Does Kissing Cats on the Mouth Put You at Risk?

Dangers of Kissing Cats

Kissing cats can potentially expose owners to certain health risks. Cats naturally carry bacteria and parasites in their mouths that can be transmitted through a kiss. One of the most notable risks is toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection spread through contact with infected cat feces that can be dangerous for pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems (PetCareRx). Additionally, bacteria such as Pasteurella, Staphylococcus, E. coli, and Salmonella are common in cats and highly contagious (Vetwest). Viruses like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus can also spread through saliva contact.

A cat’s mouth contains more bacteria than a human’s due to the buildup of plaque and tartar on their teeth. Biting and scratching are normal cat behaviors and can expose their mouths to outdoor germs and parasites. Even indoor cats groom themselves frequently, spreading saliva between their bodies. For these reasons, kissing carries a potential risk of transmitting infectious diseases to cat owners (Vetwest).

However, the risk of disease is generally low for healthy adults. Those with weakened immune systems, open wounds, or who are pregnant should exercise greater caution and consult their doctor before kissing cats.

Benefits of Kissing Cats

Kissing your cat can help strengthen the bond between you and your feline companion. Showing affection through kisses lets your cat know they are loved and cared for. As social creatures, cats appreciate signs of affection from their human caretakers.

Kissing is a natural way for humans to demonstrate love, tenderness, and attachment. When you kiss your cat, they may not fully understand the meaning behind the gesture, but they can pick up on the positive emotions behind it. Studies show that cats see us as parent figures and have attachment styles similar to human children and their caregivers ( So kissing your cat mimics the nurturing parental behavior that helps form secure attachments.

Kissing releases oxytocin, the “love hormone,” in both humans and cats. Oxytocin strengthens social bonds and elicits feelings of contentment, calmness, and wellbeing. When you exchange kisses with your cat, you both may experience the relaxing effects of oxytocin. Over time, these bonding moments promote trust between you and your cat.

As long as you respect your cat’s boundaries, kissing is generally a safe way to express affection on a daily basis. Kissing sessions can be an opportunity for additional face-to-face contact and petting. Just be attentive to your cat’s signals to ensure they are comfortable with this interaction.

Cat Psychology

Cats can have varying reactions to being kissed, depending on the individual cat’s personality and level of socialization (source). Some cats may enjoy kisses and see them as a sign of affection, while others may dislike the sensation and try to pull away. Cats mainly communicate through facial expressions, body language, and vocalizations, so they do not innately understand kisses as a human display of affection.

When being kissed, a cat tolerant of kisses will often not show much reaction. A cat who dislikes kisses may flatten their ears back, shake their head, or try to move away (source). Excessive licking or grooming after a kiss may also signal irritation. Understanding your cat’s unique personality and preferences is key to knowing if they enjoy kisses or merely tolerate them.

Cats who were handled frequently as kittens and socialized to human contact are more likely to appreciate or at least accept kisses from their owners. Kittens who received regular affection and positive reinforcement like treats during handling often grow into adults who better enjoy snuggling and contact like kisses.

Owner Preferences

Some cat owners enjoy kissing their cats as a sign of affection, while others find the practice unhygienic. According to a survey by StudyFinds, 62% of pet owners believe they share a “mutual love language” with their pets [1]. For these owners, kissing is a natural expression of the bond they feel with their cat. However, other owners are understandably concerned about the potential health risks of swapping saliva with their pet. Veterinarians caution that while rare, diseases can be transmitted from cats to humans through close contact like kissing [2]. Ultimately, preferences for kissing cats comes down to the owner’s personal comfort level and perception of risks.


Safer Alternatives to Kissing Cats on the Mouth

While some cats may tolerate or even enjoy kisses on the mouth, there are safer ways to show affection to cats. According to WikiHow, one of the best ways is to sit at the cat’s level and blink slowly while making eye contact. This mimics cat behavior and helps form a bond. Gently petting your cat, especially around the head, shoulders, and cheeks, is another way to show love without kissing directly on the mouth.

Kristen Levine, a certified animal behavior consultant, recommends nuzzling your cat’s forehead or cheeks as an alternative to mouth kisses. Light cheek and head kisses can show affection while avoiding direct contact with your cat’s mouth and any diseases present. Massaging your cat’s cheeks or scratching under its chin are other options. Ultimately, each cat has unique preferences, so pay attention to its reactions and body language. Slow blinking, purring, and leaning into touch are signs your cat appreciates the affection.

