Do Cats Actually Enjoy Kisses From Their Humans?


Cats are one of the most popular pets in the United States, with 25.4% of households owning at least one feline friend. That’s over 31 million households with a cat! (1). With so many cats living in close proximity to humans, it’s natural for owners to want to interact with their pets by showing affection. One common way owners demonstrate love for their cats is through kisses. But how do cats really feel when their human puckers up?

This article will explore whether cats enjoy kisses from their owners. We’ll look at cats’ reactions, reasons behind their responses, breed differences, and risks of kissing cats. Pet parents want the inside scoop on proper cat smooching etiquette. Read on to get the full story!

Cats’ Reactions to Kisses

Cats can have mixed reactions to human kisses. Some cats may squint their eyes, turn their head away, flatten their ears back against their head, or walk away when kissed to indicate discomfort or overstimulation. Other signs a cat is not enjoying kisses include twitching or rippling skin, shaking their head, nudging your face away with their paw, or gentle biting. These are all signals for a human to stop kissing them.

However, some cats who are very bonded and socialized with their owners from kittenhood may come to tolerate or even enjoy gentle kisses. These cats may not display any negative body language when kissed and may even nuzzle into the affection. Kittens that are frequently petted, cuddled, and kissed often become cats that welcome physical affection as adults. Ultimately a cat’s unique personality plays a large role in how receptive they are to kisses from their human companions.

According to experts, the best way to know if your cat likes kisses is to pay attention to their body language and signs of overstimulation or discomfort, and avoid kissing them if they display any negative reactions (Treehugger). It’s important for cat owners to respect their pet’s boundaries.

Science of Cat Kisses

Cats have special scent glands around their faces that produce pheromones. These pheromone signals convey information to other cats about identity, social status, and emotional state. When humans kiss cats, it can trigger a feline’s facial pheromone receptors and influence their behavior.

There are a few key cat pheromones involved in sensing human kisses:

  • Feline facial pheromone – produced when cats rub their faces on objects, conveys a sense of familiarity and safety. Kittens use this pheromone signal with their mother. When humans kiss cats, it may mimic this facial rubbing behavior and trigger the facial pheromone production.
  • Cat appeasing pheromone – meant to provide cats with a sense of comfort and security. Studies show this pheromone can help reduce stress and aggressive behavior between cats. Humans kissing cats may activate appeasing pheromones that make the cat feel more relaxed.

Additionally, the flehmen response – characterized by a cat lifting its head, parting its mouth, and inhaling deeply, is associated with pheromone detection. So cats exhibiting flehmen reactions to human kisses are likely detecting pheromones.

In summary, human kisses can stimulate cats’ facial pheromone receptors and generate signals that convey familiarity, comfort, and calmness. The pheromones activated when kissed may explain some of cats’ behavioral responses.


Kittens vs Adult Cats

Kittens tend to react more enthusiastically to human kisses than adult cats. Kittens are naturally very playful, affectionate and curious, so they often enjoy and return kisses from their owners. It is common for kittens to lick their owners’ faces, nuzzle against them and even attempt to “kiss” back when kissed. This is likely because kittens are still bonding with and learning to trust their human companions.

Adult cats, on the other hand, can have mixed reactions to kisses. Some adult cats love kisses and affection from their owners. However, many adult cats are more aloof and independent. An adult cat may tolerate a kiss from their trusted human, but not seek out kisses. They are less likely to “kiss” back or reciprocate human kisses. Cats are often believed to see human kisses as non-cat social behavior. So while kittens may instinctively try to mimic the behavior, adult cats do not always understand or want kisses from humans.

In general, kittens seem more receptive to human kisses as part of social bonding and play time. Adult cats appreciate affection on their own terms, so kisses should be given less frequently and only when welcomed by the individual cat.

Breed Differences

Cat breeds demonstrate noticeable differences in sociability and affection towards humans. For example, breeds like the Siamese are known to be very sociable, vocal, and actively seek human interaction. They form strong bonds with their owners and are highly motivated by rewarding attention like petting and kisses. In contrast, breeds like the Russian Blue and Turkish Angora tend to be more independent and aloof around strangers. They may prefer solitude and be less inclined to initiate physical affection. However, with their trusted owners, even aloof breeds can form close attachments. So an individual cat’s enjoyment of kisses depends largely on socialization and their unique personality.

