“One warm summer evening, I was sitting outside with my dog and two cats and was met with an unexpected visitor.
Apparently, a skunk had taken up residence under our deck. And it took serious offense to our dog Petals sniffing around down there!
Not only did this skunk let out the most offensive odor I had ever experienced, but it actually bolted TOWARDS Petals!
I was so worried about Petals. What if the skunk scratched her? What if it had rabies??
I jumped up and ran towards them, yelling and waving my arms in an attempt to scare the skunk away.
Not only did this not work, but the skunk turned towards ME!
This all happened in a moment’s time, but it seemed like it was happening in slow motion.
Suddenly, like Superman swooping down from above, one of my cats came speeding down from his spot in the maple tree to save the day.
In the blink of an eye, my cat was on the skunk’s tail and managed to chase it out of the yard.
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And his brother cat was right behind him…”
This is a story we’ve heard from one of our customers, but it mimics a sentiment we hear often. It’s a sentiment that some doubters seem determined to disprove.
The reason some Negative Nellies believe cats don’t care is because they don’t show affection in the same way we’re used to.
In fact, it’s a common stereotype that cats aren’t as affectionate as dogs. But it’s a misconception. Dogs show affection in a way that’s more in line with what we expect. Cats can show the same level of affection, but they do it in different ways.
A cat’s love is more nuanced.
To understand how cats love, let’s take a look at their roots.
Pre-Domesticated Dogs Versus Cats
We are well-versed in the pack mentality that dogs instinctually carry with them. We’ve even taught ourselves to think in the same way to effectively train our dogs. Dogs are subservient to one single alpha leader.
But what kind of mentality do cats have? To most of us, it’s a mystery… The truth is that cats are more complicated.
Cats spend a lot of time alone, but they may also form communities. Unlike dogs, they don’t need the “pack” in order to survive. They can usually hunt and protect themselves without the help of other cats.
When cats are part of a community, it’s by choice. It’s not out of need.
So when you bring a cat into your home, it’s not about who is alpha or beta. It’s about mutual respect, and this must be earned.
Your cat sees you as an individual sharing their space, and you’ll see this reflected in how they act towards you. Dogs, on the other hand, are eager for your respect and attention because they acknowledge that you are their leader and they need you in order to survive.
You aren’t likely to see signs of affection from your cat until you have earned their respect, but once you do, your cat will grow to love you.
How Cats Show Affection
Now that we know not to expect our cats to act like dogs…
And now that we know cats are capable of love…
Let’s look at the ways in which your cat may say, “I love you.”
The upright tail may well be the most obvious way cats show affection. When a cat walks around with their tail upright, it says she’s comfortable in her surroundings. A curve at the end of her tail means she’s even more excited about seeing you.
So while you may not enjoy the view when her tail is upright and back half is in your face, your cat is really saying he loves you.
Rubbing Against Your Legs
If you’ve ever seen cat friends interact, you’ll probably notice them rubbing faces. They may even do it with dogs if they have a close enough relationship. Rubbing against your legs is kind of the same thing. It’s a way to say, “Hello, I love you, and please pet me.” They are letting you know that they are looking to bond.
Asking to Be Pet
When your cat asks for your affection, it’s not necessarily a selfish act. This is one of the few ways your cat knows how to bond with you, so asking for affection is also a way for them to show affection.
Ah, the dead mouse or bird. Those are unpleasant, aren’t they?
Although cats have been domesticated for thousand years, they have retained the strong hunting instincts of their ancestors.
What does that have to do with you? Let’s explore…
In the wild, cat mothers bring prey to their kittens to teach them how to hunt. When they are domesticated and often spayed, they don’t have children to pass their hunting knowledge. So they are attempting to pass it on to you. It’s an act of love.
Purring? Maybe... Many pet owners think of purring as a sign of affection. This may be true, but there’s more to the story…
Cats may also purr when they are hungry and some even purr when they are angry or anxious.
An Animal Cognition study found that cats react fondly to hearing the voices of their owners. They will orient their heads and ears towards the sound and their pupils will dilate, which is a sign of excitement. In another study, animal behaviorists found that cats remember kindness and are likely to return it at a later time.
How to Bond with Your Cat
One of the most important things to remember when trying to bond with your cat is that it takes time. You must spend time and show them affection in order to earn their respect before they will return the favor.
But when a cat loves you, it will treat you as an equal. It’s not quite the same thing as the “pack mentality” that you’ll find with dogs, but it’s more like a familial bond. If a dog sees you as a parent of sorts, you’re more like a sibling to your cat. But love is love…
It’s also important to note that kittens must be handled very early in life, between 4 and 8 weeks, in order for them to be able to trust and bond with humans.