Feline behavior is a true mystery to us sometimes. We get used to their quirks the longer we live with them. Some traits still remain really weird though. “Why does my cat bite me in the middle of a cuddle sesh?”, or “Why does my cat put her paw on my face?” Some of these questions seem to remain a mystery.
You could just be resting with her on your chest and boop! She touches your nose or cheek. It can be so strange, yet so cute and endearing. Sometimes she might even try to pull your face towards her. Not using claws though, just gentle paw pats.
Or, you might be soundly asleep when your feline finds her way into your room. And then onto your bed. Next to you. And puts her paw on your face. And then continues to pat you until you wake up and get her breakfast.
But why do cats do that? Getting to know all the reasons behind it will help you understand your furball better. Every single behavioral trait is just a way of communication. We don’t speak their language, but we can certainly try to interpret it.
So, allow us to be your translators for the day and show you all the possible meanings behind those pats. You’ll be able to speak cat language in no time. And you’ll know how to communicate your own feelings and thoughts back to them.
Why does my cat put her paw on my face? Expressing her needs
One of the most common reasons for cat pats is expressing their needs. Depending on the situation, that need can be just about anything. That’s why you’ll need to consider the context in which your cat is touching you. It’s also good to draw experience from previous similar situations.
1. Asking for food
This usually happens either in the morning or in the evening. It’s followed by meowing and sometimes even annoying persistence. In most cases, your feline will start patting your face before you even wake up. And it’s almost always because she’s hungry.
It could be that you overslept and missed her usual mealtime. Even a difference of just a few minutes will make your furball put on a theatrical show. Don’t underestimate your feline’s ability to dramatize over food. She’ll act as if you haven’t fed her for weeks.
Or it might not even be time for breakfast, but she felt a bit peckish. And if she has access to your bedroom, one thing’s for certain. There is no force in this world that would stop her from demanding some food.
Has your cat ever put her paw on your face or other parts of your body only to run away? She might be trying to get you to play with her. In order to be sure, it’s best to take notice of the type of her movements.
If she taps quickly, runs around, or flops on her back, she’s inviting you for play. She probably got bored of entertaining herself. If this happens, accept the invitation. Interactive play is extremely beneficial for cats. It helps them remain active and healthy.
Not to mention, it gives you an opportunity to bond with your fuzzball. Just be careful she doesn’t get carried away. When felines get overly excited during play, they might underestimate their strength and bite or scratch you.
3. Getting attention
It might seem that felines are these cool, aloof, independent animals. But the truth is that they’re actually just clingy furbabies. They’ll follow you around the house, only to look away and pretend they just happened to be in the same room.
They’re just as affectionate and loving as humans. We just have different ways of showing it. Your furry companion might not be able to tell you she loves you, but she truly does.
They love just as hard and just as much as dogs, they only try to act cool about it. But there are instances when they just can’t hold it in anymore. Those moments make up the sweetest and most memorable time spent with your cat.
And a way they ask for some love and attention might just be the cutest thing in the world. The next time you ask yourself “Why does my cat put her paw on my face?”, just remember this. They only want cuddles. Chances are they’re most likely asking for pets and affection.
4. Showing love
Your cat might be putting her paw on your face to show love, not just ask for it. When showing affection, their movement will be much slower and gentler than when demanding something. They might even just place their paw on you and leave it there.
Their whole body relaxes, and they become calm. Sort of as if they’re melting next to you. This usually comes with purring, kneading, and slow blinking. When kneading, you need to be careful, so they don’t accidentally scratch you.
As for slow blinking, you can try it, too! It’s a way felines show trust and that they’re comfortable around you. They feel safe to let their guard down. So, doing it as well would mean a lot to your kitty. It’s a simple, yet effective way to communicate.
5. Sign of trust
Felines are naturally curious and use all of their senses to explore the world around them, including touch. So, your cat might put her paw on your face to test out what you might do. She wants to see if you’d play, cuddle, or harm her.
This usually happens with timid little kittens or newly adopted cats. It’s important to take it slow and not make any sudden movements that might scare her. Once she sees that you’re not a threat, she’ll start opening up.
Gradually, she’ll get used to you and those little pats will show you she trusts you. So, the next time she puts her paw on your face, it’ll be because she trusts you. Just be patient and you’ll see how loving she’ll become.
