10 Adorable Signs Your Cat Has Imprinted On You

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Imprinting is common in mammals. It describes a critical period, often in young animals, where they form a strong and enduring bond with their parent or caregiver.

They have implicit trust in this figure and look to them as a means to understand their own identity. It’s common for cats to imprint on people. As a pet parent, being your cat’s favorite person is a wonderful privilege not to be underestimated.

Key Takeaways

Imprinting describes a period, often in young cats, where they form a strong and enduring bond with their parent or caregiver.

Imprinting is a survival technique that provides cats with a sense of reassurance, safety, and happiness.

Though more common in young animals, imprinting can occur at any age, even in adult cats, provided the cat and person spend enough time with another.

Cats are highly sentient beings.  Although they don’t interact with us in quite the same way as dogs, they are quick to form close relationships with people. Colloquially, some breeds, such as Siamese cats, are more likely to imprint on people.

A recent study into feline hormone levels indicating states of happiness and stress suggests that cats recognize the importance of forming relationships with people. It could even be inferred that a strong bond with a human can improve a cat’s well-being and quality of life.

But how do you know if your cat has imprinted on you? Here are 10 sweet ways that your cat is saying you are their favorite human:

1. You Have A Little Four-legged Shadow

One sign your cat has imprinted on you is their constant presence as you go about your day.

If you feel like you have a cat-shaped shadow and are constantly tripping over your cat, this shows how much they love to be around you. Your cat is looking to you for cues as to what will happen next and for love and company. Don’t shoo your cat away; cats get lonely just like us! Let your cat simply be in your presence and make the most of this special bond.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Follow Me Everywhere?

2. Your Cat Purrs, Chatters, And Meows At You

Cats vocalize at humans to communicate in the way that we understand best.

Vocalizing is a common sign that your cat loves you. Cats are more vocal with humans than other cats. This appears to be a behavioral adaptation that helps them to communicate with us in the way that we understand best. And yes, different noises do have different meanings.

If you’ve taken the time to really listen to what your cat is saying, you will recognize that not all meows are the same. Research shows that cats express vocalizations of different lengths and frequencies according to their mental state. But we still have a lot more to learn about cat language.

If your cat purrs when you tickle their favorite spot it demonstrates how strong your bond is.  Purring can be a sign of deep contentment, but it is a complex form of vocalization that can also be associated with stress and self-soothing.

Also Read: Why Is My Cat Purring Constantly?

3. You’ve Acquired A Sleeping Buddy

Cats want to feel safe while sleeping so they choose to cuddle up to someone they trust.

Cats will often choose to sleep closely with people that they really trust. After all, sleeping puts a cat in a vulnerable state. By hanging out with you at night, they feel safer knowing they are not alone.

Sleeping with others can bring comfort and, of course, warmth too. And let’s not overlook how cozy our beds are; your cat has noticed, and they’re not missing out! Plus, when the morning comes, your cat is only a paw’s reach away from waking you up and sending you to get breakfast.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Lay And Sleep Between My Legs?

4. They Know Your Routine

If your cat has imprinted on you, they know everything about your typical day.

Does your cat know what time dinner is or when you will likely groom them or go to bed? Do they remind you when to get up on the days you’d rather sleep in? Great news—your cat has imprinted on you!

Your cat knows the routine and feels secure enough to tell you that you are not toeing the line. They have no way of knowing if you had a stressful day at work or need to run an urgent errand before dinner. You are your cat’s world.

Also Read: Do Cats Love Their Owners?

5. TV Time Is Lap Time

As with sleeping, cats choose to cuddle with the people they love and trust the most.

Most cats love a good lap to snuggle up on. But they will only cuddle up to people they feel most comfortable with. They might even start making biscuits on your lap by gently pressing their front paws into your thighs in a rhythmic pattern.

Occasionally, cats will extract their claws a little. They don’t mean to hurt you; they are in complete bliss and forgetting themselves! This is definitely a happy and relaxed cat. Some cats that have imprinted on people don’t like cuddles. Don’t take this personally, though—there may be many reasons for this. If you don’t have a cuddly pet, click here to read more.

Also Read: Why Doesn’t My Cat Knead?

6. They’re Not Afraid To Show You Their Belly

A cat showing their belly is one of the ultimate signs of trust and love.

Lying on their back renders your cat exposed and unprotected. It’s a risky business, and cats won’t do it in front of just anyone. Your cat might even let you give them a belly rub, indicating how relaxed they really are. However, cats are not dogs, and most cats that roll on their back are just communicating with you rather than asking for tummy rub.

Some cats love lots of petting and even enjoy a good groom from their pet parent, just as they would from another cat. If your cat starts licking and grooming you back, you have definitely entered the inner circle.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Lick You?

7. You Are Their Favorite Playmate

If your cat has imprinted on you, chances are they will seek you out for playtime—just be sure to set some ground rules, such as no cat teeth on human skin!

If your cat is a little mischievous and constantly prodding and teasing you, congratulations, you have been promoted to the heights of kitty playmate extraordinaire! Of course, you might have a bored young cat or a house cat that needs extra stimulation. But cats generally only display play behaviors when they are happy and relaxed.

If your cat chooses to play with you over other family cats, they are clearly shows signs of imprinting. Try to mix up the fun with new toys, chasing games, catnip, and laser toys, then neither of you will get bored with these antics. Playing is a great way to form a solid bond with your cat in their younger years.

Also Read: The 12 Best Cat Toys: Keep Your Cat Fit And Happy With These Irresistible Toys

8. They Slow Blink At You

Cats slow blink to communicate feelings of love and affection.

