Cats are incredibly easy to love, especially the most affectionate cat breeds. We swoon over their cute faces and fluffy waves of fur, and we relish all the ways cats show affection—like when they hop into our lap, purring and meowing their way into our hearts. It’s so tempting to return the love by picking them up and giving them a smooch, but do cats like kisses? And do they even understand what human kisses mean? The answers lie in their cat behaviour and cat body language. We spoke to cat behaviour experts to hear what they have to say about kissing your cat and what you should know before you pucker up.
Do cats like kisses?
Maybe you’ve never asked yourself whether or not cats like kisses, but it’s something to consider. “Kissing your cat with your lips is not something cats will understand, nor will they recognise it as a cat species-specific behaviour,” says Stephen Quandt, founder of Feline Behavior Associates. Still, some cats may tolerate our kisses and possibly appreciate them, especially when your cat trusts you. They may pair kisses with other feel-good things, such as nuzzling, gently breathing warm air on them or offering your forehead for sniffing or nose touching, Quandt says. “Cats read our body language, and if we are soft and gentle with them when attempting a kiss, this may help them appreciate the attention.”
Ultimately, it depends on the cat and their personality. Some may like affection in the form of touching, petting, rubbing and even kissing, while other cats have more defined boundaries. Regardless, cats are notoriously fickle. They might be OK with a smooch in the morning but run for the hills when you attempt it later the same day.
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What do cats think human kisses are?
“It depends on how the cat was socialised to humans when they were young, how comfortable they are with handling and their relationship to the person attempting to kiss them,” says Janna Skinner, a cat behaviour manager at an Animal Welfare League.
Cats that received cuddling, kisses and other forms of socialisation as kittens are more likely to tolerate kissing than a cat whose socialisation didn’t include repeated up-close-and-personal contact. “Additionally, cats are more likely to accept kisses from people they know well or have a strong bond with,” says Skinner.
But how can cats know we love them, especially if they shy away from kisses? While cats can’t comprehend the emotions encompassing love the way humans do, they do know who provides their meals, treats, affection and other comfort, which essentially conveys that lovin’ feeling. You’ll know your cat loves you by the things they do. “Cats primarily show affection to their humans by wanting to be near us and participate in whatever we are doing, whether it is watching television, working on a computer or doing other things around our homes,” says Skinner. Cats also show their affinity for their human much the same way they show affection to other cats – with head bunting and rubbing against your face.