Do Cats Actually Care About You?

It’s a common misconception that cats don’t care about their owners as much as dogs do. Many people believe that because cats are more aloof and independent than dogs, they don’t form strong bonds with humans. However, the truth is that cats do care and form affectionate relationships with their owners – they just have different ways of showing it.

While dogs are very overt with their affection, cats show they care in more subtle, discreet ways. They express their feelings through actions and behaviors rather than words or excessive licking like dogs do. Cats rely more on body language and energy than physical touch to communicate their fondness for their owners.

Cats are emotional, loving animals that bond strongly to their human families. They show they care and feel affection for their owners through actions like head-butting, purring, kneading, bringing gifts, responding to their name, greeting at the door and more. Cats don’t smother their owners with endless affection like dogs, but attentive owners can learn to read and reciprocate their cat’s unique loving behaviors.

Cats Show Affection Through Actions

Actions can speak louder than words when it comes to cats showing affection. Cats often use body language and behaviors to express their love and care for their owners. Some of the key ways cats show affection through actions include:

Head-butting – Cats will gently bump their heads against their owners as a sign of affection. This head-butting behavior spreads the cat’s scent and allows them to mark their territory and preferred humans. It’s a way for cats to mingle scents with owners as a bonding gesture. According to The Spruce Pets, “When your cat head-butts you, she is depositing pheromones on you and marking you as hers. It’s a compliment.”

Kneading – Also known as “making biscuits,” cats will often knead their paws against their owner or a soft blanket when feeling happy and content. This motion mimics the kneading cats did as kittens while nursing, and it continues into adulthood as a soothing gesture, typically reserved for their most loved ones. According to UK Sheba, kneading “demonstrates a cat feeling safe and comfy.”

Purring – A cat’s purr is one of the clearest ways they communicate happiness and affection. Cats often purr when being petted or snuggling up close with their favorite humans. The rhythmic rumbling sound is thought to promote healing and be calming for both cats and their owners. Purring is a unique way cats show they feel safe, secure, and cared for thanks to their humans.

Cats Respond to Owner’s Emotions

Studies have shown that cats are sensitive to human emotional signals and can alter their behavior based on the emotions of their owners. According to a 2020 study published in the journal Animals, cats respond differently to a crying infant versus a human speaking in an angry tone, indicating they can distinguish between different types of human emotions [1]. Cats were found to respond with apparent concern and investigation in response to a crying baby, while they tended to freeze, flee, or show aggression in response to angry voices.

Research also suggests cats may be able to detect symptoms of depression and anxiety in their owners. A 2022 article by Petcube cites a study where cats spent more time close to and interacting with owners who were feeling sad or anxious [2]. The cats likely picked up on subtle cues from their owners’ body language and behavior. Their nurturing response indicates they can empathize with human emotions.

Cats Miss Their Owners

When cat owners go away for extended periods, their feline companions definitely notice their absence. Cats are very attached to their owners and thrive on routine. When their owner suddenly disappears, it can be very distressing for a cat.

According to research from Basepaws, there are several signs that a cat misses its owner when they are away, including increased meowing and yowling, searching the house for the owner, changes in appetite, and waiting anxiously by the door or windows. Cats have excellent memories and will likely remember their owner’s scent, voice, and appearance. When those familiar cues are gone, cats can become quite unsettled.

Some specific signs that a cat is missing its owner include meowing or crying more frequently, especially in the rooms the owner spent the most time in. Cats may wait by the door when it’s time for the owner to come home from work, or search room to room looking for them. A cat might also sleep on the owner’s bed or clothing while they are away so they can smell their familiar scent. All of these behaviors suggest a cat is unsettled by the absence of their beloved human companion.

Cats Groom Their Owners

When a cat licks you, it’s often seen as a sign of affection and bonding. This grooming behavior stems from kittenhood when a mother cat licks her kittens as a way to clean them, show love, and strengthen their relationship. Many cats continue to lick their owners into adulthood for similar reasons.

A cat grooming their human companion can be a way to mark ownership and create a mutual scent bond. Your cat’s saliva contains pheromones that get transferred onto you during licking, letting others know you belong to them (Source). By grooming you often, your cat is reinforcing your social bond and showing affection.

