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Do Cats Love Their Owners? Feline Affection Explained

Jeff Weishaupt

By Jeff Weishaupt

a woman hugging a cat in a shelter

If you have been active on social media, you might have seen Grumpy Cat videos and memes. While they hysterically portray the felines as unemotional, cold, or independent of humans, that’s just one side of the story.

In reality, cats can also be a man’s best friend. These adorable pets build strong bonds with their owners and show affection to them differently. You might have found them staring at you with slow blinks or following you around the house. Sometimes, they also headbutt you in your face and ask for cuddles. These are all their secretive ways of showing love to their owners.

But do these felines love you as much as humans or dogs? Or is cuddling their way of manipulating their owners to give them their favorite treats? Let’s see what science says about this!

Does Your Cat Love You?

Cats have an independent and mysterious nature. That’s why you will see your kitten spending time alone with no urge to cuddle you. Even if you call them for a movie night, they won’t budge from their place. That’s how these pets are! So, there is no need to take anything personally. Cats love and appreciate human touch and require their owner’s attention as much as any other pet. They like building strong bonds with their human parents as long as their personal space is acknowledged.

A study observed the nature of attachment cats feel toward their owners.1 The researchers, Kristyn Vitale and Monique Udell, tested 100 felines in an unfamiliar lab. First, they left the cats with their caregivers for a few minutes, and after that, they asked the owners to leave the pets alone. Then, the caregivers were called again in the room. The results were quite surprising!

Vitale explained that the cats greeted their owners when they returned to the lab room and showed unique behavior. The felines explored the items in the room and then went back to their owner for attention. Then, they would again move around to check the surroundings and return to their owner. That kept on happening for quite some time.

This was similar to the secure attachment behavior that’s typically found in children and dogs. Most cat breeds search for comfort and security with their human parents, and once they find it, they become very friendly, loving, and affectionate.

So, if your kitty is sweet and attentive towards you, know that they love you!

cat and woman hugging
Image Credit: Uschi Dugulin, Pixabay

Do Cats Love Humans as Much as Dogs?

“My cat looks so grumpy. Do they even love me?” If you’re a cat owner, you might have asked this question at some point in your life.

Remember, your feline loves you if they are sweet and nice to you. It’s just that some cats aren’t as expressive as dogs, or their way of showing affection differs from other pets.

Cats also use distinctive vocalizations to express their emotions, especially when excited. They display different tail positions and postures and make various noises to tell others about their feelings. Some even greet their owners with chirrups and trills.

So, all you have to do is learn your little pet’s body language and gestures. Let’s understand what science says about cats and their relationship with humans:

Social Referencing

A study looked into the “social referencing” behavior of cats.2 This phenomenon refers to humans finding hints from their familiar surroundings to learn how to behave in a new, unknown situation.

For instance, babies laugh at their parent’s funny actions without knowing their meaning. They just sense their guardian’s emotions and try to reciprocate them. Cats do the same thing!

Around 79% of cats demonstrated social referencing when they saw a fan for the first time. They looked at their owner’s face to read their expressions and responded similarly. This shows that the felines trust their owners, which is their unique form of love.

cat owner looking at her pet
Image Credit: U__Photo, Shutterstock

Voice Recognition

Does your cat identify your voice even in a crowd? If so, they love you! A study experimented with voice recognition in domestic cats by putting them in a room away from their owners.3 The researchers then asked different people to call each cat’s name to see whether they would recognize their owner’s voice without seeing their face.

Surprisingly, 15 of the 20 cats could identify their parent’s voices. That’s like 75% of the total participants!

Loyalty to their Owners

Like dogs, cats can also be one-person pets. Once they feel safe with someone, other people don’t matter to them. In fact, they don’t even like the touch of strangers or any family member other than their owner. So, what kind of attachment do cats feel toward their human parents?

Scientists studied the cat’s ability to bond with humans.4 They found that these felines actually create a special relationship with their owners and become anxious when they go away for prolonged periods. Some breeds can even develop separation anxiety, a common issue in dogs.

It’s hard to know what makes cats fall in love with someone. Is it safety, comfort, or love? What do these animals look for? All we can say is: the heart wants what it wants.

So, we can say cats feel deep attachments to their human parents like any other pet. However, their love starts with trust, comfort, and safety. If they sense all these things toward their owners, they will value them for the rest of their lives.

Cat laying on owner's chest
Image Credit: Maliflower73, Shutterstock

How to Know Your Cat Loves You?

Kristyn Vitale concludes in her research that cats like being with those who give them attention and love. That’s understandable. But an interesting finding was that about 50% of cats prefer interacting with humans over playing with toys, scent items, or eating their favorite foods. It’s apparent that felines love their owners a lot.

But what if your cat falls in the remaining 50%? Since every cat has a unique personality, it can sometimes become challenging to know your cat’s sentiments toward you.

Here are five common signs depicting a strong cat-human bond:
  • Slow, Affectionate Blinks. Staring and blinking at their owners is the primary sign of a cat feeling happy and comfortable. If you often find your pet looking at you with gentle blinks, know that they like your presence.
  • Following Their Owner. Most pets follow their owners around the house. If your cat does the same, it means they love you and want to spend time in your company. Just hold them and give them some kisses!
  • Physical Contact. While some cats don’t like to be touched, others love physical contact with their owners. Their typical way of showing affection is rubbing the head on their human’s body or clawing their legs gently.
  • Putting Butt in Their Owner’s Face. If your cat puts their butt on your face, don’t feel disgusted or ask them to leave. That’s just their way of showing love and asking for your attention. In fact, many animals tend to greet each other with their butts.
  • Cuddling. It’s the most obvious sign of love among humans and animals. If your cat often sits on your lap or cuddles you on the couch, it means they’re comfortable sharing their personal space with you.

How to Show Your Cat You Love Them Back

Since you have decided to share a significant part of your life with your furry friend, you need to make efforts to strengthen it. The cat-human bond goes like any human relationship; you must keep watering the plant to flourish and grow.

So how can you make your cat feel loved? Here are some ways:

  • When your cat meows at you, always respond to them. It will show your pet that you like talking to them.
  • Build trust with your feline by allowing them to do things on their own. For instance, don’t pick or hold them all the time. Instead, let them enjoy whatever they are doing as long as it’s not harmful.
  • Communication is the key to any relationship. Spend time with your pet daily and teach them different ways to initiate contact with you.
  • Play with your feline whenever you have time. Enjoy different games and toys together to encourage positive interaction.
  • Training sessions help strengthen a cat’s bond with their owners. Try maintaining proper cleaning, playing, and grooming routines for your pet so they follow all these things enjoyably, not by force.
  • You can also help your cat learn tricks like sitting, standing, walking, and doing a high five. However, always do it with positive reinforcement and never punish or scold them.
  • If your cat stays indoors all day, you can take them out for regular walks to spend a great time together.


Cats may not be as expressive as humans or dogs, but they do feel strong affection for their owners. These adorable creatures like spending time with their human parents and, sometimes, get jealous when a third person comes in between.

A cat’s way of showing love differs greatly from dogs and other pets. You can sense your cat loves you when they stare at you with gentle blinks, cuddle you, follow you around, or initiate physical contact.

They also show love to their owners by recognizing their voices and trusting them in a crowd of people. If your cat shows any of these signs, they love you. Just make sure to make them feel loved too!

Featured Image Credit: V2505, Shutterstock

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