Do cats know what kisses are?

Domestic cats don’t understand the full range of meanings of human kisses as humans do. For humans the kiss has considerable significance. There are a lot of connotations and underlying meanings. In fact the human kiss can mean different things at different times and under different circumstances. Nearly all of these are not on the domestic cat’s radar.

Kissing your cat

Photo in public domain. Framed and softened by PoC.

But, there is always a but, when a person kisses their cat it is accompanied by a lot of history between cat and person, plenty of routine and rituals and of course body language combined with warm words (sounds).

The domestic cat understands all these things and therefore understands his interpretation of the human kiss.

And you know what…his interpretation is not that far from the human version. It is just a little simpler.

The human kiss planted onto a cat’s forehead is a sign of affection and the cat gets that. However, there has to be a bit of a caveat to this assessment.

I would argue that cats slightly prefer a person petting (stroking) them with their hand rather than kissing them. The reason is that the hand is far less intimidating than a person’s head under the same circumstances.

To kiss a cat you have to place your head very close to the head of your cat if you kiss him on the forehead (the classic spot). But don’t kiss your cat on the lips. That may be unhealthy. It is strange to write that because humans kiss on the lips all the time without thinking about health issues.

Nearly all cats in good relationships with their human caretaker will accept this without a problem but some will be slightly uncomfortable with such a large object being so close to their head and face. This is why sometimes cats place their paws on your face to (1) touch you and (2) keep your head at a comfortable distance.

It depends on the cat and how and a when it is done. A kiss on the cat’s flank is less intimidating but perhaps less effective. The bottom line is that kisses mean affection and cats understand that fundamental language of love so keep on puckering those lips.

Note: ‘his’ means ‘her’ as well.

What do you think? Do you disagree with me? Please tell me why if you do.


Bodega cat is petted while enjoying a high advantage point and a bit of heat from a device in a shop.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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1 Response

  1. Albert Schepis says:

    Yeah, cats don’t dig kissing the way we do, but can learn to tolerate it, the underlying aspect of which is more fascinating to me. It can mean that they understand and appreciate our feeling and intention, though the physical action is something they dislike. That’s a degree of selfless compassion we often don’t give them credit for that those people might not employ either, regarding cats. Commonly, when our cats do any of many thing to express their feelings for us, but we only attribute it as bribery to get their next meal.

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