I kicked back on the sofa the other day and read a book on my iPhone, with only Boodie in the living room. So much for having a kitty to cuddle up with, I thought – Boodie is not the coziest cat. But after a few minutes I looked down, and there she was, on the rug a few inches away, her feet curled up under her with her back facing me. And I couldn’t have felt more loved if she had jumped on top of me. People who don’t understand cat language may have taken Boodie’s posture as ignoring me, or even a gesture of disdain, but it’s not. It’s one of many ways a cat has of saying, “I love you.”
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Every creature has its own way of saying, “I love you,” but we humans tend to default to the verbal and the obvious, even though we know it’s really the little gestures that count. What’s more the valuable expression love – the roses on Valentine’s Day, or the husband who does the dishes when he sees you’re having a hard day? Sure, it’s nice to have both, but the latter shows depth of caring and understanding. It’s also subtler than a flashy gift. When cats say, “I love you,” it’s not going to be the flashy, big tail wags and sloppy kisses of a dog. It’s going to be smaller, but perhaps even more meaningful because it has to be earned. When Boodie showed me she “had my back,” it was really flattering because it only came after years of her learning to trust me. A cat is not going to turn her back on someone who is not part of her tribe.
Sparkle and I have a game … well, I consider it a game, at least. When I have done something to annoy her – laughed too loudly, invaded her space by walking too close to her, or any of the several dozen other things that get the airplane-ears-of-ire – I pick her up, look her in the eye and say, “You hate me!” Which no doubt annoys her even more. I find it funny because while I do get on her nerves, she doesn’t actually hate me at all. She’s another one that shows her love in less-obvious ways. When my fiancé is out of town, she’ll often sleep on his pillow – near me, but not right on me. Sometimes she likes me to reach out and rub her tummy, but more often she just wants to be close to me and prefers not to be disturbed. Of course there are also the times where she has to leap on the desk and headbutt me while I’m working. She and Boodie also like sleeping on my clothes when they’re piled up to go in the washing. They make sure their scents are intermingled with mine.
Binga is the cat who will be all over me, begging for attention, licking my hand and giving little love nips (sometimes a little too nippy). And she is not picky – she will do the same for anyone else, including strangers. If I’m on the sofa, reading, she’ll plop right on me with her full weight, knead my clothes and purr up a storm. I enjoy it more often than not, but she’s aggressive to the point of being overwhelming and makes it hard to concentrate on my book. I’m glad she’s the only larger-than-life feline love sponge in the family. I’m more like Sparkle and Boodie. I like to be near my loved ones, to know they are there, but I also like the freedom and respect of being given breathing room. The gift of space, the small gestures of trust and protection – these are all a cat’s way of saying, “I love you.” And sometimes a whispered endearment is greater than a declaration to the stars.