We humans have well-defined ways of showing affection to those we love. We cuddle, hug and kiss those we feel particularly close to, and for many cat owners, that includes their furry friends.
Planting a smooch on the top of your cat’s head may come naturally to you, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if your cat understands what you’re doing. And it can hurt a little to pull away from the kiss and see him glaring and scowling at you!
That brings us to the question that all cat-kissers need to ask themselves: do cats actually like being kissed?
And if not, what are some feline-approved ways to show your cat how much you love him?
Pucker up — we’re about to pay some lip service to these conundrums.
Do Cats Understand Kisses?
First things first: does your cat even understand what you’re doing when you kiss him?
Well, it varies from cat to cat, but generally, the answer is no.
Your cat understands that when you scratch him behind the ears, rub his butt or stroke his back, you’re doing so in order to be closer to him. He does interpret petting as an affectionate behavior that bonds the two of you in addition to feeling really good.
But when you finish up that petting session with a kiss on the head, it’s likely to leave him a bit confused.
Kisses don’t really feel like pettings do. They feel more like brief, direct presses than long, massaging motions, and cats generally prefer the latter.
So he doesn’t get any of the physical pleasure that he associates with affectionate touch. And since cats don’t kiss to demonstrate affection, they don’t have any way of knowing that what you’re doing is an act of love.
However, some cats do eventually put two and two together and learn to associate kisses with love. This is most likely to happen if your cat has a laid-back, affectionate personality and if you consistently kiss him while petting him.
Cats Who Don’t Understand Kisses Don’t Enjoy Them
Your cat’s enjoyment of kisses comes down to whether or not he knows what they are. But you don’t have to read his mind to get on the same page with him — he’ll let you know if he doesn’t like what you’re doing!
To find out, give your cat a kiss on the head and see what he does.
Does he start swinging his tail back and forth, stop purring or try to move away from you? These are good indicators that he finds this type of affection annoying and would prefer it if you stopped.
Or does he get up and swat at you with his eyes dilated and his tail fluffed up? If so, not only does he dislike kisses, he hates them and is trying to defend himself from them — he’s telling you as clearly as he can to knock it off!
On the flip side, if he enjoys your kisses, he’ll purr, knead his paws and maybe even lean into the kiss. If this happens, it’s a good sign that he’s learned your particular love language and doesn’t mind the sensation.
And if he really loves kisses, he may even reciprocate with a lick or a headbutt when you pull away from the kiss!
So How Do Cats Show Affection?
Although cats don’t kiss, they have their own ways of demonstrating love towards others. If your cat doesn’t enjoy or understand kisses, try one of these feline-approved ways of showing affection — in cat language, they’re the equivalent of kisses!
Perhaps the closest cat analog to a kiss is the slow blink. It’s easy to do: lock eyes with the object of your affection, then slowly close and open your eyes.
Closing your eyes tells your cat that you trust him to not attack you and that he can put that same trust in you. If he reciprocates, you’ve as good as kissed in his mind.
One benefit of the slow blink is that you don’t need to be right next to your cat to do it. You can be on opposite ends of the room and still communicate your love for one another.
The Headbutt: A Bit of Tough Love
We associate headbutting with wrestling or childish roughhousing — not exactly the most affectionate acts!
But for your cat, a gentle headbutt is like a big smooch on the cheek. It can be done in passing or as part of a longer cuddle session, but the purpose remains the same: showing you that he loves you.
Headbutting can be tough to reciprocate, though. Your head it a lot bigger than your cat’s, so he may not feel comfortable letting you headbutt him back.
It’s best to let him initiate the headbutting and to simply be receptive of it when he does. If he has a preferred headbutting target, like your forehead or your cheek, offer it to him and wait for him to lean in and make contact.
The Rub: I’ll Make You Mine!
When your cat rubs his head and body against you, he’s depositing his own special scent on you. These pheromones identify him to other cats; by leaving them on you, he’s letting everyone know that you belong to him.
A little possessive, sure, but try not to read too much into it. He’s just trying to prevent other cats from stealing your love and affection away from him!
So let him rub on you when he feels the need to refresh his scent. It’s his strange yet sentimental way of showing you how much he appreciates you.
Product data was last updated on 2023-09-23.
"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett