Behaviors That Show Your Cat’s Love: Head-Butts, Bringing Gifts, Licking, and More

We may be a nation of animal lovers, but do they love us back?

It’s not always easy to tell how our pets are feeling, but there are several behaviours which experts say signal their love and affection. So those weird quirks your cat exhibits, or that habit your dog only seems to do around you, might just be their way of letting you know that you’re special to them!

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Catrin George, animal wellbeing specialist and Layla Beakhouse, cat psychologist at Animal Friends Pet Insurance share the behaviours our cats and dogs use to show affection, so you know exactly when your pet is saying, “I love you.”


While our feline friends are notorious for being aloof creatures who don’t always make their emotions obvious, there are a few surefire signs of their affection.

  1. Head-butts and kneading

Layla explains: “Both head-butting and kneading are very affectionate behaviours shown by our feline friends. When a cat rubs their head against you, this is known as ‘bunting’ and is used by our kitties to claim familial relationships.

“Kneading is a habit they use to convey comfort and is likely a sign your pet feels safe and secure in your company.

“Cats have scent glands all over their body – including on their face – so both head-butting and kneading are also used to share their scent, a strong signal of acceptance which marks you as one of their own.”

  1. Bringing you ‘gifts’

Layla says: “While waking up to a dead mouse or bird in your kitchen may not seem like much of a ‘gift’, to your cat this is one of the highest forms of affection and stems from their desire to feed their loved ones.

“This is especially true of female cats who have a natural instinct to teach their young how to hunt and eat. By bringing you their prey, they may be trying to show you how it’s done, signalling that they consider you part of their family.”

  1. Licking you

Layla explains: “We know that cats will lick their kittens to groom them and show care, and it’s likely this behaviour has the same intent when used on their human owners. This is known as ‘allogrooming’1 and is used by many animals, including cats, as a form of caregiving through physical contact.

“When your cat licks you, there’s a good chance that they’re trying to communicate their affection and form a deeper bond. Think of it as their way of giving you kisses!”

  1. Sleeping on or with you

Layla says: “As natural hunters in the wild, sleeping is when cats feel most vulnerable, meaning they’ll often look for somewhere they feel safe before getting some shut-eye. If the place they’ve chosen is on your lap or in your bed, this is a telltale sign that your pet trusts and loves you.”

  1. Slow blinks

One of the more subtle ways our cats show affection is through the secret language of blinking.

Layla says: “While deep eye contact is considered a romantic gesture between humans, this is the opposite for our feline friends. You’ll notice that when your pet meets someone new, they’ll likely greet them with an unblinking stare – this is a sign of wariness as your cat doesn’t wish to let this stranger out of their eyesight.

“On the other hand, slow blinking is used when cats feel content and happy – a bit like the human smile! Make eye contact with your pet and monitor their blinking to see how they truly feel about you.”

How to socialise your cat with new people

If your cat is showing any signs of jealousy towards your partner, there are steps you can take to make them more com-furr-table.

Catrin George advises: “If you’ve recently got into a new relationship, you may find that you spend less time with your furry companion – and it’s likely that your pet will be missing your undivided attention.”

“To assure them of your continued love, keep your pet’s feeding and exercise routines regular, provide a designated safe spot to help them identify where their space is and – most importantly – give them time!”

“Build up interactions slowly, always making sure your partner respects your pet’s territory and space. Your pet will likely approach your partner once they feel comfortable, so try not to force any affection and make sure to always show them plenty of love and attention in the meantime.”

While Valentine’s Day comes only once a year, our furry friends show us unconditional love no matter the occasion, and while some do a good job of hiding it, there are always signs. For more information and advice on keeping your pets happy and healthy year-round, visit:

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