Slow blinking is recognized to be an intentional feline behavior by researchers and veterinarians alike. It is most common to observe this unusual facial movement when a cat is at their most relaxed, with someone they feel safe with and bonded to.

Scientists believe slow blinking is an important form of positive communication between cats and humans. Some say that humans should try to reciprocate this expression of adoration. Next time you and your cat are cuddled up on the couch, try to start an exchange of slow blinks to see what happens.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Blink?

9. They Rub Their Scent On You

Cats mark not only inanimate objects, but their favorite people too.

Is your cat obsessed with curling round your ankles, rubbing their chin and cheeks on you, or giving you a headbutt or a kiss? Your cat loves to mark their territory, and that includes you. Your cat is labeling you as their chosen one, so you must be pretty special. Cats use these motions to spread pheromones from their scent glands.

This unique scent is his way of letting the neighborhood cats know you are taken. But also letting others in the household know that you are all part of the same family.

This is why, when one pet has been away from home and no longer smells of another pet’s scent, there might be conflict while the missing cat settles back into the home. Similarly, if you visit somewhere new or interact with another cat outside the home, your cat might be less welcoming than usual.

Also Read: Do Cats Have A Good Sense Of Smell?

10. You Trip Over Their ‘Gifts’ In The Morning

Your cat might leave you gifts of hunted prey to show how much they love you.

Many cats have an unquashable hunting drive. But, as you probably know, this is rarely linked to hunger. Cats will often bring prey home to present it to their family. It is suggested that this might be intended as a trophy they want to reward you with or share with their family; ancestrally, of course, it would have been to feed them.

In wild cat populations, the adults (generally mother cats) would be responsible for teaching their offspring to hunt. Hunting prizes can also be presented as a sign that your cat wants to play with you. If your cat is not a hunter, they might bring you toys and other objects instead.

Finding prey on the kitchen floor seems gruesome, but your cat is only doing what comes naturally. A recent study presented several ways to reduce your cat’s prey drive, from increased playtime at home to providing a high-meat diet.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Play With Their Prey?

Final Thoughts

Cats can imprint on more than one family member.

Cats are an integral part of many people’s families and can imprint on more than one family member. For us, imprinting is a wonderful behavioral adaptation to the feline-human bond that can really enrich our lives. For our cats, it makes them feel like part of the family and leads to a happy and contented life.

Also Read: 5 Ways To Build A Stronger Bond With Your Cat

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cats imprint on people?

Typically imprinting occurs at a very young age in most animals. This is when they develop new neural pathways in their brain and rely on their caregiver. For example, a hand-reared kitten will rapidly imprint on their pet parent. However, imprinting can occur at any age if an animal or person spends enough time with another, even in adult cats. Essentially, it is a survival technique and provides reassurance, safety, and happiness. What's not to love about that?

How do you know if your cat has imprinted on you?

If your cat shows many of the signs listed above, they are almost certainly imprinted on you. And that is most likely because you also love spending time with your cat. Take a moment to observe your relationship and interactions with your cat; you might be surprised how their imprinting behavior has gone under your radar!

How do cats pick their favorite person?

Cats are drawn to different people for different reasons, and it is sometimes hard to understand these preferences. They will often imprint on the person they spend the most time with and who tends to their basic needs, such as feeding and comfort.

Cats are often drawn to quieter people who are calm and relaxed, and might be more nervous with children who can be louder and unpredictable. Some cats like lots of fuss and attention, such as grooming, whereas others prefer to just be near someone who gives them far less attention. There is no doubt cats are curious little beings!

View Sources
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About Dr. Rosalind Wright

Dr. Wright currently has a role at a veterinary hospital. She developed a strong interest in small animal emergency and critical care medicine. She enjoys writing for vets, particularly on cat behavior and nutrition, and leads a local team for the charity StreetVet.

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6 thoughts on “10 Adorable Signs Your Cat Has Imprinted On You”

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    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hello Gail, Dr. Woodnutt has not yet published any books. However, we have collaborated with Sally E. Bahner and Dr. Jean Hofve to publish a book on caring for young kittens, which delves into many health and behavioral issues similar to those published here.

  1. Angelina

    I found my baby boy 5yrs ago and he climbed up my body and wrapped himself around my neck. Ever since then he has welcomed me home with hugs and meows.

    I have had many kittens imprint on me as I did neonatal rescue, and all of those kittens were in dire need of care and love. I have also cared for many kitties and always had a very close bind with all of them, but I have never had a kitty hug me throughout the day and welcome me home with a hug ❤️😻

    I would love to learn more of imprinting and the bonds that we create with our purring fur babies.

    Is hugging part of imprinting?

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      That sounds so sweet. I believe it may be a sign of imprinting, especially if you raised him as a neonatal baby. This sort of physical closeness is similar to how a kitten might cling to their mother, and considering that so many cats are uncomfortable being this close to someone, I think it’s a good sign that he deeply trusts and cares for you, at the very least.

  2. Angelina

    I actually found him at 12 weeks old. When I found him he was VERY cold, hungry and alone.
    Now I know people say a cat can’t imprint after 10 weeks, however I don’t fully believe that. Considering when I pick him up for a hug he also drools while I am holding him.
    He doesn’t drool with anyone else, just me.
    He also never sold any other time. Just when I hold him.

    I have talked to my vet about this and they say there is NOTHING wrong with him (with the drooling) they say that he does this because he is excited everytime I hold him and he is reliving the moment when I found him, held him and gave him what he needed and wanted after being alone for an unknown amount of time.