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10 Signs a Cat Has Imprinted on You: Our Vet Approved Tips


Mar 31, 2023
a cat looking at the man


a cat looking at the man
Dr. Lauren Demos Photo

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We all know that some pets are more affectionate than others. But does your cat really love you? And how does your cat show it? There are many ways to measure love, but one type of love you might be blessed to experience is imprinting. Imprinting is a strong emotional bond that some cats (and other animals) form with their owners.

Recent studies1 have shown that cats with social connections to humans will experience strong positive emotions in their owners’ presence. Imprinted cats have a special love and trust for their owners and feel a rush of love and happiness when they are with their owners.

Do you think your cat has imprinted on you? Here’s a few signs to find out.


The 10 Signs a Cat Has Imprinted on You

1. Your Cat Was Young and Abandoned

Any cat can experience imprinting, but some are more likely to than others. Imprinting happens most easily when a cat is young, so adopting a kitten is a plus. Your chances grow even higher if your cat was raised by humans and then abandoned. These kitties are likely to view their rescuer as a strong source of safety and security.

On the other hand, cats born in the wild (feral cats) are less likely to imprint because they learned to view humans as dangers instead of rescuers.

cleaning kitten with wet wipes
Image Credit: AmrThele, Pixabay

2. You Get Special Treatment

Some cats are more outgoing and friendly to others, while others are pretty introverted. That makes it hard to tell if your cat has imprinted on you specifically or if their treatment of you is all down to personality.

But there’s one telltale sign—special treatment. Whether you are the only one that can touch your outgoing cat’s belly or your scaredy-cat hides under the couch for everyone else, if your cat shows it feels more comfortable around you than anyone else, that’s a clear sign of imprinting.

3. Kitty Exposes Its Belly to You

Bellies are soft and vulnerable, and cats instinctively stay belly down when they feel unsafe. If your cat loves to roll over and show you its belly, that’s usually a sign of trust.

What exactly your cat wants from you depends on the cat. For some, they are just getting in a comfortable position and trusting you not to touch them. Other cats will tolerate gentle pets. For a small percentage of cats, belly-up socialization is a sign they’re feeling playful, though, and they’ll happily attack any toys or hands that come near.

4. You Get Lots of Grooming

Cats groom each other as a form of social bonding, and that can extend to humans too. Some cats love to lick their owners’ hair, while others stick to grooming hands or feet. Lots of people love the sandpaper feeling of a cat’s tongue! Most cats will lick humans occasionally, but if your cat grooms you on the reg, that’s a good sign that they’ve bonded with you.

cat licks on the nose of a young man
Image Credit: Julija Sulkovska, Shutterstock

5. You Have a Sleepy Snuggle Buddy

Sleep is a vulnerable time, and if your cat sleeps on your lap or sleeps with you at night, there’s a high chance they’ve imprinted. Some cats like to sleep on top of their owners, while others will curl up right next to them. Either way, if your cat seeks you out for naptime, that means they feel safer with you around.

6. Ankle Rubs for Scent Marking

Is your cat a constant tripping hazard? Cats navigate by scent as much as sight, and they’ll often rub up against people they love to share scents. That marks you as a member of their family in their nose and is a common way to show affection.

7. Your Cat Is Your Shadow

Many cats, even imprinted ones, like their space. But occasionally, cats imprint so strongly that they love to always be near their owners. If your cat tends to follow you from room to room, they’ve imprinted on you.

Most of the time, cats will stay near their owners but not too near. Cats like to have a bubble of personal space and will often hang out just a few feet away from you—close enough to feel safe and connected, but not close enough to crowd you out.

cat lying between man and woman legs
Image Credit: tache, Shutterstock

8. You’re in Constant Communication

Some cats are louder than others. There are plenty of imprinted cats who only meow on occasion. But if your cat is a chatterbox, that’s a good sign of their close relationship with you. Many imprinted cats will mew, burble, trill, and purr to communicate with their favorite people. Your cat might also have a special greeting that’s just for you.

9. You Get the Slow Blinks

Does your cat ever catch your eye and then give you a long, slow blink? Slow blinks are a cat’s way of blowing a kiss or giving a loving smile. When cats are alert or anxious, they’ll keep their eyes wide open, blinking as little as possible. That way, they’re primed to see any possible danger. Just like exposing a belly or falling asleep, slow blinks are a calculated way to say, “See? I trust you to keep me safe!”

10. Your Cat Misses You When You’re Gone

Your cat loves you so much that they can’t stand to be away from you! They might get anxious when you’re gone for too long, or they might just run up to greet you whenever you come home. Either way, that’s positive proof of your cat’s bond for you. You’ve become such an important part of their life that they hate to see you leave.

bearded man playing with his cat
Image Credit: Nataliabiruk, Shutterstock



Cats aren’t known for their obvious displays of affection, and some cats can be quietly—but deeply—imprinted on their owners. If your cat doesn’t show all of these signs, that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. But if you start to notice some of these loving behaviors in your cat, you’ll know that you go beyond the food provider in your cat’s eyes. You have a special bond that can’t be replaced.

Featured Image Credit: Kadres, Pixabay

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