Skip to Content

How Do Cats Show Affection?

If you are ever lucky enough to share your life with a cat you will soon discover it has a variety of ways of communicating and showing its feelings. 

Cats express their moods through their voices, facial expressions, and body language. When they want to be noticed, they pull out all the stops to get attention.

They are affectionate and display their love in many ways. Making eye contact, rubbing against you and purring are just a few signs of a cat’s feelings of affection toward you.

The strongest sign of affection from a cat is when it mingles its scent with yours. Cats groom each other as a display of affection, and this behavior often extends to humans for whom they feel strong affection. When a cat loves and trusts you, it will lick you and rub against you.

How do Maine Coons show affection? Maine Coon displaying belly

Why are some cats so affectionate?

Some cats are just more sociable with people than others. This often leads them to act more affectionately. They adore human attention and will do everything they can to gain it.

It’s quite normal for a cat to want to be close to its favorite person, to sleep nearby whilst they work, or to sleep on their bed at night.

Understanding a cat’s affection from facial expressions

Full eye contact

Cats can feel threatened by a direct stare. When a cat gravitates towards the person who least likes cats this is not because it senses that person’s dislike and is determined to annoy them, it’s because that person seems the least threatening because they are not trying to make eye contact.

When a cat is scared its pupils dilate. They are taking in as much information as possible and are ready for whatever threat they perceive to be coming their way.

A cat with this look is likely to want to get away as quickly as possible.  If a cat relaxes and comfortably holds eye contact with you this could be a sign of devotion.

Slow blinking

Moving one step on from eye contact, if your cat slow-blinks at you it is most definitely displaying its affection for you. When a cat closes its eyes in your presence it totally trusts you.

Always return this compliment by slow-blinking back at your cat. This will convey to it that you are not a threat.

Eyes shut tight

If your cat is asleep with its eyes closed tightly, it feels very relaxed and safe in your presence. Your cat is still aware of its surroundings and will open its eyes the moment it senses anything unusual in the room or nearby.


Along with slow blinking, this is another sign of relaxation and trust. We yawn back at our cats and they seem to appreciate this and do it to us again.

We tend to think that cats only use their whiskers to sense the size of a space they need to pass through. But they can also be an indicator of mood.

A relaxed cat generally has horizontal whiskers. If it is feeling a little low, perhaps ill or stressed, its whiskers may point downwards.

If a cat’s whiskers point forward from its face this could indicate a hostile mood. I can’t say I have ever noticed these differences in whisker position but I shall look more carefully from now on.

When a cat puts its ears flat and out sideways (a bit like airplane wings) it is not happy. However, if you stroke its head from front to back and it lays its ear flat and backward it is happy with this attention.

When a cat’s ears are leaning forward it is on high alert and listening carefully to a noise it’s picked up. It is on high alert. When its ears are in a neutral, upright position, your cat is relaxed.

Reading a cat’s affectionate body language

Cats show a lot of affection, and other feelings, through their body language – all you need to do is learn how to interpret it. The longer you live together the more you will recognize how your cat’s posture and actions are conveying messages to you.

Showing you its belly

If your cat rolls onto its back in a relaxed and flirtatious fashion, giving you full eye contact and a full view of its tummy, this is a sign of absolute trust.

This is a cat’s most vulnerable position and it is confident that you love it enough not to harm it. But beware, this is not an invitation to dive in with a tickle and if you do you may very quickly find yourself in the vice-like grip of 18 needle-sharp claws plus a set of extremely pointed teeth.

To be safe, read this tummy display as, “You can look but you better not touch!”

On the other hand, if a cat cowers on its back in a corner, teeth showing, ears back, and claws visible, this is not a display of trust. This is a defensive position. Walk away!

