A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

28 Ways Your Pet Is Trying to Say “I Love You”

They may not be able to speak but that doesn't mean they can't tell you how much they care about you! From dogs and cats to birds and guinea pigs, we've got so much pet love happening.

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Pug Dog Sad puppies.Sleep rest on floor

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, DVM, 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.” Make sure you show your pooch plenty of love back by avoiding these 53 mistakes every dog owner makes.

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The cat of breed of British Shorthair gray with brown speckled spots and yellow eyes sits on a brown wooden bench.
Jolanta Beinarovica/Shutterstock

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. On the other hand, these are the 15 signs your cat is secretly mad at you.

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Guinea pig yawns and shows her teeth. The pet is tired. Poster. The animal screams about the stock at the store. Sale, advertising.

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. Need more pet cuteness? Check out these 50 funny animal pictures you need in your life.

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Blue wavy parrot girl cleaning its feathers at blurred background
Natalia Davidovich/Shutterstock

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.” And of course, you love your little birdie back! Which is why you need to know the 13 signs you’ve hired a bad pet sitter.

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cropped shot of woman carrying adorable scottish fold cat
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

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, president of San Diego Humane Society, 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. Hint: If your cat doesn’t do this, it is one of the 11 signs your cat is depressed.

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funny dog with rubber hamburger toy in the mouth
Boryana Manzurova/Shutterstock

Your dog brings you her favorite chewie bone

Sharing isn’t just for preschoolers! “If your dog brings you one of their favorite toys and drops it at your feet, it’s likely they are giving it to you as a gift,” Dr. Miller says. “Sharing their favorite things is one way they demonstrate love.” Make sure you choose safe toys for your furry friends! Check out the 16 pet products vets never buy and you shouldn’t either.

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teen boy sleep with cat in bed hug close up photo

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 behavior 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 favorite 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!

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The cat and the owner. The cat pressed against the man's legs and trustingly looks
Irina Kozorog/Shutterstock

Your cat rubs up against your legs

You may think your furry feline is just doing figure 8’s 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!

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close up on a African Grey Parrot

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.

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Dog on the toilet - Jack Russell Terrier

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. P.S. Shutting them out is one of the 14 things you do that your dog actually hates.

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Portrait of adorable white bunny rabbit sitting on beautiful armchair, preparing to celebrate easter
Natalia Deksbakh/Shutterstock

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 favorite people are around,” Char says.

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Homeless animals series. Tabby kitten looking up meowing
Sue McDonald/Shutterstock

Your cat meows just for you

Cats have about 16 different meows to communicate different things, Dr. Weitzman says. However, adult cats only vocalize 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.

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beautiful young woman working at home and cuddling with her dog
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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.” Want to know exactly how intelligent your pup is? Check out 13 signs that show your dog is smart.

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A tabby cat sleeps snuggled in the lap of an adult wearing blue jeans
Martin Haas/Shutterstock

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.

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Golden retriever sitting on a sofa at home. dog on 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 behavior 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 12 secrets your dog’s tail is trying to tell you.

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Guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) is a popular household pet.
Birute Vijeikiene/Shutterstock

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.”

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Gray Tabby Cat laying on Back

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.

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Artpose Adam Borkowski/Shutterstock

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, loves you, says Jennifer Coates, DVM, member of the Pet Life Today advisory board.

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Young man sleeping with a dog

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 favorite comfort object, like a toy or blanket. Whatever they choose, it’s their love language, he says.

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Woman stroking her cat while it resting on carpet at home
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Your cat is makin’ biscuits 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 behavior is called ‘kneading,’ and was how they would induce milk from their mother,” Bean says. “It means they feel safe, warm, and happy with you.” Leave it to cats to show their love with their claws!

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Golden rabbit sitting on a home sofa turning to look at the empty space.

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 favorite 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!).”

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Friends at first sight. Young man befriending a cat, color version

Your cat head-butts you

Think it’s just football players and frat boys who show affection by smacking skulls? Cats do it too, says Allison Bean, pet behavior expert and editorial director for The Spruce Pets. “Called ‘bunting,’ this head-butting behavior is a way for cats to rub their scent on their favorite objects, including humans,” she explains. “So while it seems (and feels!) weird, this actually means your cat really cares about you.”

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Beautiful puppy gives paw to owner

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. On the other hand, these are the 15 signs your dog is secretly mad at you.

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poodle dog with plush toy in the mouth made a mess in the apartment
Boryana Manzurova/Shutterstock

Your dog chews up your favorite 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! Dogs can help you with loneliness too— check out these 15 beautiful ways (including pets!) people avoid loneliness.

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scottish fold cat close up portrait open mouth lick food from human finger with barbed tongue

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, chief veterinarian at Village West Veterinary 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.

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bulldog chewing on slippers
Margarita Mindebaeva/Shutterstock

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 favorite human—you!” she explains.

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Red Eared Slider Turtle
Christy Tan/Shutterstock

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. You’ve got to check out these 50 hilarious animal pictures that will make your day.

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Dog lay on back from above. Happy beagle playing indoors. Funny dog relax on soft carpet. White dog belly on white fluffy carpet background.

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! Now, find out 50 more secrets your pet won’t tell you.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a health, lifestyle and fitness expert and teacher. She covers all things wellness for Reader’s Digest and The Healthy. With dual masters degrees in information technology and education, she has been a journalist for 17 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. She lives in Denver with her husband, five kids and three pets.