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“Cats do not see our lip-to-lip kisses as any type of behavior that would be normal to their species,” says Molly DeVoss, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, Fear-Free Certified Trainer, and founder of Cat Behavior Solutions. Nonetheless, some cats might entertain our kisses because they love us. Other cats may choose to maintain their boundaries.
Whether your cat is a smoocher or not — it’s okay! As a responsible pet parent, you can learn to recognize whether your cat likes kisses and alternative ways to show them how much you care.
Does My Cat Like Kisses?
If given a chance, would your cat pucker up for a kiss? It depends, our experts say. “Some cats may tolerate or even enjoy gentle kisses from their owners, while others may find them uncomfortable or invasive,” suggests Alejandro Caos, DVM, a veterinarian at The Vets. Whether a cat likes kisses depends on their temperament, life experiences, and comfort level with the human on the other end.
However, there is such a thing as a “cat kiss,” explains Stephen Quandt, Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist and founder of Cat Behavior Help. This is when two cats touch noses as a friendly greeting, which humans can mimic — if your cat is up for it. Quandt adds that when your cat sniffs you and buries their nose in your clothing or the crevice of your arm, it’s also a form of cat kiss. Additionally, he says your cat might appreciate it if you turn your kiss into a furry nuzzle.
The good news? Caos says these cat breeds are more affectionate than others and, therefore, may be willing to accept — and even enjoy — a smooch.
- Ragdolls earned their name by being so relaxed when handled they go limp, like a ragdoll.
- Siamese cats aren’t just affectionate — they’re very vocal!
- Burmese cats adore physical contact, including cuddling and being held.
- Maine Coons, AKA the gentle giant of cat breeds, typically love cuddling.
- Sphynx cats are nearly furless, which might be why they crave more physical contact than other cat breeds.
7 Ways Tell If Your Cat Likes Kisses
Still unsure if your cat likes smooches? Some surefire signs your cat enjoys kisses include the following.
- Purring, trilling, and soft meowing
- Soft eye contact, including squinting
- Slow blinking
- Pushing their body against you
- Perked-up and forward-facing ears
- A still or only slightly moving tail
Can I teach my cat to like kisses?
You can teach cats to enjoy kisses with the right approach. Using high-value treats that your cat loves, DeVoss says you can encourage them to perform behaviors that may not come naturally to them. “I use Vitakraft Lick ‘n Lap Snack treats to train my cat to kiss me,” she shares.
DeVoss adds that cats exposed to kisses during their social development period, between 3 and 7 weeks, are more likely to accept kisses as adults. However, your cat might never enjoy kisses, even if you try everything to teach them, and that’s okay!
8 Signs Your Cat Doesn’t Like Kisses
Not everyone enjoys kisses. The same applies to your cat. Getting your cat’s consent before engaging in any physical touch is essential. Start by offering your hand first and allowing them to approach you. Next, pay attention to clues that indicate they don’t enjoy kisses, such as the following.
- Recoiling, squirming, or otherwise trying to get away
- Rippling or twitching skin, including twitching ears
- Ears pointing back or pinned against the head
- Stiff body posture
- A thrashing tail
- Raised fur
- Dilated pupils
- Hissing, growling, or snarling
Remember, respect your cat’s boundaries if they’re uncomfortable with kisses. There are plenty of other ways to show affection!
Where Is It Best to Kiss Your Cat?
“The forehead is generally a good place to kiss your cat, and the cheek or neck can be good as well,” Quandt says. He says where cats like being pet and kissed depends on your cat. However, many cats dislike being touched on or near their:
Caos adds that if your cat doesn’t appreciate a peck on the cheek, it might be because their whiskers are sensitive to touch. And whether a kiss is involved or not, most cats don’t appreciate being squeezed or hugged.
Do Cats Understand What Kisses Are?
Cats express affection through head-butting, purring, and allogrooming, but they don’t kiss each other like humans. Therefore, cats may not understand what a kiss means. But our experts say they can sense and react to human emotions.
Cats perceive human emotions by recognizing subtle cues in body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. A 2020 study found that cats have the social skills to recognize human emotional states — happy, sad, angry — and adjust their behaviors accordingly. DeVoss says this skill could explain why some cats tolerate our kisses.
Do Cats Feel Love?
Cats develop strong attachment bonds with their human caregivers. Quandt explains this connection is influenced by our role as their surrogate mother, providing essential elements such as food, attention, comfort, protection, and play. Unfortunately, some cats are so dependent on this attachment that they experience separation anxiety when left alone.
“Love is a complex emotion,” Caos says. “Whether or not this attachment can be equated to ‘love’ in the human sense is a matter of interpretation.” As for Quandt, he believes our cats know we love them and that they love us — in whatever way felines feel love.
Remember, not all cats reciprocate love in the same way. When cats love you, they rub against, sleep on, groom, or slow-blink at you from across the room. So even if they don’t like kisses, we are still their favorite person!
How to Show Your Love If Your Cat Doesn’t Like Kisses
If you’re looking for the perfect way to tell your cat, “I love you,” our experts say there are several ways to express your love and strengthen your cat-human bond outside of kissing.
- Respect their personal space. Allow your cat to approach you on their terms. Paying attention to their body language will indicate when they’re open to interaction and when they’re not.
- Provide a safe environment. Nothing says “I love you” quite like creating a secure and stimulating home for your cat, Caos says. Hiding spots, perches, scratching posts, toys, and puzzles are all loving additions to a cat-friendly home.
- Quality time and attention. Even when your cat doesn’t enjoy physical touch, Caos says spending time near them is a bonding experience. He says to use a soothing tone of voice, make soft eye contact, and establish a connection through non-physical means.
- Playtime. Playtime that taps into your cat’s predatory instincts is essential. Plus, the shared activity creates positive associations and strengthens your bond.
- Positive reinforcement. Punishment is damaging to a relationship and can instill fear in cats. Instead, reward them for desired behaviors with treats, praise, or play.
- Grooming. “Grooming is a social behavior between cats,” Quandt explains. “When a cat licks you, it indicates trust, companionship, and mutual admiration.” Return the favor by gently grooming your cat with a soft brush or comb.
Showing love to your cat is about understanding and meeting their needs in a way that resonates with them. While that’s not always a kiss, some cats won’t mind one or two gentle forehead kisses from their favorite human.