Risks of Kissing Cats

While kissing cats can seem harmless, there are some health risks to be aware of. One risk is contracting ‘cat scratch fever’, a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. This bacteria is found in cat saliva and can be transmitted through a bite, scratch, or even a lick. Cat scratches or bites that break the skin pose the greatest risk, but kissing could potentially expose you to infection as well. Symptoms of cat scratch fever include swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, fatigue, and a rash at the site of the scratch/bite. While serious complications are rare, they can include infection of the eye, liver, spleen, or brain in immunocompromised individuals. To prevent cat scratch fever, avoid rough play with claws and teeth and do not allow cats to lick open wounds. Limiting kisses and was your hands after contact can reduce risk as well.

Other diseases that can potentially be passed from cats to humans through saliva contact include: toxoplasmosis, ringworm, campylobacteriosis, and salmonellosis. While not common with casual contact like kisses, immunocompromised individuals should take extra care.

When Cats Want Kisses

Cats can seek out kisses from their owners as a sign of affection and bonding. Some common situations when a cat may initiate kisses include:

Greetings – Cats often rub their heads on owners when they return home as a greeting. This head bump can turn into a request for a kiss. It’s one way cats say “I missed you” (1).

Before naps – Cats feeling sleepy may hop into a lap and nudge an owner’s face for a few kisses before naptime. This mimics a mother cat’s grooming routine with kittens.

When settling down – Kisses can be part of a cat’s bedtime or settling in routine. A cat may hop up on the bed and touch noses as a way of bonding before sleep.

During play sessions – Playful cats may initiate playful kisses on the nose or cheek, mimicking love bites. This shows affection during the excitement of play.

Morning wakeups – Cats who sleep with their owners may nuzzle, lick, or “kiss” their human’s face in the mornings as a wake up call and greeting.

Lap time – When sitting calmly in an owner’s lap, a content cat may affectionately nuzzle or head-bump their human’s face.

Positive reinforcement – Cats who associate kisses with pets and attention may initiate kisses more often as a learned positive reinforcement.


Kiss Alternatives

While some cats may tolerate or even enjoy kisses, others clearly dislike them. Fortunately, there are many other ways to show your cat affection without using kisses.

Most cats love being petted, especially around the cheeks, chin, and base of the tail. Petting is a great way to bond with your cat while avoiding kisses that may stress them out. Try using long, gentle strokes and pay attention to your cat’s body language to make sure they’re enjoying the attention.

You can also try holding your cat in your lap or lightly stroking their paws. Some cats even like gentle massages. Focus on areas your specific cat enjoys. Over time, you’ll learn the best ways to provide physical affection.

Beyond touch, use your voice to shower your cat with love. Talk to them in a sweet, soothing tone and say their name often so they learn to recognize it. You can even sing or make up silly songs with their name.

Interactive playtime is another excellent alternative for showing your cat affection. Try fishing pole toys or chase toys to mimic hunting. Puzzle toys and treat balls provide mental stimulation too. Your cat will appreciate the quality time together.

With some creativity and attentiveness to your cat’s preferences, you can build a strong bond without using kisses. Pay attention to the interactions they initiate and enjoy most to determine the best affection strategies.

Owner precautions

While kissing cats can be an expression of affection, owners should take some basic precautions:

  • Avoid kissing your cat directly on the mouth, as their saliva may contain bacteria that can be harmful to humans (Vetwest 1). A kiss on the top of the head is safer.
  • Wash your hands after petting cats to remove any germs or allergens from their fur (Petcarerx 2).
  • Don’t allow cats to lick around your mouth or nose.
  • Keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date to reduce the risk of diseases.
  • Brush your cat’s teeth regularly to improve their oral health.
  • See your vet if you develop any swelling or irritation after kissing your cat.

While our feline friends may not understand kisses, following basic hygiene around cats can let you express affection while minimizing health risks.


When it comes to cats and kisses, the answer depends on the cat. Some cats enjoy kisses as a sign of affection, while others may not like having a human face so close to theirs. Kittens and younger cats tend to be more receptive to kisses than adult cats. Breed plays a role as well, with more people-oriented breeds like Ragdolls generally tolerating kisses better than independent breeds like Bengals. While giving cats the occasional kiss is usually fine, owners should be mindful of hygiene and watch for signs of stress. Cats show affection in many ways, so there are alternatives like petting, playing, or slow blinking that can strengthen the bond without forcing kisses. Overall, it’s important for owners to learn their individual cat’s preferences and respect their boundaries.

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