In my opinion, the main reason why your cat puts her/his paw on your face when you hold her is because your head, when face-to-face with hers, is too close for comfort. By putting her paw on your face she is keeping a certain amount of control over the distance between you and her. We all like space around us. It doesn’t matter whether you are a human or a cat. There may also be an overlap here with the cat’s propensity to touch us with his/her paw. Cats like to do this. They like the contact. There is a desire to (a) keep a distance and (b) to touch us.
When cats are friendly with each other they might sleep against each other in the same way that cats sleep on our lap, legs or chest when we are in bed. However, if you look at cat colonies you will see that most often cats rest with a certain amount space between themselves. I see this as a natural amount of space with which the cats feel comfortable.
Also, when cats sleep on us or near us in bed they tend to sleep at a distance from our head. They might sleep against our legs and at the end of the bed. They might sleep on our belly facing away from us. I believe that it is important to observe that cats do like to face away from us sometimes. I believe that this is part of the same issue that I’m discussing in this article. Cats don’t like their heads to be too close to our heads when facing each other. That is the key to the reason why cats put their paw on your face.
I have always thought that the size difference between us and our cat is a factor in how our cat relates to us. As we are much larger than the domestic cat, I feel that our presence when close-up can be intimidating to them. We like to cuddle our cats. We like to pick them up because it feels good. However, it does not necessarily feel that good to the domestic cat. One way to break down the human’s intimidating size is to lie on the floor with your head on the floor so you are at a cat’s height. Your cat may enjoy that change in perspective. Mine loves it.
We like to kiss our cat on the head. Most cats will accept this. Sometimes a cat might pull away slightly when you try to do this. And sometimes a cat might shake their head after you have done it. These are signs that it might be slightly uncomfortable to a cat.
I think that most people realise that putting their head close to the head of their cat is generally considered to be a little bit too intrusive for the cat. It depends upon the cat obviously. The more confident the cat the more likely she is to accept it. However, my experience tells me that it can make a cat uncomfortable and in order to keep a distance between themselves and their human companion’s head they place their paws or paws on the head to maintain that distance.
Due to our tendency to anthropomorphise our cat companions, we can sometimes forget that we are a different species to our cat and although there are many similarities between us in terms of anatomy and even behaviour there are fundamental differences which we should respect at all times.
These are my views. They are not taken from a book or from a scientific study. They are taken directly from experience and thoughts. What are your thoughts about this? Do they differ from mine? I would love to hear from you.