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Oklahoma State University

Understanding Cats

Friday, June 1, 2018

cat relaxing
Photo by Phil Shockley, OSU Marketing.

Let’s be honest. Cats have a language all their own. According to an article on dvm360 by Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, DABVP (feline practice), cats say ‘I love you’ in several ways if you know what to look for.

When cats are asking for attention, owners often mistake this for a desire to be fed. Although this is a very common misperception, avoid the urge to overfeed your cat. Here is what your cat is really telling you.

As your cat moves about your home, he will walk with his tail straight up in the air, perpendicular to his body. You may notice a slight kink at the tip. An upright tail is a sign of affection between cats or between you and your cat.

Cats who like each other a lot, will also rub on one another mostly using their faces. Because you are too high up from your cat, she will often rub her face against your ankles to express her affection for you. 

Given the choice, your cat would rather rub face to face with you. If you are irritated when your cat jumps on the counter, he or she is just trying to get closer to you for a good face rub.

If you are not available, cats will also rub their faces on inanimate things such as doorways, chair legs or other furniture. They may seem to do this more often when you are close by.

What other ways to cats express their love?

Cats raised together may often curl up next to each other sleeping. They will do this even when it is warm and they do not need each other’s heat. When your cat curls up in your lap, he is showing you his love as well.

Cats strengthen their bond by grooming each other. Your stroking symbolizes the same bond. They love that you have focused your attention on them, moving your hands along their fur and especially around their head and neck.

Some cats may try to groom you back. It may be annoying since cats have barbs on their tongues that are helpful for efficient fur care. If you act as if it is unpleasant, your cat will stop.

Of course, a loving cat will begin to purr as you come closer and closer.

As with most humans and creatures, everyone is different. Some cats are more likely to bond to their owners than other cats are. This could be rooted in their learning as a kitten or it could be genetic.

Kittens socialized between 3 weeks and 8 weeks old to multiple people are much more likely to grow into adults that love their owners.

Males carry a ‘boldness gene’ that conveys a willingness to become close to humans and to prefer their companionship. In other words, your cat loves you.

by Elisabeth Giedt, DVM


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