Do Cats Love Their Owners? How Your Pet Really Feels About You

Humans have enjoyed a love affair with felines ever since kitties were domesticated approximately 10,000 years ago.

Yet despite the pets' popularity, with millions of U.S households owning at least one cat, some people may feel a little unsure about what their animal really feels about them.

So is a human's love for their pets really reciprocated, do cats love their owners?

Newsweek asked the experts.

Do Cats Love Their Humans?

The International Cat Association (TICA) President Vicki Jo Harrison is very confident that felines are most likely very affectionate to their owners, despite their "bad rap."

She told Newsweek: "Despite their independent nature and aloof stereotype, cats feel love quite strongly for their owners and other companions.

"Cats get a bad rap sometimes because they are a little more understated about showing their affection than dogs.

"From slow blinks to purrs, kneading, and following you from room to room, cats show love in many unique and wonderful ways."

Do Cats Love Their Owners
A cat is likely to rub and headbutt and purr to show affection. undefined undefined/Getty Images

She cites a 2019 Oregon State University study suggesting cats exhibit the same attachment to their owners that babies show to their parents.

Kittens in the study acted distressed when their caregivers left and happy and secure when they returned.

They still acted this way one year later and the responses were similar to how human children react to their parents.

Harrison added: "Much like people, each cat is unique and show signs of affection in different ways and extents."

However, Dr. Jacqueline Brister, veterinarian and consultant at Embrace Pet Insurance, believes understanding such emotions may not be quite so straightforward.

Do Cats Love Their Owners
You are likely mcuh more than just a source of food to your pet kitty. seniia Soloveva/Getty Images

She said: "Love is a pretty complex emotion. Many theorize that dogs and cats can experience feelings and emotions that are similar to people, but probably with less complexity and depth.

"While we can't prove that dogs and cats love us, they show their affection in many ways, which at the very least, tells us they accept us as part of their social circle and family."

How are Cats Understood to Display Affection?

Cat experts believe the creatures do not always show affection and appreciation in the manner people are accustomed.

Harrison describes the slow blink as "a cat's classic language of love" and mirroring this action can help create a bond with the pet.

She said: "Try blinking back the next time you notice your cat blinking at you. It's a great way to tell your cat you love her too."

The TICA President suggests purring also indicates the cat is comfortable enough with someone to relax fully.

Cats are sweet animals
Cats are cute creatures who love to cuddle up with their owners. Chalabala/Getty Images

She said: "Purrs have many meanings, but when your cat is snuggling up to you and purring it means she is happy to be near you and is feeling love."

A cat that sits on or lays on you or sleeps with you shows that they trust you and feel secure with you by their side. It also means they believe you will provide an extra layer of defense if needed.

A tail that is swishing softly or curled around a person's leg is believed to mean the cat is feeling friendly and affectionate, with Harrison saying: "When a cat holds her tail high, she's confident, secure, and happy to see you."

Head bumps are also associated with displays of affection and are thought to communicate the person is part of their family.

Harrison said: "Cats like to claim their territory by rubbing their head on things and walking on objects because they have glands in their feet and head which release pheromones.

"Making themselves cozy on your bed and bumping heads with you marks you as their territory and signals that they feel secure, happy, and relaxed."

She added cats that will follow their owners from room to room in another could also be displaying affection.

Harrison said: "They know you're up to something interesting, and they don't want to miss out."

Cats groom each other to mix their scents and show trust and they may do the same to win the approval of their owners.

"They knead to show they are relaxed and content, just like when they were kittens. Both are sure signs of love."

cats show love in many ways
Cats are thought to display their affection in many unique and wonderful ways. SeventyFour/Getty Images