Humans kiss each other every day. Kissing is the most common way to show affection and closeness, no matter who we are talking about—close friends, family, or partners. We even have rules and different types of kisses for every occasion because we love it so much. But what do cats think when we kiss them?
Cats show affection to their family members in many ways—some of them really resembling our human habits. For example, cats will rub their cheeks against each other to show closeness, but kisses are definitely not in their repertoire. So when you try to translate this human behavior to a fellow feline, you might not get the reaction you hoped for. That is, not to say that you absolutely cannot kiss your cat. We will show you how to kiss your cat and convey your feelings of affection to her properly.
In this article, we will explain how cats see our most common show of affection and how they interpret it. There will also be a mention of some health risks that might occur because of this behavior. We will also tell you about useful alternatives, just in case your cat is not a big fan of kisses.
Do Cats Understand Kisses?
The simple answer would be: no. They really don’t. Some cats—those who are better at speaking Human—will accept a kiss on the cheek from their beloved two-legged weirdo and be ok with it. Those cats know it is a sign of affection even though it is not a proper feline way.
Some will even lean in to get the smooch, and if this is something your cat does, be very grateful. She is doing it only for your sake.
Others, however, might not be so understanding. If your cat moves away from you, pulls back her ears, or starts whipping her tail all over the place, you better stop what you’re doing.
She doesn’t understand what a kiss means and you are just breaching into her personal space. You might even end up with a scratched nose and a very frustrated kitty.
So how do cats show affection and how can we humans improve our ways of showing affection to our cats? First and foremost, observe how cats interact with their own kind. They are very affectionate animals and will gladly show affiliation, but their methods are slightly different than ours.
How to Kiss a Cat
If you are dead set on kissing your cat, we understand. It is a temptation hard to resist, but you might want to keep some things in mind for the future. Again, no one likes scratches, and you definitely don’t want to induce a contra-effect—your cat avoiding close physical contact with you.
#1: Avoid the Lips and the Tummy
Kissing a cat on the lips or on the nose might be too much of an invasion of personal space. The forehead, cheeks, and the neck might be ok with some cats. Tummy kisses can be even more dangerous, though.
If your cat is not a fan of belly rubs (and most cats are not), you might get into a serious pickle if you try to kiss the tummy. The abdominal area is the most vulnerable part of the body, with nothing but skin protecting the internal organs.
Now, imagine the horror your cat can feel when she sees your entire face heading towards the no-no area. She might get really scared and offended, and you will definitely find yourself on the sharp end of the claws.
#2: Always Be Cautious with Cats You Don’t Know Well
Maybe you’re one of the lucky humans whose cat is lenient when it comes to smooches and close contact, but that doesn’t mean other cats are, too.
A cat can go from a purry, sweet fluffball to an apocalyptic fury in a split second if she feels threatened. And she might as well feel so if you try kissing her because, as we said, cats really don’t use this form of communication. Be careful, especially around cats you don’t know well.
See Also: How to Tame a Feral Cat
#3: Be Extra Cautious about Kids Kissing a Cat
Some cats are less tolerant towards kids than adults. Even if a cat lets you kiss her, she might not be that lenient when it comes to a kid. The best idea would be to avoid cat-kissing altogether.
Try to explain to your kid that cats speak a different language than us and that they don’t always see our actions as we intend them to. This is a great opportunity to teach your kid about boundaries, tolerance, and personal space.
Test it out before actually doing it. If you are not sure how a cat will react to a kiss, try a little trick beforehand.
Touch the cat’s cheek or forehead with your index finger, while slowly leaning in. If the cat seems comfortable, proceed very gently and give her a quick kiss on the forehead. If, at any point, you notice that she is not comfortable with your proximity, don’t push it. Keep petting her as you did before and enjoy the moment.
Risks of Kissing the Cat
We don’t want to sound like your grandma, but some basic hygiene is always fashionable. Even if you’re just having a petting session with a cat you don’t know, remember to wash your hands afterward. The same goes for kitty kisses, because the mouth is one of the “dirtiest” parts of the body, and you might get infected.
Bacteria are all around us, and normally our immune system is the one doing the thankless job of protecting us, but caution is still advised.
Immunocompromised people, young children, and pregnant women can take a hard hit from getting infected with even the most common pathogens. Zoonotic diseases can be transferred from animals to humans, and some of them are very serious.
Here are some that can be transferred via saliva and feces residue, so try to keep this in mind:
Commonly known as the culprit causing the “cat scratch fever,” this disease is caused by a bacteria that is easily spreadable. It is a widespread pathogen that causes several health conditions in humans, so be cautious.
#2: Common Bacteria
Some bacteria are a part of a healthy gut flora and are actually incredibly beneficial, but if they found themselves in the wrong place, the consequences can be very serious.
