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11 Typical Signs Your Cat Has Imprinted on You

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Unlike dogs, who treat everyone as their best friend, cats tend to be more reserved with their affection. This doesn’t mean that cats love their humans any less. Many cats end up having a favorite person in the house who they’ve grown especially fond of.

Some believe this is similar to imprinting, a process where a young animal develops an attachment to the first moving thing they see.

Wondering if you’re the lucky one? Here’s a checklist of 11 telltale signs your cat has imprinted on you!

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What Does Imprinting Mean for Cats?

First, let’s define what imprinting is. In general, imprinting is when an animal develops a bond with something they were exposed to early on in life.

One of the most famous examples is ducklings. They will follow the first moving object they see after getting out of their eggs and think of it as “mama.” It doesn’t have to be a duck; ducklings have been known to imprint on other animals like dogs and humans! This type of imprinting doesn’t apply to kittens since they instinctively know their mother regardless of who they first see when they’re born.

However, kittens do have the capacity to form strong bonds with humans and build imprinting-like relationships. This usually happens with people who were around during the kitten’s most formative period, but it can develop at any age. Typically, cats “imprint” on the person they have the most positive interaction with, aka the one who feeds, plays, and spends time with them the most.

cat rubbing its head against the owner's legs
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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The 11 Signs Your Cat Has Imprinted on You

Cats have a love language of their own. Actions that may not look like a big deal to us can be meaningful signs of love and affection in their eyes.

These 11 habits can be your cat telling you they’ve imprinted on you and love you the most:

1. Your Cat Regularly Headbutts You

Headbutting, also known as bunting, is an affectionate behavior that cats display to their owners and other objects and even animals. The behavior is rooted in the cats’ natural tendency to mark their territories and objects with the scent from the glands located on their forehead, base of the ears, cheeks, chin, and elsewhere on the head. This sends the message to the cat that the person or object is safe. 

When a cat headbutts you, they are essentially saying that you are a part of their inner circle and that they trust you. This is a sign of affection, and your cat is trying to establish a bond with you.

Additionally, headbutting can signify contentment, as cats tend to express their happiness by rubbing against objects. Headbutting is a sign of your cat feeling comfortable and safe and a sure sign they’ve imprinted on you.

cat rubbing against owner
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

2. You Keep Tripping on Your Cat

Is your cat always underfoot? Do they keep following you, trying to rub against you, or curl their tail around you?

A cat that has imprinted on you will basically become your shadow. They will want to be by your side constantly, follow you around the house, sit on your lap, or even try to join you in the shower.

It’s a sign that they trust and love you, as cats typically reserve this type of behavior for the people they’re closest with.


3. You’re the Only One Who Gets Groomed

When it comes to signs of imprinting, grooming is one of the biggest, especially if you’re the only one who gets the honor.

Cats only groom their closest companions, and it is a behavior used in social bonding and establishing hierarchy. They primarily use their tongue since the rough surface of their tongue basically acts like a comb that helps remove dirt and debris from the fur.

They may lick your ears, hair, hands, feet—anything they can get those little tongues on! By grooming you, cats essentially say that they consider you part of their family and their favorite one at that.

cat licking man's ear
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

4. You’re Their Sleep Buddy

Cats love to nap anytime and anywhere during the day. Letting their guard down during bedtime puts them in a vulnerable position, so cats will only sleep next to someone they feel safe with.

If your cat has imprinted on you, they may take their spot next to you every night and snuggle up close. This means they trust you to protect them and not do anything terrible to them while they’re asleep. It’s a sign of love, trust, and security; all signs that your cat has imprinted on you.


5. They Show You Their Belly All the Time

Unlike dogs, for whom showing the belly is an invitation for a rub, cats don’t just expose their bellies to anyone.

In the cat world, laying belly-side up is an extremely vulnerable and unsafe position. It makes them open to attack from predators and makes it harder to defend themselves.

However, if your cat constantly shows you their belly, they’re telling you that they trust you completely.

Still, don’t take it as an invitation to rub that furry tummy, or the claws may come out! Give them space and simply appreciate the gesture.

sleepy cat laying on owners lap
Image Credit: Alena Ozerova, Shutterstock

6. You Receive the Most Gifts From Your Cat

Cats are known for bringing home gifts, usually a mouse, bird, or other small animals. It’s part of their hunter instinct and a way of sharing their bounty with you. If your cat decides to make you the top recipient of their gifts, they’re letting you know that you hold a special place in their heart.


