact your vet.

Your Cat's Body Language Interpreted

what your cat doeswhat it means

walks towards you with tail held high

Welcome! Give me a pet!

rubs her cheek on you, your leg, or some other object

You smell strange. Here, let me help by rubbing my scent glands on you.

falls on the floor and shows you her tummy

I am putty in your hands. Please pet me.

purrs

This could mean she's happy. . . but it could also mean she's in pain.

butts her head against you

Give me a pet! You're MY human!

pawing or kneading

I feel like a kitten and want some comfort.

ignores you, turns her back

I'm mad at you.

Is your cat loving on you... or wondering what you taste like?

Is your cat loving on you... or wondering what you taste like?

Cats Talk With Their Eyes: What Your Cat's Eyes Are Telling You

what the eyes dowhat the eyes are telling you

big, dilated pupils

I might be scared, surprised, or excited. Or maybe it's just dark in here!

small, narrow pupils

I'm aroused... I might even pounce. . . or maybe the sun is shining in my eyes!

staring at you

I dare you.

slowly blinking

I'm feeling comfortable and loved.

half closed

I might fall asleep.

pupils are different shapes

I might have anisocoria, and I need to be taken to the vet.

How to Talk to a Cat

So now that you have a better idea about what your cat is trying to tell you, your next question might be, "So how can I talk back to my cat?"

The answer is simple: Listen to your cat and respond to what she tells you. If your cat says something to you, say something back. Say, "hi," call her name, or just say "meow" right back. If she gives you a slow blink, return it. If she head-butts your hand, give her a pet. Engage in the conversation, even if it may seem a little foolish at first. Don't worry; you'll establish a rapport and figure out how to talk to each other soon enough if you both keep trying!

I hope this is helpful to other cat lovers out there. Remember that even though cats are stand-offish by nature, they have a great need for love, just like people. If your cat is not very affectionate, just try to let it know that you are there for it. If you let your cat be natural, it will feel safe and eventually it may open up to you. Many blessings to all cat lovers out there and their furry friends.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Yvonne on April 06, 2020:

Great article. Cats become most affectionate and tactile pets when you understand and respond to their body language. And they get more so as they get older. My cat Pokey is 12 years old and is a super companion and the most gentle pet imaginable.

Billy on April 05, 2019:

My cat Oreo, gets his crazies right after going to the litter box and we always pick on him about leaving the smell behind him. And he is a maine coon/ Siamese cross...big boy he is so loving does all of those affectionate things you listed thanks for the information.

Quintin on September 12, 2018:

Our cat would only let dad and son pet her.growling and hissing at mom and daughter suddenly after five years the cat is the most wonderful cat in the world daughter who felt bad for years that she couldn’t even pet her now cuddles with her for hours. Sure is wonderful.

Carol on March 06, 2018:

Hey, my cat usd to be so affectionate and loving. She used to jump up on the bed at night and rub her face against me. She was like that ever since I got her. Now she's has stopped being affectionate and is mysteriously meowing and I'm a little concerned. Please get back to me, please I need your help.

Anise on February 23, 2018:

I have had my cat for almost 3 years and she has never been affectionate toward me before. Recently I had a kitten but had to get rid of the kitten for other reasons. But after the kitten left , Lola has been clingy to me . I don’t know what’s changed? Before she wouldn’t come near me unless she was hungry.

stormcloud13711 on February 16, 2018:

I have loved cats my entire life & have been blessed with great ones thru out my life as well. After the passing of my last 2, I waited 3 yrs before I got new ones. I've considered myself somewhat of a pro at raising & training them, but these 2 new guys have me startled. I need some advice if I may. They're abandoned kittens, now 11 months old. 1 is extremely aloof, he won't let me touch him or play with him unless he wants to. I may be reading a book, cooking or watching a movie & he'll climb ALL over me to pet him. But if I start, he walks away from me after a minute or two. The baby is just that, a baby! He's 1/3 the size of his brother he cuddles in my arms & literally wants to be held like a baby. Which I don't mind at all. They both do something my other cats never did. They kiss me on my lips when I clean their litter box, it's dome shaped & they also kiss my lips to wake me up every morning... Both of my sons have seen this, I just don't understand why they do it. The moment I wake up, they go to sleep. Is this just normal behavior that my others never showed?

Sophia on February 11, 2018:

I love kittens & cats because they sometimes are very affectionate . Especially when all of this information is true!!!

kk on November 16, 2017:

i was worried that my cat was unhappy and i was worried. I love my cat and she is the most important thing in my life. Her and her baby are so important that i spoil them so much. I am thankful for whoever posted this video. it really helped.

