Do Cats Actually Kiss? The Truth About Feline Affection

What is a Cat Kiss?

A cat kiss is a gesture of affection that cats use to show love and trust. While humans express affection through lip-to-lip contact, cats have their own unique ways of “kissing”. Cat kisses usually involve touching noses, bumping heads, or touching faces – not direct mouth-to-mouth contact.

There are a few common types of cat kisses:

  • Nose kiss – Touching nose-to-nose. Cats have scent glands on their noses so this allows them to pick up each others’ scents.
  • Head butt – Bumping their heads against another cat or human. This deposits facial pheromones.
  • Face rub – Rubbing their faces against people or objects. This also leaves behind pheromones.
  • Licks – Licking people with their scratchy tongues. Though different from a human kiss, licking is still a common sign of cat affection.

While a human kiss is about lips touching, cat kisses are more about scent-marking and tactile stimulation. Cats don’t kiss with their mouths purposely. But they have evolved their own unique kitty style of demonstrating love and connection.

Why do cats kiss each other?

Although it may look like cats are kissing when they touch noses or rub their faces together, they are actually engaging in social behaviors like greeting, bonding, or investigating each other through scent. Cats have a powerful sense of smell and gain a lot of information from sniffing another cat. When cats touch noses, it allows them to pick up pheromones and scents contained in glands around the mouth. This helps them recognize cats they know and gather details about mood, sex, and identity.

One reason cats rub faces is for social bonding and affection. Facing rubbing, licking, and grooming helps strengthen social connections between cats. Cats have scent glands around their faces, so this behavior may also mix their scents together as a way to claim group membership.

Cats also touch noses as a form of communication. A quick nose touch can be a friendly cat greeting. Cats may also use this behavior to signal things like requesting space or asking for grooming. The meaning depends on the context and body language cues.

When cats rub against objects like furniture or legs, they are scent marking through glands on their face and body. Depositing pheromones from scent glands gives cats information about other animals in their territory. So when cats rub faces, they mutually scent mark each other, signaling social bonding and shared territory (source:

When do cats kiss?

Cats kiss for various reasons throughout their lives. Kittens will often kiss their siblings and mothers as a sign of affection. According to Elite Veterinary Care, cat kisses are a way kittens bond with their family.

Adult cats may kiss during mating as a way to strengthen their bond and signal affection to their mate. Cats also commonly kiss when they are reunited with a sibling, friend or owner after time apart. This kissing behavior is a sign that they missed that individual.

Cats frequently kiss while grooming themselves or another cat. Licking and nibbling are natural grooming behaviors, but also demonstrate fondness. As Catster explains, cats do not actually kiss, but their licking and grooming shows affection. So cats “kiss” as a way to bond and care for those they are close to.

Do all cats kiss?

While most cats do show affection by kissing, some cats are less inclined to kiss than others. According to research by Elite Veterinary Care, the majority of cats will demonstrate kissing behaviors like nudging, bunting, and face rubbing. However, a cat’s personality can affect how often they offer kisses. Shy, independent cats may not kiss their owners as frequently as social, affectionate breeds. Kittens removed too early from their mothers also often do not develop proper kissing behaviors. So while kissing is an instinctual feline behavior, the frequency and intensity varies by each cat’s unique personality and early life experiences.

Do cats kiss humans?

Yes, cats do sometimes “kiss” their human owners as a sign of affection. When a cat rubs its nose and mouth against a human, especially bunting the face, this cat “kiss” is a way for the cat to show its love and acceptance of that person. Cats have scent glands on their lips, nose, cheeks, chin, forehead and tail, and when they rub against objects it deposits their scent. The cat is marking its human as part of its family and “territory” with its unique scent [1]. So while cats may not kiss in the same way humans do, when a cat rubs its face on you it is bonding with you and expressing its affection in a cat-like way.

What does a cat kiss mean?

A cat kiss is often a sign of affection, trust, greeting, and social bonding between cats. Cats have scent glands on their lips, so when they rub their mouths and noses on you, they’re leaving their scent as a way to mark you as “theirs.” Cat kisses are like a hug or a handshake – it’s a friendly social gesture that strengthens their bond with you.

