28 ways your pet is trying to say I love you

Our pets have their own special way of communicating their affection towards us – can you spot the signs that your special friend is wild about you? From dogs and cats to birds and guinea pigs, we’ve got so much pet love happening. 

Your dog gives you puppy eyes
You know how when you’re just chilling on the couch, watching Netflix, and your dog rests his head on your lap, gazing deeply into your eyes? That’s pup-speak for “I love you, human!”

“Just like humans, dogs use face and body language to communicate,” says Whitney Miller, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and Director of Veterinary Medicine for Petco. “Long intense eye contact from your dog is a way of showing they trust you and show affection towards you.” However, that doesn't hold true for EVERY dog. Check out these 14 things you do that your dog actually hates.

Your cat gives you the slowest blink
“For cats, slowly blinking is a gesture of acceptance and comfort. Cats do this with other cats because in the feline world, closing one’s eyes in front of another is a sign of trust,” Dr Miller explains. But wait, don’t stop there! You can return the compliment, telling your cat how much you love him too, by blinking slowly right back. A cat whisperer reveals the seven biggest mistakes cat owners make. 

Your guinea pig sings
“Guinea pigs are very vocal and will emit all kinds of squeaks, squeals, and even a few purr-like noises to show their affection,” Dr Miller says. It may even sound like they’re singing so consider it your own personal love song (and feel free to sing one back!), she adds. 

Your bird shakes her tail feathers
It’s not just dogs that wag their bottoms when they’re happy! “A bird’s tail feathers, like other pets’ tails, are also used as a method to communicate in the wild,” Dr Miller says. “Like a dog, a bird may fan out their feathers or wag their tail to tell you that they are glad to see you.”

Your cat rubs her chin on you
OK, so technically when cats rub their faces and chins on something it’s their way of marking their territory, says Gary Weitzman, DVM and author of National Geographic Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness. But don’t rule it out as a declaration of love! “Declaring ownership of you is a very feline way to say ‘I love you’,” he says. Find out the eight cat breeds with the friendliest personalities. 

Your dog brings you her favourite chewie toy
Sharing isn’t just for pre-schoolers! “If your dog brings you one of their favourite toys and drops it at your feet, it’s likely they are giving it to you as a gift,” Dr Miller says. “Sharing their favourite things is one way they demonstrate love.” Make sure you choose safe toys for your furry friends!

Your cat sleeps on your head
“Cats show their love and bond with their person by tuning in to your activities and trying to participate in what you are doing,” says Jessica Char, a certified animal trainer and behaviour consultant with Feline Engineering. “Though they are famous for their napping abilities, cats will match the rhythm of their people, being awake more when their favourite humans are home and active.” So take it as a compliment when your cat plops his furry butt on your face at bedtime – he’s just doing what you do! Meanwhile, find out the 13 things you do that your cat actually hates.

Your cat rubs up against your legs
You may think your furry feline is just doing figure eights around your legs to remind you they need to be fed but there’s more to it than that, Dr Miller says. “Rubbing against their owners after being separated is cats’ way of saying, ‘I’m so glad to see you!’ or ‘I’ve missed you!’” she says. “Studies found that feral cats rub up against each other after being separated for a period of time.” Make sure you give her a pat back!

Your bird straight up tells you
Parrots and other smart birds are notorious for mimicking human speech but they’re not just “parroting” back what they’ve heard, they can understand the emotion behind the sentiment too, Dr Miller says. “Certain birds may mimic happy or loving noises they hear from their pet parents, and some are even smart enough to say, ‘I love you,’” she says.

Your dog follows you into the bathroom
It can be annoying to have your furry friend always under your feet but following you around – even when you’re just getting a drink or using the bathroom – is a sign of devotion and affection, Dr Weitzman says. “Wherever you are, your dog wants to be, and they wouldn’t want to spend all their time with you if they didn’t love you!” he says. Find out the four sure signs your dog trusts you. 

Your rabbit comes when you call
Sure, dogs are great at coming when you call their name, and cats are too (when they want to be). But did you know that rabbits can also learn to respond to your calls? “Rabbits learn their people’s habits and voices and will come running when their favourite people are around,” Char says. 

Your cat meows just for you
Cats have about 16 different meows to communicate different things, Dr Weitzman says. However, adult cats only vocalise to humans – kittens meow to their mother, but they grow out of it, he explains. “This means that when your cat meows, it is solely to communicate with you and it is a big sign that they really do love you, even if they don’t always show it!” he says. Find out the health benefits of keeping pets here.  

Your dog snuggles up to you
Physical affection is hugely important to most dogs and so they will show you affection by wanting to share space with you, Dr Miller explains. “Whether they sit in your lap, lay their head next to you, or just lean against you, that snuggle is saying you are their person and they love you.” Snuggles are the easy part – find out the 53 mistakes every dog owner makes here... are you guilty?

Your cat lays on your lap and purrs
Purring on its own isn’t necessarily a sign of love, as cats sometimes purr when they are upset or hurt, but if your kitty is all snuggled up with you and doing those low, long purrrrrs, it’s a good sign that they’re comfortable with you and feeling affectionate, Dr Miller says. Discover the eight reasons you should never let your cat sleep on your bed.