Bacteria such as Pasteurella, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella are very common and found all around us. However, they are very contagious and can cause some serious conditions. Cats groom themselves all over, which means that these bacteria can be easily found in the fur anywhere on the body. Your cat doesn’t mind it, but you might.
This is a very widespread fungal infection that actually has nothing to do with worms. The name comes from the ring shape on the infected part of the skin. Cats and dogs can transfer this pathogen to humans, so make sure to take caution.
This is a disease caused by a parasitic pathogen called Toxoplasma gondii. It is especially scary because it doesn’t cause any symptoms in adults. In fact, you could be carrying it for years without even being aware of it.
It is estimated that around half of the world’s population is infected. So why is it so dangerous then? First of all, young children and immunocompromised individuals can suffer great damage from this parasite, such as swollen lymph nodes or brain and eye damage.
Even when it comes to the healthy individuals, the latent phase of the disease when bradyzoites occur can do permanent damage to the organism. The bradyzoites form tissue cysts that can damage the eyes, the lungs, and even our brains. We are not trying to scare you, but caution and good hygiene habits are strongly advised.
Kiss Your Cat the Way She Likes It
So, you are one of those lucky people who has a forgiving cat, and you know how to keep the nasty bugs out of your system? Yay for you! On the other hand, if you have kids or want to avoid the risks of getting a disease or be shredded to pieces, there are still things you can do to show your cat how much you love her.
As we’ve already said, cats communicate mostly through body language. If you observe carefully how cats interact, you might get some pretty valuable clues about the do’s and the don’ts of the feline world.
Here are some of the tips we can give you from experience:
#1: The Head Bump
Headbutting is definitely one of the most common ways for cats to show affection. This is, in essence, the cat’s version of a hug. Your cat is casually telling you that she loves you and that you two are cool.
You can always offer a headbutt by touching your cat’s forehead with your own. See what happens. Some cats are so enthusiastic about head bumps that you might end up with a light concussion.
How do you know that your cat wants to headbutt you? You can read it from the posture. A cat that wants a headbutt usually sits up straight with the nose pointing to the ground, exposing the forehead. She is basically inviting you to kiss her, in her own way.
#2: The Cheek Rub
If a cat rubs her cheek against yours, you can definitely interpret it as a kiss. Only cats who are very close to each other will do this. What this gesture says is: “I love you, you are family, and I am so comfortable with having you around that you can freely enter my personal space.”
This action can sometimes be followed by licking and love bites. Make sure to gently set the boundaries if your cat gets too enthusiastic with those. Also, always be careful to avoid the mouth area. Bacteria don’t care about how much you two love each other.
#3: Leaning in to Touch You
Some cats are very physical and will try to be close to you in all possible situations. These love machines need physical contact, and this is a definite sign of their affection. If your cat does this, make sure to respond with at least a few pets and kind words.
We know that they can choose the worst possible times to ask for attention, but don’t deny them love. Maybe they are doing it more for you than themselves because cats have an unmistakable radar for stress.
This token of affection is something most people are not even aware of. Yet, this is one of the most common ways cats show devotion casually. You can think of it as a “remote” kiss.
What does it even mean? Remember the last time you were sitting at your laptop and working, and you look at your cat, just watching you from the armchair, all mellow and relaxed? Did she slowly close her eyes when you looked at her like she is just falling asleep at that moment? Well, that is a slow blink.
It is one of the most peculiar ways of kissing someone, but this is cats we’re talking about. The proper etiquette requires you to return the blink back to your beloved fluff. She just told you “I love you”; make sure to say “I love you, too.”
This interaction means worlds more to her than a human kiss. This gesture can also be used for unfamiliar cats or cats that are distressed. By doing it, you are telling them that you are relaxed and that you are not a threat. It is reassuring and calming. Some cats might take you for a weirdo, though, but who cares.
Communication between species can be very puzzling at times, even frustrating. It is important to understand that avoiding interaction that is normal and positive for humans doesn’t mean that your cat is aloof or moody; it is usually just the fact that she doesn’t understand the gesture.
To make it even more complicated, some actions mean quite the opposite. For example, the invasion of personal space that we call hugging is a very aggressive thing in the feline world.
This is why most cats don’t appreciate the human means for showing affection. We kindly advise you to leave the hugs and the kisses for your fellow humans, and try to communicate with your cat in a way she understands.
It doesn’t mean you will be lacking in physical affection; on the contrary, once your cat realizes you are responding to her language, she will be encouraged to shower you with love.
How much do you love your cat? Do you express your affection for her every day? Do you have a special way to do that? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! Also, check out our article on how to talk to your cat.