Some cats also seem to enjoy the taste of salt on human skin and will lick their owners after workouts, tears, or sweat. The grooming ritual can be soothing for both you and your cat. However, cats who suddenly increase licking behavior should be checked for medical issues. Overall though, an occasional lick from kitty can be their unique way of saying “I love you!”

Cats Bring Gifts to Owners

Cats often bring “gifts” of dead or injured prey to their owners. While this may seem gruesome to us, it’s actually a natural feline behavior and signifies they want to provide for us. In the wild, mother cats teach their young how to hunt by bringing home dead or injured prey. Domestic cats maintain this instinct and continue the tradition of sharing their hunting successes with members of their social group – which includes human owners.

When cats leave dead animals on your doorstep or bring them inside the house, they are essentially trying to prove their worth as hunters and providers. It’s their way of showing affection and contributing to the household. Cats see their owners as family members that they need to take care of, so sharing food from a successful hunt reinforces that family bond. While you may not appreciate the “gift”, try to recognize the caring sentiment behind it. Gently discourage the behavior while letting your cat know you appreciate their efforts and companionship in other ways.


Cats Recognize Their Owners

Studies show that cats are capable of recognizing their owners through both visual and auditory cues. According to a study by the University of Tokyo, cats can visually distinguish their owners’ faces from strangers. When presented with photographs, cats showed more interest and response to their owners’ faces compared to unfamiliar faces.

Cats are also able to recognize their owners’ voices. As described in a study by Animal Cognition, cats demonstrated the ability to distinguish their owners’ voices from strangers’ voices. Out of 20 cats tested, 19 showed a significant response indicating recognition when hearing their owners’ recorded voice. This shows cats can identify their owners through unique vocal cues.

Overall, research indicates cats utilize both visual facial recognition and auditory voice recognition to identify their human owners. Cats form strong social bonds with their owners and have the cognitive capacity to tell them apart from strangers through familiar sights and sounds.

Cats Respond to Their Name

It’s commonly thought that cats don’t respond when we call their name, unlike dogs who eagerly come bounding over. However, research has shown that cats do recognize their own name. In a 2019 study published in Scientific Reports, cats showed signs of recognition when their owners called their names, moving their ears or head and becoming more alert[1]. Even if they don’t always come when called, this indicates that cats can distinguish their name from other words.

A cat’s willingness to respond to its name depends on factors like early training and temperament. With positive reinforcement like treats or playtime when they come when called, cats can learn to respond reliably to their name. The level of socialization also impacts responsiveness. Cats that are more solitary by nature likely will not react the same as friendlier, social cats. Calling a cat’s name works best when the cat is alert and attentive, not distracted or sleepy. So while cats may selectively respond when it suits them, research shows cats recognize and respond to their own names.

Cats Seek Owner’s Attention

One of the most common ways cats seek their owner’s attention is through headbutting. Cats will gently bump their heads against their owners as a sign of affection and to get noticed. This behavior allows cats to mark their territory by rubbing their scent glands against owners (PetMD). Headbutting is a cat’s way of saying “pay attention to me!”

Cats may also meow persistently or chirp for attention. These vocalizations are requests for playtime, treats, or petting from their trusted humans. Cats are very habitual so they will meow at the times they are used to getting your attention. If you are busy, your cat may start meowing louder or engage in other attention-seeking behaviors like knocking things off tables (TheWildest).

When cats want attention they may also bring a “gift” to their owner like a toy or dead animal. This gift giving taps into a cat’s natural hunting behaviors. Cats think they are teaching you to hunt by bringing these items to you. It’s their way of getting praise and interaction (PetMD).


In conclusion, while cats may show their affection differently than some other pets, they do truly care about and form bonds with their owners. As we’ve explored, cats demonstrate caring through actions like grooming, bringing gifts, recognizing their owners, responding to their names being called, and seeking attention. Though their expressions of attachment may be more subtle and aloof than a dog’s enthusiastic affections, research shows cats do miss their owners when separated and perceive them as important companions and caregivers.

Cats develop complex social relationships with the humans in their lives. Their independent nature simply manifests in more reserved ways of showing they care, like quietly following you room to room or curling up on your lap at the end of a long day. So while they may not wag their tails or smother you in sloppy kisses, cats have their own special ways of showing you’re their favorite human. The bonds you share are just as real and meaningful, even if their caring looks different in action.

Scroll to Top