Do cats know we love them? An expert has the answer

Boy nuzzling against his cat on the window
(Image credit: Getty Images/Kseniya Ovchinnikova)

If you're a cat parent, thoughts like, 'Do cats know we love them?' probably take up a ton of space in your mind. We feel you.

Often perceived as frustratingly aloof, unbothered creatures who can easily betray their humans in exchange for the best cat food, our feline companions have long been victims of a myriad of stereotypes compared to their canine counterparts.

While cats tend to have a somewhat mysterious side that makes it hard to tell whether they feel the slightest affection for us, the truth is that they do — far more than we realize. 

Ahead, we explore an expert’s perspective on the big question: Do our feline companions know how much we adore them? We’ll also look into common ways that cats show us love, and much more.  

Headshot of Stephen Quandt
Stephen Quandt

Stephen Quandt of Stephen Quandt Feline Behavior Associates, LLC, is a feline training and behavior specialist certified through the Animal Behavior Institute (ABI).

With over 20 years of professional experience helping cats with a variety of behavioral issues, Quandt works with cats in private consultations and animal shelters, among other settings. His past rescue work experience with the ASPCA further cemented his empathy for cats in need and his desire to help cat parents find lasting solutions. Currently, Quandt also works with the Animal Care Centers of NYC. He is a proud parent of two cats, Jenny and Cricket. 

Do cats know we love them?

Stephen Quandt, a certified cat behaviorist at Stephen Quandt Feline Behavior Associates, LLC, explains that cats know we love them since they genuinely reciprocate the love in their own unique ways. 

“It’s easy to anthropomorphize and hard to know what exactly a cat is feeling,” says Quandt. “What can be challenging is interpreting their signals accurately, especially when every cat may express their feelings for us differently. Your cat might give you a little side eye, slowly walk past you, stretch, lick themselves once, and then continue on their way, and yet they may be very connected to you, but at that moment in time, they may appear aloof.”

Quandt shares that we often expect our felines to reciprocate the love in a manner that makes sense to us humans, forgetting they’re an entirely different species from us.

“The other challenge is we tend to anthropomorphize by assigning human emotions to our animals, and they are not humans,” he says. 

Quandt notes that cats share a special 'attachment bond' with their humans, which, to a great extent, indicates they know when we show them love. 

Owner stroking cat

(Image credit: Getty Images/Westend61)

“Cats typically don’t meow to other cats; they make all sorts of other sounds, but meowing isn’t common,” he reveals. “But kittens meow to their moms, and adult cats meow to us, and it is this behavior that makes us believe we are often at least partly in a maternal relationship with cats.”

Quandt adds: “We’re all the moms, and they’re the kittens. And what do kittens want? Food, attention, comfort, play, and protection. And if we give these things to our cats, they respond to us. And whatever it is they’re feeling, if they give us enough signals, I’m happy to call it love.”

To conclude, Quandt — a proud parent of two adorable cats — says: “The bottom line? I believe cats know we love them in whatever way they appreciate that truth. And when I look down at both of mine, asleep on my lap (or pretending to be), and they’re purring, calm, and relaxed, I am without doubt.”

Although cats can’t put their love for their humans into words, they’ll let you know how they feel through over-the-top or subtle displays of affection. If you're wondering, 'Do cats think humans are cats?' check out this feature. 

Here are different ways felines express love for their humans, according to Quandt:

  • Giving slow blinks
  • Initiating bonding time. For instance, willingly lying next to you
  • Seeking you out/ following you around 
  • Rubbing their head or body against you 
  • Rolling over their back and exposing their belly 
  • Kneading and licking you 
  • Purring when close to you 

How to show your cat you love them

Whether you’re new to the world of cat parenting or have been at it for a while now, here are five ways to show love to your kitty and make their heart pitter-patter a little more for you: 

1. Help them out with grooming

Sure, cats deserve a front-row seat in the self-groomer's hall of fame. Still, they won’t mind an extra hand, especially when it comes to grooming those hard-to-reach spots,  according to the Courier Journal. By setting aside time regularly to brush your cat's fur, you’ll send the message that you care for them. Here are some top tips for brushing cats

2. Spend quality time together 

According to feline expert Maria, cats enjoy relaxing with their favorite human for cuddles. The feelings of safety, warmth, and comfort will signal your love and care for them.

