Do cats like being kissed? It is so normal to want to show your cat affection in the way you like to receive affection. My cat always sees me kissing my family, so naturally I thought she would accept kisses just fine. But, observation doesn’t necessarily mean our cats understand our actions. And, understanding or accepting kissing behavior doesn’t necessarily mean our cats enjoy being kissed. So, in this guide, I’ll take a closer look at this topic so you can get a cats-eye view of the human habit of kissing to show affection.
- Do cats like being kissed?
- Do cats understand kisses?
- Does my cat know I love them?
- Do cats like kisses on the nose or head?
- Is it okay to kiss your cat?
Do Cats Like Being Kissed?
So do cats like being kissed by people? The answer is that it really depends on the cat. Let’s say you got your cat as a young kitten. Right from the start you loved kissing your kitten on her face and nose and you did it often.
In this way, your kitten quickly becomes socialized to being kissed. As an adult cat, she understands that kissing is a non-threatening greeting behavior that reinforces your bond. Your cat may or may not truly like being kissed, but she tolerates it for the sake of your bond.
But now let’s say you rescued your cat as an older kitten or adult cat. Your cat came to you without ever having experienced being kissed by a human. The first time you go to kiss your cat, he reacts in fear and runs away. It is clear your cat dislikes being kissed. So, all cats are different, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Do Cats Understand Kisses?
Perhaps the bigger question here is – do cats understand kisses? Is there any frame of reference in a feline’s world for the human social custom of kissing and being kissed as a show of affection? Feline veterinary experts identify three main ways cats communicate with other cats: body language, vocalizations and scents. Taking a closer look at each may help us solve the mystery.
Cat Body Language
Cats use a number of different physical cues to send messages to other cats. The position of a cat’s tail, ears, fur (especially along the spine), posture and eyes can all signal come closer or go away.
Cats can and do use their tongue, teeth and claws as well as their waste and anal gland fluid to send messages as well. But interestingly, the cat version of the behavior we call kissing is actually a slow eyelid blink. Researchers believe gaze-holding with a slow blink is a friendly way to “share space” with other cats.
To the uninitiated, it often seems that cats have an astonishing range of vocalizations. Purrs, meows, chirps, trills, growls, hisses, yowls, snarls and – the ultimate – spitting.
Whether used alone or paired with body language, researchers have discovered that companion cats use vocalization more frequently as a communication tool than do their feral or wild counterparts. This may be because humans are very responsive to vocalizing.
Cats have scent glands on their faces, paws and just above their tail area (anal glands). These scent glands contain chemicals called pheromones that can be used to send all kinds of messages to other cats.
So often when a cat engages physically with another cat, the real purpose isn’t physical contact at all but rather an exchange and/or closer examination of the other cat’s scent markers. Sniffing butts is a perfect example of this. So is facial rubbing, which may be the closest feline to feline approximation of the human habit of exchanging kisses.
Do Cats Know We Love Them?
New research indicates that cats not only know we love them but they also return the sentiment. Depending on how your cat came to you and how old they were at the time, your cat may even see you as a parental surrogate. However, what doesn’t always match up so clearly is how we prefer to demonstrate love to our cat and how they prefer to demonstrate love to us.
There is actually a phenomenon called “cuteness aggression,” which is when we give our cat affection in a way they do not want and/or for longer than they want. Oddly, people who rank themselves as more cat-knowledgeable tend to be more likely to offer cats unwanted affection. An example of this would be if you keep kissing your cat when your cat’s response clearly indicates they do not want to be kissed.
Do Cats Like Kisses on the Nose or Head?
Have you ever tried to kiss your cat on the nose or on the head? These two gestures do have feline equivalents….sort of. The nose boop or nose bump is one way that two felines will greet one another. It is generally viewed as a neutral or friendly form of feline to feline greeting. However, trying to use your mouth instead of your nose may confuse or aggravate your cat so proceed with caution.
Facial or head rubs are a way that two cats bond and claim each other as family. Rubbing each other head to head or face to face is another way to exchange pheromones, which means it is essentially a way of marking each other.
Allo-grooming, or licking and grooming each other, is another feline behavior that is similar to kissing and provides a ready way to exchange pheromones. (However, we are not advising that you try licking your cat instead of kissing her!) All this to say, if you kiss your cat on the head, you are more likely to get a neutral or positive response than if you try to plant your smackeroo elsewhere.
Is it Okay to Kiss Your Cat?
Is it okay to kiss your cat? Well, that depends on your cat’s response. How would you like to be trapped in a home where another family member was constantly trying to show affection to you in a way you didn’t want or like?
This means the best way to figure out if it is okay to kiss your cat or not is to watch how your cat responds when you kiss him. Your cat will show you with his body language and behavior whether the kissing is welcomed or at least tolerable. As I mentioned in the previous section here, you may also have more success if you kiss your cat on the head or cheeks rather than elsewhere.
Do Cats Like Being Kissed? Final Thoughts
Do cats like being kissed? Some cats like or at least can adjust to kisses. Other cats just never seem to get used to the unique human behavior of kissing to show affection. Does your cat like affection? If yes, where do you kiss your cat and how does your fur baby respond? Share your stories in the comments!
More About Cats
- Vitale, K. (et al), ‘Attachment Bonds Between Domestic Cats and Humans’, Current Biology Journal (2019)
- Pierce, J. ‘How Cats Show Us Affection’, Psychology Today (2018)
- Turner, D. ‘The Mechanics of Social Interactions Between Cats and Their Owners’, Frontiers of Veterinary Science (2021)
- Finka, L. ‘Investigation of Human’s Individual Differences as Predictors of their Animal Interaction Stiles, Focused on the Domestic Cat’, Scientific Reports (2022)
- Seksel, K. ‘Understanding Feline Communication’, World Small Animal Veterinary Association (2014)
- Humphrey, T. (et al), ‘The Role of Cat Eye Narrowing Movements in Cat-Human Communication’, Nature (2020)