A FT-IR spectroscopic study of methane, ethane, and propane adsorption on magnesium and calcium forms of zeolite Y reveals different vibrational properties of the adsorbed molecules depending on the exchanged cation. This is attributed to different adsorption conformations of the hydrocarbons. Two-fold ¿2 coordination of light alkanes is realized for MgY, whereas in case of CaY zeolite quite different adsorption modes are found, involving more C-H bonds in the interaction with the cation. The topological analysis of the electron density distribution function of the adsorption complexes shows that when a hydrocarbon coordinates to the exchanged Mg2+ ions, van der Waals bonds between H atoms of the alkane and basic zeolitic oxygens significantly contribute to the overall adsorption energy, whereas in case of CaY zeolite such interactions play only an indirect role. It is found that, due to the much smaller ionic radius of the Mg2+ ion as compared to that of Ca2+, the former ions are significantly shielded with the surrounding oxygens of the zeolitic cation site. This results in a small electrostatic contribution to the stabilization of the adsorbed molecules. In contrast, for CaY zeolite the stabilization of alkanes in the electrostatic field of the partially shielded Ca2+ cation significantly contributes to the adsorption energy. This is in agreement with the experimentally observed lower overall absorption of C-H stretching vibrations of alkanes loaded to MgY as compared to those for CaY zeolite. The preferred conformation of the adsorbed alkanes is controlled by the bonding within the adsorption complexes that, in turn, strongly depends on the size and location of the cations in the zeolite cavity.