3. Play with them 

A few things excite a cat more than a playtime session with their owner. This is another great way to show your feline you love them, according to Maria. To make playtime extra fun, how about getting your kitty some of the best interactive cat toys.

Go Cat Da Purr Peller Toy

 Go Cat Da Purr Peller Toy

This interactive toy is a guaranteed boredom buster that will keep your feline entertained as they unleash their hunting instincts. All you have to do is wave it back and forth in the air and watch your kitty jump as high as they can to grab it. 

4. Spoil your cat with healthy treats 

Treats are the surest path to any feline’s heart. Offering your cat the best cat treats every now and then is a purr-tastic way to show how much you adore them, according to Maria.

5. Pay attention to them and respect boundaries 

Like other pets, cats express their needs and emotions by vocalizing or using body language. For instance, if your feline is hungry, wants attention, or simply fancies some alone time, they’ll communicate these needs using cat body language

By familiarizing yourself with these cues, you’ll be better at responding to their needs and respecting their boundaries. Cat behaviorist Quandt considers this one of the greatest ways to show love to your feline family member.   

Owner stroking cat who is lying on the sofa

(Image credit: Getty Images/Kseniya Ovchinnikova)

6. Reciprocate the slow blinks  

A study published in the Scientific Reports Journal revealed that cats 'profess' love for their owners by blinking slowly at them. 

Interestingly, researchers found that when an owner slow-blinks back at their kitty, the cat experiences an emotional connection with their human at that moment. So, gaze lovingly into your feline’s eyes and reciprocate those slow blinks; it will mean the world to them!

Do cats like kisses?

Nothing screams, 'I adore my cat!' more than smothering them with plenty of kisses. We get it. However, the answer to whether cats like kisses is anything but straightforward; it all depends on the individual cat. 

Here’s the thing: our feline friends vary in personality and preference. While some cats don’t mind receiving smooches, others will outright make it known that they’d rather not be kissed. The best way to tell whether your kitty enjoys receiving this innocent, blatant expression of love from you is to observe their body language as you kiss them. 

Generally speaking, cats don’t understand what exactly human kisses are (and what they mean). Since kisses aren’t a normal affectionate gesture in the feline world, some cats may perceive them as a threat or an invasion of personal space. 

According to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, cat-to-cat kisses often involve felines nudging their noses against each other.

So, if you’ve noticed your kitty friend rarely seems enthusiastic about your kisses, don’t take it personally. Chances are, they simply can’t make sense of this specific affectionate gesture.

Owner kissing ginger cat

(Image credit: Getty Images/Photo by Rafa Elias)

Found this article helpful? Check out how to know your cat loves you to learn more about all the ways our feline friends show us affection. Also, if you’re curious about why your kitty likes to lie on you, our post on why does my cat sleep on my chest may interest you. 

Milkah Mullanda
Freelance Writer

Milkah is a freelance writer based in Nairobi, Kenya, with a strong passion for all things dogs and cats. With over four years of writing experience, her work has appeared on popular websites such as DogTime, CatTime, and DoggySaurus. 

Milkah graduated from the University of Embu (Kenya) in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Agribusiness Management and opted to pursue her passion for writing just a year after graduating. She enjoys meeting the informational needs of pet owners, one insightful article at a time. When she's not stuck in a writing hole doing what she does best, you may find her in the kitchen perfecting a recipe, or catching up on a true-crime documentary. 

One of her greatest joys is spending time with her beloved cat, Lucky, while serenading her softly with her not-so-great karaoke skills.