Why Do Cats Move When You Try To Kiss Them?

Cats Have Sensitive Faces

Cats use their whiskers to sense their environment. Whiskers are thick, specialized hairs that are highly sensitive to even the slightest touch or air current. According to PetMD, “When they rub up against something, their whiskers bend, sending signals to their brain about an object’s size, shape, and texture.”

This means cats experience significant sensory input through their whiskers. Any contact with a cat’s face and whiskers can be overstimulating for them. As explained by Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, “whiskers are uber-sensitive and provide felines with valuable information about their surroundings.”

When you try to kiss a cat’s face, your face and lips inevitably make contact with their sensitive whiskers. This can feel invasive and uncomfortable from the cat’s perspective. Kissing also involves putting your face very close to theirs, invading their personal space.

Cats Value Personal Space

Cats are territorial, solitary animals by nature who prefer their own company and personal space. Unlike dogs, who crave companionship and physical affection, cats tend to be more independent creatures (1).

Most cats value having space between themselves and other beings (2). Kittens learn from their mothers to claim an area or object as their own. This allows them to observe their surroundings at a safe distance and retreat when needed. As adults, cats continue to desire their own space for security and comfort.

When people try to kiss cats, it can violate a cat’s innate need for personal space. Kissing involves bringing one’s face very close to the cat’s face, which encroaches on the personal bubble cats prefer to maintain (3). This can make cats feel anxious, trapped, or threatened.

Respecting a cat’s personal space shows them that their boundaries will be honored. Providing cats with vertical territory, like cat trees, and their own designated sleeping areas can help satisfy their territorial nature.

Cats Interpret Kisses as Aggression

When cats are kissed directly on the face, they often perceive it as confrontational or aggressive behavior. Cats are very sensitive about having their faces touched or having any object, including a human face, come in close proximity to their face [1]. Kissing involves putting one’s face very close to the cat’s personal space. This can cause the cat to feel threatened.

Cats have a strong sense of personal space and boundaries. When those boundaries are crossed, they can react defensively as a protective mechanism against potential aggression. Direct face-to-face contact is seen as confrontational by cats. So when a human attempts to kiss a cat on the face, the cat’s instincts kick in, interpreting it as an act of aggression [2]. This causes the cat to pull away or flee the situation.

Cats Dislike Restraint

When you try to kiss a cat, you are often holding it in place, which cats tend to dislike. Cats are independent animals that value their autonomy and do not like being held against their will.[1] Studies have shown that common methods of restraining cats, like scruffing, causes them stress.[2] Cats feel threatened when restrained and their instinct is to escape and get free. So when you hold a cat to deliver a kiss, even if you have loving intentions, the cat simply wants to get away. This is why they will squirm, pull back, or run off when you attempt to kiss them.

Kissing is Unfamiliar to Cats

Cats do not kiss each other the way humans do. In fact, kissing is an unfamiliar behavior to cats that stems from human, rather than feline, social customs. When cats greet and socialize with each other, they usually bump heads, nuzzle noses, lick faces, and groom each other. These behaviors help cats identify each other, bond, and show affection within their social group.

Kissing, on the other hand, is not an innate cat behavior and not something cats do with each other. Since it is unfamiliar, kissing can make some cats nervous or uncomfortable. Cats tend to feel safest and most relaxed when interactions follow feline social norms they understand. Unfamiliar actions like kissing disrupt a cat’s sense of control over their environment, which can cause anxiety. Given the choice, most cats prefer to initiate affectionate behaviors like head bumps, rather than have unfamiliar human kisses thrust upon them.

In summary, kissing does not come naturally to cats the way cat-typical social grooming and facial rubbing does. The unfamiliarity of human kisses likely explains much of why cats are averse to them.

Source: https://cats.com/do-cats-like-kisses

Cats Have Sharp Teeth

One reason cats instinctively move away when you try to kiss them is that they have sharp teeth and claws that can be dangerous weapons if used against a human face. A cat’s teeth and claws exist primarily for hunting prey and defending themselves, not for affectionate gestures like kissing. When a human brings their face very close in an attempt to kiss a cat, it can trigger the cat’s defensive biting and scratching instincts unintentionally.