While kissing your cat’s mouth should typically be avoided, there are many other ways to bond and say “I love you” in your cat’s language. With patience and care, a strong relationship built on mutual trust and respect can form without risky kisses.

Veterinarian Advice on Kissing Cats

Veterinarians generally advise against kissing cats on the lips or mouth. According to Dr. Justine Lee, a board-certified veterinary specialist in emergency and critical care, “I would not recommend kissing your pet directly on the lips as there is a small risk for disease transmission” (Source). Dr. Lee explains that cats groom themselves frequently and can transmit bacteria from their mouths to humans through a direct kiss.

Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary health expert, states “Kissing your cat on the top of their head, on their fur is most likely fine. But kissing them directly on their mouth risks transmitting bacteria and parasites to you” (Source). He advises safer alternatives like kissing your cat on the forehead or cheeks.

While most vets acknowledge people enjoy kissing their cats, they emphasize it’s safest for both the owner’s and cat’s health to avoid mouth-to-mouth contact. Vets recommend safer displays of affection like petting, cuddling, or kissing your cat’s head or back.


Proper grooming of cats can help keep their mouths healthy and free of bacteria. Brushing your cat’s teeth regularly is one of the best ways to reduce plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to gingivitis and other dental diseases (source). Using a soft bristled toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste, gently brush along the outer surfaces of the teeth and gums. Focus on the large rear teeth where plaque tends to accumulate. Brushing should be done ideally once per day, but a few times per week can still be beneficial.

In addition to brushing, providing dental treats, chews and rinses helps combat bacteria growth in a cat’s mouth. Products like enzymatic toothpastes and gels break down plaque and tartar to keep teeth clean. Always consult your veterinarian before using any new dental care products to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your cat.

Regular dental care grooming reduces overall mouth bacteria, which in turn lowers the risks associated with kissing and close facial contact with cats. Proper hygiene promotes good health for both pet and owner.

Training Cats

You can train cats not to bite or scratch through positive reinforcement techniques. Start by trimming their nails regularly to minimize potential scratch damage. Also be sure to provide appropriate scratching posts and surfaces around your home so they have acceptable places to scratch. When they start to bite or scratch you, make a high-pitched “yelp” to startle them and let them know it hurts you. Then immediately stop playing and walk away to show biting leads to negative consequences like loss of attention. You can also try gently pushing into their mouth when they bite down to trigger their innate releasing mechanism and get them to let go. Always discourage biting and scratching hands by redirecting to acceptable toys instead. Consistency is key – everyone who interacts with the cat should respond the same way every time to biting or scratching. With time and positive reinforcement when they scratch acceptable surfaces or play without biting, cats can learn more appropriate behavior.

As one expert writes, “Discourage your kitten from biting at your hands by redirecting them to an appropriate toy instead. Never use your hands to tussle or wrestle…” [Source]

Cat-to-Human Disease Transmission

While you can feel incredibly close to your cat and want to display affection, it’s important to understand the documented risks of cat-to-human disease transmission and consider safer alternatives to kissing your cat on the lips.

According to, one disease that can be spread by kissing cats is Corynebacterium ulcerans. This bacteria causes skin lesions and abscesses in humans.

Additionally, explains that viruses like the feline coronavirus can be transmitted from cats to humans, especially immunocompromised individuals.

While the risks are low for healthy individuals, it’s wise to avoid mouth-to-mouth contact and opt for safer ways to bond with your cat.


Kissing your cat can certainly be an expression of affection between pet and owner. However, there are some risks to be aware of. Cats groom themselves frequently and can harbor bacteria in their mouths that may be harmful to humans. Additionally, diseases like toxoplasmosis can be transmitted through saliva. While the risks are low, those with weakened immune systems may want to avoid mouth-to-mouth contact.

That being said, there are benefits too. Kissing releases oxytocin which can strengthen the bond between cat and human. As long as you monitor your cat’s health, practice good hygiene, and avoid being kissed if you have any open cuts or sores in your mouth, kissing can be a safe and mutually enjoyable part of your relationship.

In conclusion, kiss your cat infrequently and on the top of their head as an alternative. Seek advice from your veterinarian if concerned. And as always, never force a cat into unwanted contact.

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