When a cat headbutts or nuzzles you, that’s their version of a kiss. They are showing you that they care for you and feel comfortable getting close. Cats will often bump their heads on other cats or humans they trust. It’s a sign of affection and an invitation for further social interaction. According to animal behaviorists, when cats rub on you it stimulates their scent glands and allows them to mark you as part of their group or family [1].

In addition to bonding, cat kisses are a common greeting behavior. When cats touch noses or nuzzle each other in passing, it’s like saying hello. Cats derive comfort from these familiar social rituals. So if your kitty headbutts you when you get home, that’s their way of giving you an affectionate greeting. It’s their version of a welcome home kiss.

While licking you doesn’t technically count as a kiss, it can also be a sign of feline affection. Cats lick each other during social grooming as another way to bond. When a cat licks you, they are treating you like another cat – showing care, comfort and connection. So while you may not want a sandpaper lick across your face, it means your cat wants to signify your close relationship.


How to get your cat to kiss you

Getting a cat to kiss you takes time, patience, and positive reinforcement. Cats show affection on their own terms, so you can’t force them to kiss you. However, you can encourage kissing behavior with the following tips:

First, focus on gaining your cat’s trust and bonding through playtime, petting, and treats. The more comfortable your cat feels with you, the more likely they’ll show affection. Let your cat set the pace for physical interaction. Forcing contact before they’re ready can undermine trust.

Next, watch for signals your cat wants to kiss, like rubbing against you or nudging your face. When they lick you, say “Kiss!” and give treats or pets as positive reinforcement. With consistency, they may associate kisses with praise and do it more. But let your cat lead when giving kisses.

Gently petting around your cat’s mouth or holding out your cheek can encourage kisses, but don’t force it. Always let your cat walk away if they seem uncomfortable. With time, patience and positive interactions, you can teach your cat to show you affection with kisses.

For more tips, check out this guide: [cite url here following best practices]

Signals a cat wants to kiss

Cats have some clear ways of signaling they want to give you kisses and affection. Here are some of the main signs to look out for:

Rubbing on you – One of the clearest signs a cat wants to kiss or nuzzle you is when it rubs its face and body against you. This deposits its scent on you and allows your cat to get close. If your cat rubs against your face, it’s a clear sign it wants to give you kitty kisses.

Bumping noses – Cats don’t actually kiss with their lips like humans. Instead, when a cat wants to show affection, it will touch its nose to your nose, face, or other body part. This light bump or “boop” is like a cat giving you a kiss. If your cat gently bumps your face, it likely wants you to return the kitty kiss.

Slow blinking – When a cat slowly blinks at you, this is a way cats demonstrate trust and affection. If you slowly blink back, you are returning the affection. Slow blinking often precedes rubbing and nose bumps, so if your cat is blinking at you, kitty kisses may follow.

How to kiss a cat

Cats can be particular about having their faces touched, so don’t force kissing on them. Here are some tips for kissing a cat in a way that they enjoy:

Let them sniff you first. Hold out your hand and let your cat sniff and rub against it. This gets them accustomed to your scent and shows them you’re not a threat.

Slowly touch noses. Once your cat is relaxed, gently touch your nose to theirs. Maintain light contact and see if they return the gesture by touching their nose back to yours.

Don’t force it. If your cat pulls away or seems distressed, don’t continue trying to kiss them. Forcing interaction will only make them distrust you. Go at their pace and don’t push them beyond their comfort zone.

Kiss them on the head or cheeks instead of the lips if they don’t like nose kisses. Try petting their head gently, then kissing the top or side of it. The cheeks and forehead are generally more acceptable areas.

Offer treats afterwards so they associate kisses with positive experiences. Give them a treat right after a kiss to reinforce that it’s an agreeable interaction.

Persist gently over multiple sessions until they accept kisses. With time, patience and positive reinforcement, many cats will start to enjoy kisses from their trusted humans.

Fun facts about cat kisses

Cat kisses often involve cats closing their eyes as they touch noses or rub heads with another cat or human. Closing their eyes is a sign of trust and affection. When cats purr during kisses, it further indicates contentment and happiness. [1]

Another sweet fact about cat kisses is that kittens will kiss their mothers as a bonding behavior. The kittens nuzzle and lick their mother’s face as a display of affection and to stimulate milk production. Even as adults, some cats continue to “kiss” their owners in a kitten-like way to show love. [2]

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