Annalisa Howe on March 26, 2017:

I'm glad I saw this. My cat has been acting very affectionate in the past hour and I wanted to make sure everything was alright or if there was something wrong. But by dad said if a cat starts to act like that it means sontething is going to happen like an earthquake or something to the area or owner. But I'm really glad I saw this because now I know when my cat is trying to talk to me or when she needs me.

libby on January 12, 2017:

:) thanks!

wade on September 09, 2016:

Just wanted to add the tail wag / tail shake. My cat does this every day apparently it means they are extremely happy to see you, he kind of shakes his tail or quiver might be the better word. Very cute. He gives me nose kisses all day and stretches a paw out as well. Love him so much. Selkirk Rex ftw, best breed ive ever met!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 22, 2015:

Thanks for this terrific hub, Amy. This is so helpful for me to understand my two cats, esp. the blinking bit. Voted up!

mark on November 25, 2014:

There's some great information....some pretty giant leaps....I have no idea why it was written as a four year old....drives me nuts.

Lisa E on July 04, 2014:

My cat drops things in his food bowl all the time. I have seen him playing with the qtip, drop it in his dish and then start eating-like he suddenly realized he was hungry after all that playing. He likes to drop things in my shoes and then fish them out. In his case, the qtip in the food and/or water bowl is part of his play.

muazzam on July 07, 2013:

thank.now i am understanding my cat likes and dislikes

Gus on September 21, 2012:

This all sounds nice, but most of it is nonsense. A cat does not give you a present by leaving a dead mouse or bird. Cats' meows cannot be interpreted in such a simple manner. Licking of their lips can also display annoyance. This is over-simplifying cat behaviour and anthropomorphising them whilst pretending to be science.

Rebecca from Behind You on September 03, 2012:

Botch of my cats will put a piece of food in their water whenever they want it changed.

MAGICFIVE from New York on August 31, 2012:

This is a fantastic article! I thought that "Q-tip in the water" was very interesting, and I wouldn't put it past a cat to communicate that way. I think cats are a lot smarter than we give them credit for!

*vi* on August 30, 2012:

very helpful

Katherineee on May 18, 2012:

My cat go Crazzy All the timee :D its so interesting!! Now i understandd why alreadyy :3 Thankieww!

Anywaay. Every morning, My cat stood in front of my door, Does it mean she's sick? :(

harmony155 from Atlanta, Georgia on April 24, 2012:

Didn't know my kitty was kissing me with his blinking. Thx for the translation!

Kellie on January 11, 2012:

With my cats the 'cat crazies' closely followed a trip to the litter box .. Almost like the weight loss made them jet propelled :-)

kim on October 07, 2011:

well impressed with this, i read right through and laughed as its my cats all over i found this information very helpful and im sure my two cats will enjoy the new information iv learnt about them lol thanks

cierra on August 16, 2011:

hi thanks this is awesome news i can understand my cat now while im typeing he is hittinng weird buttons will com back for more. :):):):):):)

Alexander Thandi Ubani from Lagos on August 05, 2011:

Great info on the cats. Glad i read this. Cats re indeed our friends

aliecia from Canada on July 09, 2011:

I really enjoyed reading this hub. I then read it to my husband who also agreed that it does explain some of our cats behaviors,expecially the blinking.

Kingdom24 on September 11, 2008:

Thanks but i was looking for how speak it, if u know what i mean thanks though.It was great!!!!

Cougar1002 from Knoxville, TN on July 26, 2008:

Great hub!

bright_sorcerer from London, Canada on July 25, 2008:

What a great hub!!! I remember as a boy we had a black cat called Sasha that used to come down to my room in the basement at night and curl up on one side of my bed...even though there were several other people in the house. I've always had an extreme fondness for animals, but cats in particular. It was only mildly surprising to find out one of my animal guides was a huge black cat, although the last time I saw him. he had told me I wasn't ready for him yet, tossed his head in the air and turned and walked away.

It was great to see a hub with some good information on communication with cats. Yes, I definitely learned a few things so thank you. Blessings.

hglick from Ronkonkoma, NY on June 23, 2008:

The cat crazies probably comes after the 18 hour catnap (LOL) Of my 6 cats, they all get the crazies at one time or another. Great Hub!

Amy_Roberts on June 18, 2008:

Thanks for the tips! This is a great hub!