Let’s face it, we all like showering our pets with loud, overwhelming kisses when we want to show them we love them. Unlike dogs, however, many cats don’t take this torrent of love and affection very well.
Humans tend to forget that animals don’t show their respect or love in the same way humans do. They don’t go around kissing each other, similarly to how we don’t head butt or rub our scent on the people we love.
If you’re wondering if cats understand and like kisses, the answer depends on the cat’s personality, upbringing, and general mood the very minute you wish to do the smooching.
Kisses are not part of the way cats show their affection. They don’t understand that it is a show of love when we smother them with our faces and make loud noises while doing so. Therefore, as disappointing as it is, the truth is most cats who don’t seem to mind kisses only do so to make sure our feelings aren’t hurt, but they receive no real pleasure from the action.
For this reason, it is difficult to know whether cats actually like kisses or if they’re just enduring them for our sake.
It Depends on the Cat
Some cats, like my own, seem to love being squished and cuddled. I would assume if your cat enjoys physical touch, like petting, being held, and cuddling, there’s a good chance it will find some form of enjoyment from being kissed too.
Your kisses probably won’t feel like anything other than you petting them with your mouth instead of with your hands.
If your cat’s temperament allows it, there’s no reason not to give it a kiss. Just keep in mind your cat may not fully understand or care about the meaning behind your actions.
Another factor that may affect your cat’s tolerance of kisses is its upbringing. Cats that were socialized well as kittens are typically more receptive to humans who invade their personal space.
It’s because of this that it’s essential to expose your kitten or young cat to different people and environments, so it doesn’t learn to hate physical contact and expressions of love.
Some Cats Get Used to It
No matter what you do, how nice you are, or how many treats you offer, some cats may never like being kissed, and that’s okay. Some may grow to like it over time, although whether they feel love when you kiss them is debatable.
If your cat doesn’t shy away from you or react aggressively when you try to kiss it, there’s no harm in continuing to do so. Cats may not know what kisses are, but if they usually accompany other loving behavior like cuddling, playing, or treats, they may eventually see the act of kissing as a positive action, if not one of love.
How to Know Whether or Not Your Cat Likes Kisses
Now that it’s clear what cats think when you kiss them depends entirely on the cats themselves, you may be wondering how to know whether or not your kitty enjoys your kisses.
If you cuddle your cat and try to kiss it, no reaction is typically a good reaction. However, if you try to do so and your feline friend exhibits any of the following behavior, rather forgo the smooches:
- Pulling away
If your cat is doing any of the following as you try to kiss it, it’s a good bet it is not interested in your overt show of affection.
I once stupidly tried kissing a friend’s kitten only to get a clawed paw straight to the nose. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t try to force your love and affection onto a cat. Kitty consent should be taken seriously too.
Do Kisses Mean Anything to Cats?
If you’re unsure whether cats know what kisses mean, you’re in good company. Some may instinctively understand that kisses are a way of expressing love, while others may mistake it for other common cat behaviors.
Two such behaviors include:
Although cats don’t kiss, the closest show of affection resembling a kiss is probably grooming. This usually takes the form of your cat licking you or other animals as a sign of unadulterated kitty love.
If you kiss your cat and they enjoy it, there’s a good chance your kitty thinks you are trying to groom them and can understand this as a bonding interaction.
Cats don’t necessarily rub their faces against their owners as a sign of affection. They may simply be doing so to mark their territory.
Cats have many scent glands around their faces, especially along their mouth, chin, cheeks, and ears. When they rub their faces against your body, they are transferring their scent to you and essentially marking you as their territory.
If you’re kissing your cat a lot, there’s a good chance it assumes you are also trying to transfer your scent to it. Depending on how independent your cat is, this may be a welcome or hated gesture.
The Kiss of Death, or Illness at Least
Before writing this article, I had no idea kissing my cat could actually be harmful. People often claim that the mouths of cats and dogs are far cleaner than humans’, and although that could be true if you don’t think licking your own butt makes you dirty, the fact of the matter is cats’ mouths contain many bacteria humans don’t have.
This means kissing your cat on or near the mouth could result in the transfer of zoonotic diseases from your furry friend to yourself.
These germs and diseases include:
- Bacteria like Staphylococcus, E-Coli, Salmonella, and Pasteurella
- Ringworm, which isn’t harmful but can be challenging to get rid of
- Campylobacteriosis, or cat-scratch disease, causing diarrhea, stomach aches, and fever
After finding out more about the dangers of swapping saliva with my cat, you better believe I think twice before kissing her. It may seem mean to stop kissing your cat because you’re worried about disease, but the truth of the matter, as hard as it may be to accept, is that your cat probably doesn’t care whether or not you’re kissing it.
To keep yourself healthy and your kitty happy, there are many other ways to bond and show them you love them.
Alternative Ways to Show Your Cat Affection
Suppose you, like me, are feeling unsure about kissing your cat due to the risk of disease, the fact that your kitty seems to hate being smooched, or simply because you don’t want to force unnatural interactions upon your cat. In that case, you should consider the following, more natural, ways of showing your cat some love:
- Give your kitty a massage, which not only relaxes them but can help you bond with your feline friend.
- Groom your cat, which doesn’t just feel good but keeps them clean and their skin healthy.
- Give your cat the slow blink, which kitties typically use to signal affection. Simply look deep into your cat’s eyes and blink super slowly. Your pet will definitely know what it means and may even respond with a slow blink of its own.
- Let your cat sleep near you or on your lap. Not only do they love the warmth, but it could help them bond with you and love you even more.