All February I’ll be talking about love. So, it couldn’t be a better time to ask you this pressing question: Do you know how cats say “I love you”? Because it doesn’t look quite the way most humans think it should...but it sure has plenty to teach us.
Cats, despite their long history side-by-side with us, are still very close to wild. In fact, I don’t really consider them “domesticated.” Just my humble opinion, and I’m sticking to it! Their status in the wild – an animal that is often preyed upon is what informs the way they say “I love you.” In other words, every being they encounter out there is a potential enemy attempting to take territory (or their life) away from them. A true way of telling said being that they are special is by letting down their ever-present guard. So, the emotion of “I love you,” that we are looking for will look more like “I’m vulnerable to you.”
Make sense? Good. So now, Let’s learn 3 ways that cats show vulnerability – which,as we all know by now...That’s Amoré!
#1 The “Cat I Love You” a.k.a “The Slow Blink”
As I said, if you’re a prey animal, you don’t close your eyes or turn your head to another unless you want to give them a hunter’s head start. Here’s how to do The “Cat I Love You,” also known as“The Slow Blink,” also known as The “I trust that you won’t kill me.”
Step 1:Look into your cat’s eyes. Be very aware that you don’t stare; that can easily be a very threatening thing to a prey animal. Soften your gaze as you think “I”
Step 2: Close your eyes slowly and gently as you think “Love”
Step 3: Open your eyes slowly as you think “You”
You just said “I Love You” to your cat! Now repeat the pattern, embellishing periodically with a soft, soothing voice. The blink back tells you that love is in the air. If you don’t get a response, keep trying it over time and see if your cat blinks back. Even if the blink doesn’t happen,if you’re doing it right, you have at the very least secured a trusting connection.
#2 The Cat Hug
Another thing a prey animal will never do in the wild with an animal they don’t trust is expose their midline.The midline is the area that goes from the throat down to the groin.This is the most vulnerable part of the body for cats since, if exposed in battle, that line contains the most vital organs as well as the least amount of protection. This “midline vulnerability”is evident as well in humans, which may have something to do with why we cross our arms as a defensive gesture when talking with someone we don’t trust, and hug those that we do. This is why I call this “The Cat Hug.” If your cat rolls over on the ground to show you their belly, take it as a compliment and another “I love you” message.Resist the urge to interpret this as“please rub my belly as though I’m a dog.” The Cat Hug simply means they trust you, not that they want something from you. While physical contact may follow the hug, I always find it most respectful to allow the cat to make the next move.
#3 I Love You...at a distance
I think one of the biggest sources of human-cat crossed wires when it comes to love is in how we define reciprocity. Humans often equate the giving of love with proximity. That may be why I am constantly asked the question, “How do I get my cat to be a lap cat?” And I’m constantly dealing with great disappointment or rejection when I give the answer, which is - You can’t. The plain fact is that, instead of giving into that primal desire for validation by proximity, we need to expand our idea of what love looks like, bearing in mind that each cat has their own unique way of showing love along that spectrum. Some are lap cats, or chest cats, or crook of the arm cats.Others are lie-at-the-foot-of-the-bed cats, or lie-down-on-the-sofa-arm-rest cats.Our job is to accept and appreciate each unique gesture because they are, believe it or not, equally significant. A cat who is more acutely prey-oriented, is doing a lot in their book to simply close their eyes and sleep in a vulnerable, geographically open location like your bed. That gesture should be appreciated, for what it is and who it is coming from.
Remembering the lens of predation through which ALL cats, to one degree or another sees their life, one lesson in love that we can learn from them is to join them in their very Zen state – which is to say, speak cat by living with them in the present moment. We can be in the moment with our love; let goof expectations; love without attachment to an outcome. Put The Slow Blink out there, and let the other be their whole self, fully.Appreciate the process that unfolds, moment by moment. Not the easiest thing, because we are human, and we have human needs. But the challenge, in my experience, comes with amazing rewards, whether we apply it to the animals or the humans in our lives.
I slow blink you.
And, of course you can tell your cat "I love you" with some of the below goodies.