Tell-tale tails

Your cat’s tail can tell you a thing or two about its mood:

  • If it has a tall tail, straight up in the air this denotes a happy, confident cat.
  • A tail held horizontally to the ground can mean your cat is in a curious or inquisitive mood.
  • A tail that’s pointing down to the ground says it is feeling unhappy and insecure.
  • Curling its tail around your legs is a sign of friendliness.
  • An upright tail with hair standing out at right angles like a bottle brush shows a cat feels threatened.
  • The bottle-brush tail with a back arched upwards with fur standing up like a Mohican along the spine is an extremely hostile stance.
  • If a cat is twitching the tip of its tail it is a sign of boredom or restlessness.
  • A whole tail wagging back and forth is a sign of utter displeasure, bordering on rage.

Rubbing up against you

When a cat rubs against your legs it is giving you a friendly greeting. This action is often accompanied by the tail curling around you as mentioned above.


If you lower your face gently towards your cat and it gently bumps its head against you, you can take this as a sign of deep affection. Your cat truly loves you and thinks of you both as members of the same pack.


Affectionate Maine Coons

Our Maine Coon Charlie liked to hug us. He would climb up onto our chests and place a paw on each shoulder. Interesting fact: hugging is traditionally the way a cat subdues a victim. 

Perhaps Charlie was telling us he owned us.

How a cat uses its voice to show affection

Some cats make a very well-pronounced “meow” whilst others do everything but make this noise.

Did you know cats make more different sounds than any other household pet? They are capable of making many different noises, each with its own meaning.

They are also very good at recognizing how you react to the things they “say” to you. Here’s how to interpret the most commonly heard cat vocabulary:

The meow

How do Maine Coons show affection? Yawning Maine Coon

This really is spelled as it sounds and it’s the classic noise associated with cats. Ask yourself if you have ever heard cats meowing at each other.

Your answer should be “no” as this is the sound they use almost exclusively to communicate with people. You will rarely hear a cat meow for any other reason.

Kittens meow at their mothers and but this communication ceases as they reach the age when they will leave her. Because we usually adopt kittens before the meowing stage is finished, they continue to meow at us.

As we find this sound endearing and respond to it, most cats will continue to meow throughout their lives.

Cats have four main reasons for meowing:

  • they are hungry – you should obey this meow immediately, if you don’t there’ll be no let-up.
  • they want you to let them into a room – I often hear this from our Harry when I’ve just stepped into the shower. It’s easier to get out and let him in because he becomes quite insistent.
  • they want your attention – this happens whenever I settle onto the couch with my laptop.
  • they are announcing their presence or arrival (a bit like saying “hello”) – we often hear this from Harry as he comes in through the catflap. It’s like he’s calling out, “I’m home!”

If your cat is meowing and you are able to rule out the above reasons, there’s a possibility that it isn’t feeling well or has an injury. Keep an eye out for any deterioration in health and visit your vet if there’s any doubt. 

Also, speaking from experience, older cats seem to meow a bit more. This may be brought on by anxiety.

Occasionally you might hear incessant meowing. This may occur if you don’t react to earlier meows quickly enough. It can also mean your cat has sustained an injury so make sure you don’t just ignore it.

If a meow is more drawn out, it may be because your cat feels irritated by something – the reason might not be obvious but see what you can spot.


White Maine Coon and red tabby Maine Coon

Cats yowl for many reasons. These include:

  • As a means of communicating with each other.
  • If they are worried, in pain, or feeling ill.
  • Older cats might yowl if they develop cognitive issues such as remembering where they are, or if they start to lose their senses such as sight or hearing.
  • Being moved to a new environment where it misses its old territory.

If your cat yowls incessantly, it may be ill so visit your vet as soon as possible. Another reason for yowling could be boredom or loneliness.

Make sure your cat has plenty of toys and that you make time to play with it every day. Grown-up cats are still kittens at heart and playing with them keeps them happy.


Purring is traditionally linked with contentment. There’s nothing more satisfying than a contented cat purring loudly on your lap. Purrs can be gentle and low and if your cat is particularly happy they can sound quite manic or even tuneful, varying between high and low pitches.