Your dog wags his tail so hard he goes in circles
Sometimes the simplest signs of love are the truest! Take tail wagging, for instance. This classic doggy behaviour shows happiness, excitement, and joy but when it’s directed at you, it’s a clear sign they are happy and excited about you, Dr Weitzman says. Is there a more clear sign of love than someone who is that excited to see you every single time you walk in a room? FInd out the 9 etiquette rules every dog owner should know. 

Your guinea pig whistles at you
No, you’re not being cat-called by your furry friend! Guinea pigs have a signature whistle they make, often to welcome you home or to show happiness, says Johanna Reel, a registered veterinary technician with NHV Natural Pet Products. “Though they are small, guinea pigs can show their people a lot of love,” she says. “When guinea pigs are happy, they chirp, squeal and whistle. Though their way of showing their love was a bit different than my cats or dogs, it always put a smile on my face. I miss their little welcome whistles now that they’re gone.” Here are six things pet shops won't tell you. 

Your cat bares her furry tummy
You might not be proud of your tummy fur but your cat sure is and displaying their tummies is a big way that cats show they are comfortable and happy with you, Dr Weitzman says. However, it’s not necessarily an invitation to rub her belly, as any cat owner who got tricked by the tummy-claw trap can tell you, he adds.

Your horse nickers
Horses are very sensitive to humans and can be very skittish unless trained not to be. They are often picky about how they trust, so it’s a safe bet that if your horse nickers, approaches you, and seeks out physical contact with you, it loves you, says Jennifer Coates, DVM, member of the Pet Life Today advisory board. 

Your dog pats or hugs you when you’re crying
Dogs are experts at reading human body language and can tell when you’re upset, says Oscar Chavez, DVM and chief medical director of Just Food For Dogs. Their instinct is to try and comfort you, usually by trying to cuddle. Some dogs may also try to lick your crying face or bring you their favourite comfort object, like a toy or blanket. Whatever they choose, it’s their love language, he says.

Your cat is making bickies on your belly
“Sometimes when you pet your cat, you may notice them stretch out their paws and start rhythmically rubbing the area in front of them, be it a blanket, the rug, or your lap. This behaviour is called ‘kneading,’ and was how they would induce milk from their mother,” says Allison Bean, pet behaviour expert and editorial director for The Spruce Pets. “It means they feel safe, warm, and happy with you.” Leave it to cats to show their love with their claws!

Your rabbit jumps up on the couch
It takes a lot more effort for a tiny bunny to jump up and sit on your lap than it does for a cat or a dog, so when they do it, it means they really want to be with their favourite human: You! “Some rabbits will hop up on furniture to sit with you or may just stand up on their hind legs to check out what you are doing,” Char says. “Because they love you they’re interested in your activities (and wondering if you might have a treat for them too!).” 

Your cat head-butts you
Think it’s just football players and hooligans who show affection by smacking skulls? Cats do it too, says Bean. “Called ‘bunting,’ this head-butting behaviour is a way for cats to rub their scent on their favourite objects, including humans,” she explains. “So while it seems (and feels!) weird, this actually means your cat really cares about you.” Check out these four strange cat behaviours and what they mean. 

Your dog gives you a high five when you hold your hand up
Dogs love to please their humans and nothing makes them happier than when we are happy with them, Dr Chavez says. So when your dog is attentive and obedient to your commands, it’s a clear sign of love and respect, he says.

Your dog chews up your favourite pillow
At the same time, being disobedient can also show love, Dr Chavez says. “Your dog may resent your absence and will misbehave when you are gone too long,” he explains. It may be frustrating to come home after a long day only to find the garbage tipped over and shredded but just remember he’s acting out because he misses you and he misses you because he loves you! Check out these 14 cleaning hacks every dog or cat owner should know.  

Your cat gives you a tongue bath
Cat tongues can feel scratchy and tickly, especially when they won’t stop licking your head, but grooming you is a way your cat shows he cares about you and is trying to take care of you, says Bruce Silverman, DVM and founder of The Critical Animal Relief Foundation. Licking your hair is kind of gross but it’s an unmistakable sign of kitty love, he says.

Your dog carries your stinky shoes around
Does your dog love your old work shoes? Does he go straight for your used socks by the bed? Or, heaven forbid, does he fish your stained undies out of the dirty laundry? Well, take it as a sign of love, Bean says. “While the idea of cuddling with a smelly gym sneaker is off-putting to us, dogs do it because they want to be reminded of the scent of their favourite human – you!” she explains. Check out the 10 silent signs your healthy dog is actually sick. 

Your turtle plays with you
“It’s a little harder to describe but I have a red-eared slider turtle who craves interaction when he isn’t craving shrimp,” Dr Silverman says. “He just loves it when I sit next to his massive tank and play with him.” How do turtles show love? There may not be obvious signs but as a pet owner you know, he adds. Find out how to choose the perfect pet for your family. 

Your dog rolls over as soon as you walk up
No, your dog isn’t just begging for belly rubs! “Rolling over to expose the stomach is how dogs show they aren’t a threat to strange dogs or other animals,” Bean says. “Doing so around their owner shows that they love and trust you.” OK, and they probably want some good belly scratches too!

This article appeared on Reader's Digest