Whether they’re kneading our flesh like bread or following us into the bathroom, cats are always trying to tell their humans something — most of it involving food. But an animal behaviorist tells Inverse one familiar behavior cats exhibit could be a true sign of affection.
It’s often been rumored that a cat’s “slow blink” is its way of saying, “I love you.” It’s even been called a “cat kiss”! The truth is, we’ll never truly know what’s going on inside a kitty’s brain, but there’s evidence to suggest a cat slowly winking at its human means it trusts its companion.
“Cats will typically avoid eye contact when afraid or threatened; when they are being offensively aggressive, they will stare (and staring at them is perceived as a threat),” Mikel Delgado, a cat researcher the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, tells Inverse. “The slow blink is a demonstration of eye contact without staring, and we interpret this behavior as a sign of relaxation and trust. Some might call that love.”
Think of it this way: If a cat closes its eyes around like it’s falling asleep, it’s signaling that it doesn’t view you as a threat. This is similar to the way some cats expose their bellies to their humans, which signals trust and vulnerability. For kitties, the absence of extreme hatred is love, and as cat owners know, there is no in between.