Even the most dedicated cat owners wonder at some point, perhaps waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, if their cat really loves them. Dog lovers love to smugly point out the long history of dogs as mankind’s best friend.
But research shows that cats’ reputation as cold, aloof pets is undeserved.
Due to their evolutionary ancestry, domestic cats are, by nature, more independent than dogs. The wild ancestors of our cats did not live in social groups like canines do. However, during the process of domestication, cats developed the ability to socialize not only with other cats, but also with people.
Although they don’t rely on people to make them feel safe like dogs do, many cats show affection towards their keepers and seem to greatly enjoy the company of their human companions. Their attachment to humans is partly influenced by their experiences of being handled by people like a kitten.
Cats behave towards humans the same way they react towards their feline friends, so the secret to knowing if your cat feels bonded to you lies in its behavior.
1. Pay attention to odors
The ability to communicate with other cats over long distances and when they are no longer physically present was a boon to their wild ancestors. Our pet cats have retained this “supersense” and rely heavily on this form of communication.
In particular, cats use scent to identify members of their social group or family, sharing a group scent profile. Cats have scent glands on their sides, head, and around their ears, and often rub their heads against familiar, comforting people and objects.
Is your cat rubbing its head or side against your legs? The soft sensation you feel against your calves is actually your cat identifying you as a friend and that’s a huge compliment.
2. Watch how they greet you
One of the most obvious signs that your beloved pet loves you is the way your cat greets you. When cats greet members of their social group, they show signals to indicate friendship and a desire to get closer. Cats also show these signals to humans.
A tail held in the upright mast position shows friendly intent (the feline equivalent of a wave), indicating familiarity, trust, and affection. Some cats also use a question mark-shaped tail to greet someone they like or to signal that they want to play.
Cats sometimes intertwine their tails as a sign of friendship and the human equivalent of this is wrapping their tail around your calf.
Rolling over and exposing its vulnerable belly is another gesture a cat has in you. However, cats prefer to be stroked on the head and neck, so this is usually not a belly rub request.
Attempts to stroke a cat’s belly will often result in a hasty retreat or even scratching. The chirrup or trill greeting is a melodious sound that cats make when saying hello to favorite people. So if your cat sings to you this way, rest assured that he is happy to see you.
That familiar feeling when your cat hits the back of your knee can also be a sign that he feels an extremely close bond with you. The feline version of a high-five, the headbutt is usually reserved for a cat’s closest feline friends and most trusted humans.
3. Look for Blinks
Your cat might also secretly signal affection in the way he looks at you. When cats encounter strange humans or other cats they don’t know, they usually greet them with a steady stare. But they are more likely to blink slowly at cats they have a good relationship with.
Research suggests that slow blinks are associated with a positive emotional state and can be a sign of confidence, contentment, and affection, similar to a human smile. If you want to return the compliment, blink and your cat might blink back. This is a good way to bond with your cat if he doesn’t like being touched.
4. They are getting closer
Cats are very protective of their personal space and don’t like unwanted guests invading it. If a cat allows you to get close to it, it suggests a close bond, especially when the contact is frequent or long-lasting.
Snuggling up on your knees for a nap is a sign of deep confidence. Grooming only happens between cats with a warm relationship, so licking your hand or face can be a show of affection, even if those barbed tongues might not be so gentle.
Emily Blackwell, Lecturer in Animal Behavior and Welfare, University of Bristol
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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