Be aware that there are rare times when purring occurs for a reason other than feeling ecstatically happy. Some experts believe that a cat can’t help purring when it is agitated or worried, almost like an uncontrollable reflex. You could compare it to feeling nervous and putting on an act of bravado.

Signs that your cat is not purring with pleasure include a tense, unrelaxed stance.  In this situation try to establish the source of your cat’s worry. For example, it could be purring because you have picked it up and this has made it nervous.

Cats are known to purr when they are hungry too. One of ours lays on my chest and purrs extremely loudly first thing every morning. It’s hard to go back to sleep in this situation, he knows this will get me up!

Finally, purring may also be a comfort-seeking device, for example, when a cat is recovering from an illness. If you are aware that your cat is very ill, sadly, it may purr when it is close to death.


When a cat watches through a window what it would prey on if it were outside, it often emits a strange chattering noise with its mouth slightly open. Its jaw also opens and closes quickly at the same time.

This noise is thought to be a sign of excitement coupled with the stress of not being able to get at the creature it is watching.

Muffled mow

There’s a particular sound you’ll hear from a cat and that’s the meow attempted through a mouthful of something that’s intended as a present for you.

Some people’s cats bring them a favorite toy as a gift but when I hear this noise it’s always a dead creature they have just caught in the garden as a gift, especially for me.

Your cat is genuinely trying to please you, so act that way. Say thank you, show your appreciation for its hunting skills and then distract it away from the area so you can clear up the “gift”.

Chirping and trilling

These tuneful sounds are how mother cats communicate with their kittens. Our 4 Maine Coons sound like they are rolling the letter R, a bit like “rrrruh”, whilst ascending up a semitone. 

If your cat makes these noises at you it may be feeling excited, happy, or want to show you something or want you to follow it somewhere. I also hear my cats make these noises to each other and they are usually followed by a play fight which often gets a little out of hand and ends with a growl and a nip.

Hissing and spitting

A cat’s hiss can be quite chilling and you can be sure it’s a warning to cease what you’re doing and retreat. A hiss means your cat feels threatened and will fight if necessary. Quite often a hiss is accompanied by puffed-out fur, an arched back, and a display of teeth.

If it’s not aimed at you, remove the source (dog or another cat?) as quickly and carefully as possible. It’s extremely rare for a happy, domesticated cat to behave like this.


A cat’s growl is usually paired with hissing and snarling. Most of the time it’s caused by another cat entering your cat’s territory. Our cats do this at other cats through a window and it’s perfectly natural behavior so you shouldn’t interfere.

In this situation, I lock the flap so they can’t go out and get physical. If your cat is having a confrontation with another cat outside or is involved in a fight, be very careful as you may be injured if you try to step in.

It’s better to squirt water or throw some from a distance and hope this does the trick. Try not to let your cat see you throw the water as it will lose trust in you.


This is the classic female mating call that you could also refer to as yowling. It sounds something like a drawn-out, throaty “ahh-roo-uhuhh-roo”.

If you have not had your female cat spayed, she will transform into Houdini and do everything within her capability to get out and meet up with male cats. You will probably find plenty of these loitering close by and reciprocating with their own yowling.


Female cats often scream during mating. And it is common to hear cats scream during a fight. Having females spayed and males neutered can prevent both of these reasons for their screaming.

Why is my cat not affectionate?

If your cat is not the affectionate cat you hoped it would be, it is because you have not yet learned to recognize the signs. Every cat is unique and has its own way of being affectionate.

Some cats take longer than others to warm to their owners enough to let their guard down and lavish them with attention. You can’t force a cat to demonstrate its love and need to exercise patience – it pays off in the end.

Avoid direct eye contact, and blink regularly to help your cat relax in your presence. A fake yawn can help and letting your cat come to you when it is ready is the best way to earn its trust and gain its affection.

Not all cats are clingy but this doesn’t mean they do not have any affection for you. A cat that doesn’t sit on your lap might show its feelings for you by rubbing against you or sleeping close by.

This article may contain affiliate links; if you click on a shopping link and make a purchase I may receive a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.