Cats are always trying to communicate with us. Meowing is their most common way of conveying their feelings. But they express themselves in unique and puzzling ways sometimes. One of them could be putting their paw on your face.
Knowing what your cat intends to convey when it touches your face with its paw can be challenging. That’s because it can mean different things at different times. Perhaps it’s asking for food, to be petted, or expressing affection.
Below, we explain eight typical reasons your cat puts their paw on your face. Read on to learn what your cat communicates and how you can tell. We also include some bonus tips on how you can stop the behavior.
The 8 Reasons Your Cat Puts Their Paw On Your Face
1. To Get Your Attention
It is easy to think of cats as autonomous creatures. But like dogs, felines depend on us for almost everything and occasionally crave our attention.
Your kitty can get your attention in several ways. Meowing is usually the go-to strategy. But if that fails, physical contact is always an option. Putting its paw on your face is one effective way to do it.
There are many reasons why your cat could be craving your attention. Maybe they want food, cuddling, or petting. Unfortunately, the reason is not always apparent. So, if your cat interrupts your sweet morning sleep by tapping your face with its paws, it’s up to you to figure out what it needs.
2. To Mark You
Cats in the wild will go to great lengths to mark their territory. But domestic cats do that, too, albeit in subtle ways. They will scratch surfaces, spray urine, rub against objects, or even put their paw on your face, as in this case.
Felines can mark you as their own by transferring their scent to your face. They have scent glands that secrete oil and pheromones on their paws and other parts of the body as well, including the head, face, tail, and flanks.
Cats usually resort to territory marking when competing for your attention. So, you are more likely to see this behavior if you have more than one feline companion in the house. Ensure you love all of them equally.
3. They Want to Play
Your cat will also put their paw on your face to indicate it wants to play. Remember, your feline friend is a natural predator and will require an outlet to quench their prey drive. But unlike in other instances, the gesture here is a bit different.
Instead of being soft and gentle, the cat will move the paws quicker, like they are tapping you. Additionally, they might follow it up with other gestures like trying to nibble at you or running to their favorite toy in a playful way.
Setting aside time during the day to play with your cat is imperative. PetMD recommends four 10-minute sessions a day.1 Also, buy toys for your cat that can distract them when you’re busy.
4. They Are Training You
One reason why your cat engages in this behavior repeatedly is because it works. In other words, the cat has conditioned you to respond to the gesture.
Think about it. Do you always respond positively when your cat puts a paw on your face? If yes, your cat has successfully trained you to respond to their every whim.
As ironic as it sounds, the behavior is quite common. Some may find that annoying, but others may consider it adorable. Whatever side you lean on, it is up to you to decide whether to stop or reinforce it.
5. Expressing Love
Cats don’t just crave love. They can reciprocate it too. You can see this when you observe two cats that are close to each other. Felines often express affection by grooming others or playing with their paws. These animals also express their love for humans through touch.
When showing affection, your furry friend will put their paw on your face in a soft, gentle manner, with claws conveniently sheathed. That is often accompanied by loud purring and slow blinking, especially when you are cuddling.
6. They Are Stretching
Not every paw on your face is meant to communicate anything. Sometimes the gesture is unintentional, and you don’t have to struggle to read anything into it.
For instance, the cat may have just been stretching, and your face was in the way. That may happen if the feline friend is napping or resting beside you. The advisable thing to do in this instance is to move your face out of the way if possible. You can easily get scratched if the claws are not sheathed.
It could mean something different if a new cat puts their paw on your face. Felines are curious creatures that love to explore. So, that gentle paw on your face from the furry friend you just adopted could be to test if they can trust you.
Cats with a traumatic history are most likely to exhibit this behavior. It could be a feline you adopted from a shelter or a stray you rescued.
It may take a while before you build trust with such felines. But they come around eventually. So, just be patient.
8. They Need Personal Space
It is not always a positive gesture when a cat places their paw on your face. Sometimes it could just be pushing you out of the way. Although they love affection, cats are also independent and crave personal space.
Your feline friend cannot enjoy some time alone if you constantly try to pick them up, hug or kiss them. They can respond by extending their paws to push you away. It’s their unique way of telling you to get out of their face.
The appropriate thing to do is not to take it personally but to give them their space. Trying to force the issue might attract more than a push. It could get your face scratched. So, be patient. They will soon be crawling back to you.
Should You Let Your Cat Put Their Paw on Your Face?
It may seem harmless and even adorable when your cat puts its paw on your face. However, there can be unpleasant consequences if something goes wrong. For one, the cat could scratch your face.
Granted, your feline friend will almost always have claws sheathed when touching you with paws. But accidents happen all the time. You might do something that startles it enough to extend them.
It is also unhygienic when a cat touches your face with its paws. Although cats are generally clean, that may not be sufficient to prevent them from transferring germs and diseases. Remember, felines handle many things and visit many dirty places, including litter boxes.
Not all feline diseases can affect you. However, some are transferable from cats to humans. These include cat scratch disease, salmonella poisoning, and scabies.
How to Stop Your Cat From Putting Their Paw on Your Face
Besides being potentially dangerous, sometimes it can be unpleasant when a cat tries to put their paw on your face. It can be inconvenient when you’re busy working or taking a nap.
So, how can you stop this behavior? Well, it certainly won’t be easy. While cats can be trained, changing an old habit that has entrenched its roots over a long time can be challenging. Your best bet is to anticipate what your cat needs and fulfill it before it has to resort to this attention-seeking behavior. But you have to figure out the reason behind it first.
If food is the issue, you can ensure it’s always available by getting an automatic feeder. If they’re craving play, ensure you set aside time during the day for that and provide toys to keep them occupied when you’re busy.
Of course, this tactic may not work if your cat wants to be petted or cuddled. You can try positive reinforcement to change how your cat seeks attention here.
The next time the cat tries touching your face, resist and wait a while before attending to their needs. That will make them disassociate the gesture from getting what they want. Also, you can use treats and food to reward them when they try other forms of communication.
There are many reasons why a cat can put their paw on your face. We have listed the eight most typical ones above. But there could be more.
Whatever the reason, the behavior is just your furry friend’s way of communicating with you or expressing feelings. The best you can do is listen.
Some people don’t mind it when their cats do this and may even adore it. If that is you, ensure you take your feline’s hygiene seriously to avoid contracting zoonotic diseases. If you are on the other side of the fence with this, consider anticipating and fulfilling your cat’s needs beforehand. You can also try positive reinforcement to change how your feline seeks attention.
See also: Why Don’t Cats Like to Have Their Paws Touched? What Science Says
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