Do Cats Like to Be Kissed?

It depends on the cat.

blonde woman kisses black cat with yellow eyes

Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

Many cat owners wonder about the best way to show their pets love and affection. Do cats like kisses? Turns out, it depends on the cat. Some cats are socialized as kittens to be held and kissed, while others haven’t had that exposure and might be put off by a kiss as an expression of love. So, some cats like it and some cats don't—but there are ways of detecting the category into which your feline friend falls.

Let your cat’s behavior be your guide. If your cat snuggles up close when you try to give it a peck on the head, it’s letting you know it will accept your affection. However, if your cat ducks away or lowers its ears, it is telling you that it is not in the mood for a smooch.

How Do Cats Show Affection?

  • Head-butting
  • Licking 
  • Using their tails
  • Slowly blinking their eyes
  • Kneading 
  • Sleeping on those they love

While cats don’t kiss their owners in the traditional sense, they have many ways to show they care. When your cat purrs as you pet it in its favorite spot, it’s showing its affection and appreciation for you. Similarly, head-butting is a sign of love and is your cat’s way of leaving its scent on you, often in exchange for being petted. Some cats will sit on your lap and knead their paws just like they did with their mothers when they were kittens.

One cat behavior that closely resembles kissing is licking. If your cat starts licking your face or legs, it is exhibiting a grooming behavior mostly reserved for its own kind. Some cats will wrap their tails around you when you’re sitting or standing nearby, much like how people place an arm around one another. Snuggling up close is also a form of cat affection. Others enjoy sleeping on top of their owners. While it might not feel much like love when your cat spreads its body across your face, it actually is.

cute striped cat gazes into camera

Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

While some may not like being kissed, most cats enjoy spending quality time with their favorite people. Like dogs, cats form a strong attachment to their owners. They exhibit behaviors such as a desire to be close, distress when separated, and contentment when reunited with their owners. So while kissing might not be the best path to your kitty’s heart, spending time together is a great way to show your cat that you care.

Signs Your Cat Doesn't Like Kisses

When you bring your face close to the top of your kitty’s head, does it move away, pull its ears down to the side, or hiss? These are signs that your cat might not appreciate kisses. Cats are known to be fickle and their desire for affection might change from day to day, so try not to take your cat’s rejection to heart.

Ginger cat with narrowed eyes and flattened ears
A cat with its ears flattened to the side is showing displeasure. Fajrul Islam / Getty Images

Other Ways You Can Show Affection

  • Petting
  • Grooming
  • Giving treats
  • Talking
  • Returning eye contact
  • Accepting rubs

If your cat isn’t the kissing type, there are many other ways that you can show your love. Starting with its head and shoulders, pet your cat gently. Once you discover its favorite spots, let your cat know you care by giving it rubs and scratches in the places it loves. If your cat decides that it wants to return the favor by rubbing its head against you, let it. Allowing your cat to express its love the way it wants to is showing your cat you love and appreciate it. You are also showing affection when you help your cat with its regular grooming routine by combing its fur or wiping it down with a warm cloth.

Content white and orange cat in a sink
Narrowing of the eyes into a slow blink is a form of communication between cats and humans.

RapidEye / Getty Images

For cats that are vocal, try talking back. Using kitty sounds or a soothing voice, conversing with your cat is another way to demonstrate your love and attention. If your cat enjoys making eye contact, hold its gaze and blink slowly to let it know you care. Cats have been shown to respond positively to slow blinking interactions with their owners. In her book, "The Natural Cat," Anitra Frazier describes this blinking behavior as the cat form of a kiss. And just like canine companions, cats love a tasty treat. When you offer your cat a delicious and healthy treat, you’re showing love and appreciation.

Learn more about cat affection from Animal Planet's Jackson Galaxy:

Why This Matters to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our cats, the better we can support and protect their well-being. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.

View Article Sources
  1. "Is My Cat's Kneading Normal?." American Animal Hospital Association.

  2. Vitale, Kristyn R., Alexandra C. Behnke, and Monique A.R. Udell. "Attachment Bonds Between Domestic Cats And Humans." Current Biology 29.18 (2019): R864-R865, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.036

  3. Humphrey, Tasmin et al. "The Role Of Cat Eye Narrowing Movements In Cat–Human Communication." Scientific Reports 10.1 (2020): n. Pag, doi:10.1038/s41598-020-73426-0

  4. Frazier, Anitra, and Norma Eckroate. The Natural Cat. New York: Plume, 2014.