Cats have 30 extremely sharp teeth designed for grabbing, killing, and tearing meat. Their 4 long canine teeth are especially deadly, meant for stabbing vital organs and gripping struggling prey [1]. Trying to kiss a cat brings the human’s vulnerable facial areas like the lips, nose and eyes dangerously close to these deadly teeth. So when faced with an incoming unexpected kiss, the startled cat’s instinct is to move away or lash out defensively with their teeth and claws.

In fact, there are 400,000 estimated cat bites each year, accounting for up to 50% of all animal bite injuries worldwide [2]. While most are not fatal, they can cause painful punctures and serious infections that require medical treatment. Cats likely move away from kisses to avoid accidentally harming their trusted human companion.

Cats Enjoy Autonomy

Cats are notoriously independent animals. According to research from Kitty Personalities! What Personality Traits Do Different Breeds Have?, cats display a wide range of personality traits, but independence is a common theme across breeds. Cats like to act on their own terms and make their own decisions.

When a human tries to kiss a cat, this can force an interaction that the cat did not initiate or consent to. The cat’s instinct is to move away and maintain its autonomy. Kissing is an action that is driven by the human’s impulse, not the cat’s. So unsolicited kisses can make cats uncomfortable and disrupt their sense of independence.

Kissing Can Be Overstimulating

Cats have sensitive nerves and whiskers in their face. When a human tries to kiss a cat, it provides sudden tactile stimulation that can be startling or unpleasant for the cat. As experts from the Humane Society of Huron Valley explain, “Petting may cause the pain to worsen or the cat to become anxious that you may touch a painful area” (source). Kissing a cat can be overwhelming due to the many sensitive nerves cats have around their mouth and nose.

Sudden kisses can also overstimulate some cats. As Rover notes, “An aversion to touch could indicate your cat is in pain. A cat with a bad back, for instance, might react negatively when touched in a sensitive area” (source). The pressure and motion of a kiss against their face provides significant tactile stimulation that can be jarring for cats.

Some Cats Tolerate Kisses

While many cats dislike kissing, some cats can learn to tolerate or even enjoy kisses with proper socialization and training. Kittens and young cats that are regularly kissed and handled in a gentle, positive manner from an early age are more likely to become accustomed to kisses as adults. However, just as with people, individual cat personalities vary greatly. Some cats remain independent and aloof, while others become highly affectionate and seem to crave physical contact and attention. With patience and care, kissing can become an accepted sign of affection between some cats and their owners.

According to WikiHow, cat owners can teach their cats to enjoy kisses through a training process that associates kisses with treats and praise (source). This involves kissing the cat on the head while simultaneously providing a treat reward. Over time, the cat learns to associate kisses with something positive. However, the cat’s unique personality ultimately determines how much it enjoys or tolerates kissing. While socialization can help cats accept kisses, some remain resistant no matter how much training is done. Owners should respect a cat’s boundaries and not force interactions it is uncomfortable with.

Strategies for Kissing Cats

When attempting to kiss a cat, it’s important to be careful and respectful of the cat’s preferences. Here are some tips for kissing cats successfully:

Go slowly and watch for signals. Cats will indicate if they are open to kisses through body language. Look for a relaxed posture, upright ears, and slow blinking. If the cat tenses up, turns away, or flattens ears, take that as a sign to stop.

Pet the cat first to help them relax. Give pets, chin scratches or gentle strokes before attempting kisses. This helps build trust and gets the cat comfortable with touch.

Give the cat the chance to initiate kisses. Let the cat rub its face on yours first. This allows the cat to control the interaction and consent to kisses on their terms.

Kiss lightly and avoid restraining the cat. Gently kiss the top of the head or cheeks. Never forcefully grab and kiss the cat as this can scare them.

Keep kisses brief to avoid overstimulation. One or two short kisses are enough for most cats. Watch for signs they want affection to stop like squirming or shaking their head.

Each cat has unique preferences. Pay attention to the individual cat’s signals and kiss only when welcomed. With patience and care, cats can enjoy kisses while retaining their autonomy.

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