Second Chance: Feline Lexicon of Love

Second Chance: Feline Lexicon of Love

So here is my beef. Why is young love referred to as “puppy love”? Just because we cats don’t shower our people with sloppy kisses doesn’t mean we aren’t affectionate – we are just cooler about it. If you haven’t learned to appreciate the more subtle ways we express ourselves please pay attention as I summarize the feline lexicon of love.


Whether or not your cat is affectionate (in the manner that humans define it) can vary depending on her personality, breeding and upbringing. But when a cat chooses to express affection, they typically show rather than tell you.

The most common gesture is the slow eye blink (“eye love you”). Notice how cats greet strangers or other cats with an unblinking stare (“back away… now.”). But they reserve their slow eye blinks, “kitty kisses,” for their loved ones as a sign of contentedness and affection.

Another way cats show adoration is through grooming and licking you, a sign she accepts (or even owns) you as part of her family. And if you haven’t received a good head butt from a cat then you are really missing out. There are glands on our faces that secrete pheromones to mark territory, but also to signal comfort and familiarity. (Cool tidbit: each cat’s pheromone signature is unique, just as your fingerprints are.)

If your cat takes to stalking you from room to room and hangs out wherever you are, it’s a sign she’s interested and wants to be where you are. Some cats who otherwise do not display affection can still express their love just by “being there for you.” They complete you without you even realizing it.

Of course there is the repugnant, but more forthcoming show of affection through the offering of a mutilated mole or beheaded bird on your doorstep. Although most don’t appreciate this unselfish act of having a cherished gift bestowed upon them, your cat is hoping you’ll be pleased with the offering (and does not understand when you respond adversely).

Another grand gesture that is often overlooked is when your cat rolls over and exposes her belly to you. She is frankly stating that she trusts you and loves you and is willing to expose her vulnerability to you. Pay attention to our tails too. Many cats use a question mark-shaped tail to greet someone they like; a tail in the full upright position also indicates familiarity, trust and affection.

And you haven’t been loved fully if you haven’t been kneaded (pun intended) right? This instinctual gesture originates from birth, when we kneaded our mothers to stimulate milk flow. In later life, cat kneading signifies contentment, pleasure and adoration. This is one of the greatest expressions of love that your cat can bestow upon you.

Petting a purring, head-butting cat in your lap is a quiet pleasure that can make your day. Come give me a try.

My name is Tilly. I am a gorgeous one-year-young, long-haired calico cat. I am shy, as I had a rough start to life, so in the beginning I will show my emotion through wild fits of lying around, but I enjoy other cats and look forward to demonstrating other subtle displays of affection with a new family of my own.


If you are still preferring the anti-subtle language of endearment of the spastic slobbering canine you might want to meet Ranger. Ranger, a two-and-a-half year lab mix is jubilant, loveeable, faithful and protective. He is very bright and plays fetch like no other. Ranger‘s ideal home would be a place where he can run and play fetch every day.

Vetting the Vet: Dr. Michelle Dally, DVM, J.D. is Medical Director of Second Chance Humane Society. She also has a private practice, Dally Veterinary Medicine, 333 S. Elizabeth Street, Ridgway, Colorado. Her service area is  San Miguel Mesas, Placerville, Ridgway, Ouray, and Montrose. For more on Dr. Dally, go here.

Michelle & Wallowby

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