7. They Use You as a Chew Toy

Soft biting or nibbling is one of the lesser-known ways that cats express how they’ve imprinted on you. It’s similar to the way kittens suckle on their mother. What makes it special is how gentle and careful they are during the process. These love bites may feel weird but try to enjoy them!

aggressive gray cat biting the owner’s hand
Image Credit: Sozina Kseniia, Shutterstock

8. They Keep Making Biscuits on You

Kneading is another unique cat behavior that can also mean your kitty has imprinted on you. Kittens instinctively knead their mother’s stomachs to stimulate milk production. That phase in their life is cozy and safe, and kneading instantly transports them back to that place. Therefore, a cat kneading you with their paws means you make your cat feel like a safe and warm kitten again.

Some cats get carried away so much that their claws start to come out while making biscuits on your thigh, tummy, or chest. This can hurt (and nearly impossible to stop), so we recommend placing a blanket underneath their paws beforehand.

It may not be the most romantic thing, but it’s certainly a sweet sign of love from your cat!


9. Your Cat Has Memorized Your Routine

Imprinting can also mean paying extra attention to you and everything you do. Does your cat seem to know when you’re about to leave for work, come back home, or get ready for bed?

Do they tend to remind you of the same thing every day, like it’s their job?

If so, you’ve been deemed worthy of their constant and sustained attention. Cats don’t like to waste energy on things that don’t provide an immediate reward, so your cat’s keen observation means they value you a lot.

cat walking with the owner
Image Credit: Piqsels

10. They Want to Make You Smell Like Them

Cats have scent glands located around their face and body that they use to mark their territory.

A cat that has imprinted you will never stop trying to claim you as theirs. If your cat is always rubbing against you, they’re telling the world, “This human is mine!”

It’s an act of ownership, appreciation, safety, familiarity, and adoration—a sign that you’ve won your cat’s heart.


11. They Chatter or Gurgle at You Constantly

Aside from meowing, cats also make other fascinating sounds. Chattering, chirping, and gurgling are all adorable vocalizations cats make when they see something stimulating or exciting.

It could be a bird outside the window, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, cats chatter and gurgle in the presence of someone they love—you! It means they’re feeling happy and excited to be around you and trying to tell you all about it. Or they want something from you, like your attention or food.

It may sound silly but try responding in kind with a bit of purring of your own!

owner petting a hissing angry tabby cat
Image Credit: Anna Kraynova, Shutterstock

hepper cat paw dividerHow to Create a Stronger Bond With Your Cat

If your cat hasn’t imprinted on you yet based on the signs we discussed, don’t take it personally. Each cat is different. Some develop bonds quickly, while others take a lot of time to open up. No matter where your cat falls on the spectrum, these tips can help you strengthen your bond and create a lasting friendship:

Take Over Feeding Time

Cats bond faster with people who provide their basic needs. And since most cats love food, it’s simple math: if you’re the source of their favorite thing (their meals), you must be pretty awesome yourself!

If you’re currently free-feeding your cat or using a robot feeder, consider switching to scheduled meal times instead. Not only does it help you establish a routine, but it also helps your cat associate with something super positive.

cat owner feeding her pet cat
Image Credit: Milles Studio, Shutterstock

Spend More Time Playing With Your Cat

If your schedule won’t allow you to take care of mealtime, make up for it by playing with your cat more often.

Combine physical and mental games to maximize your time together. For instance, kick things off with a round of chase, then switch to a quick training lesson with lots of treats. The more you play with your cat, the more they’ll connect you with fun!

calico cat trained by owner
Image By: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

Respect Your Cat’s Space

The fastest way to turn off a cat is to treat them like a puppy, like bombarding them with cuddles, pets, noise, and attention without regarding their boundaries.

Cats are much less tolerant of unwanted attention. Keep doing it enough, and you may find them leaving the room or hiding every time you come in.

Instead, let your cat dictate the terms of your relationship. For example, wait for them to come to you before you start petting, and never force them into a cuddle position or on their back to rub their belly.

You can also put a special rug beside your favorite spot on the couch just for your cat. That way, they’ll know they’re always welcome to join you whenever they want – and not a moment sooner.

Be consistent about all these tips; before you know it, you and your cat will be closer than ever.hepper cat paw divider

Conclusion

Cats are mysterious creatures and often keep their love close to the chest. But if you look closely enough, you’ll find that cats have a special way of showing their fondness for you.

From kneading on your lap to gurgling in delight, cats will make it clear when they’ve imprinted on you. And if your relationship isn’t there yet? Simply invest more time and effort until it is, all while letting your cat take the lead.

So, if your cat has been showing some of the signs listed above, you can be sure that you have genuinely been imprinted in their hearts. Enjoy the love, and give your cat lots of it in return!


Featured Image Credit: Karpova, Shutterstock

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