6. Leaving their scent
You’re familiar with the concept of cats marking their territory. They usually do it by scratching or spraying, but there is another way. And that’s by leaving their scent using touch. They do it with the help of scent glands.
Those are located on their forehead and paws. So, the most common way they spread their scent is by rubbing their head on things and animals or headbutting. You might have noticed that your cat loves to rub against your legs.
And since there are glands on their paws as well, they also spread their scent by patting you. However, this doesn’t mean they see you as their territory. It’s just a way to mark you as a part of their family and someone they care about.
It’s ultimately a sign of trust and it marks a deep bond with your feline. Since you shower and that scent gets washed off, your cat might rub on you or pat you a lot. So, every time she does, just remember it’s her way of showing love.
7. Mimicking you
Think of the way you communicate with your cat. You might talk to her a lot, but she can’t understand human languages. But what she does understand, at least to an extent, is when you touch her. You pet her and it feels good, so she associates it with love.
And your feline is trying to communicate with you in a way you understand just as much as you are. So, it’s no surprise that she might try to copy your pets. Just like you try to copy her slow blinks. In some cases, even her meows. (Don’t pretend you’ve never done it.)
“Why does my cat put her paw on my face?” Why do you put your hand on her face? She might not understand the urge to pet something, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to mimic you. So, yes, your cat likes petting you, too.
8. Creating space
No matter how great cuddles are, sometimes we all need some space. And cats aren’t shy when asking for it. You’ll try to kiss them, and you’ll get a paw in the face. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, they just need some personal space.
It’s usually a very gentle block though. But, if you try to force them into anything, they’ll run away or put more force into the push. If you’re overly rough, they might even scratch or bite you. So, you need to be respectful of your furball’s boundaries.
You love spending time with and hugging your friends and family. But sometimes you need time to yourself. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. And the same goes for your feline. She’ll be back for cuddles and kisses in no time.
9. Happy accident
Not every touch has a meaning. And not every act is an act of trying to communicate. Sometimes your cat might put her paw on your face by accident. Even though it may not mean anything to her, it’s still extremely cute. So, we’ll just call it a happy accident.
Do you have the habit of napping with your cat? Or at least, letting her sleep on you? It’s very possible she might’ve just put her paw on your face in her sleep. It could’ve been an unconscious thing. Or she could be missing you in her dreams. Who knows?
Another reason could be stretching. Maybe your kitty needed to stretch her paws out after a cuddling session and just happened to touch your face. Though this would be very brief, and she wouldn’t leave her paw on you. She’d remove it instantly.
Unless she plans to continue the snuggling. She might find her new position comfortable and decide to leave her paw there. In that case, just relax and enjoy the soft fluffy paw for as long as you can. Kitty paws are great against stress. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Pawsible negatives behind this cute cat behavior
Cats putting their paws on our faces is usually a great sign of love, trust, and bonding. (Or hunger.) But can there be negative aspects to it? Is there anything you should be worried about? Should the behavior be stopped in any cases? And how are you supposed to do it?
Well, there are a few things you might want to watch out for. These are absolutely not necessary or bound to happen, but it’s good to be informed. No one wants to be caught off-guard when a potentially bad thing happens. It’s always best to be prepared ahead.
As soft and fuzzy paws are, they do hide a lethal weapon. They’re not called murder mittens without a reason. When they have their paw on your face, they usually keep their claws sheathed. But this doesn’t prevent the possibility of them scratching you. Several scenarios can lead to scratch marks.
The most common reason behind scratching accidents is surprises. Something might move or make a sound unexpectedly and it’ll startle your cat. She’ll reach instinctually and scratch you, even though she doesn’t mean to hurt you. Don’t be mad at her and don’t punish her. It’s not really her fault.
Another cause can be overstimulation. This usually happens if you’re cuddling with your feline. She might enjoy it a bit too much and not know what to do with all that happiness and pleasure. And this results in her body reacting instinctually and scratching you.
It doesn’t make sense that something she’s enjoying would cause her to harm you. But it’s the only way her body knows how to react. She feels overwhelmed and needs to stop the stimuli, so she scratches or bites. It’s a natural thing and there’s not really a way to stop it.
Kneading can also lead to a painful situation. The act of kneading itself is a good thing. It shows that your cat feels comfortable and happy. But you need to keep in mind that your feline often underestimates the softness of your skin and how sharp her claws are.
Although cats clean themselves and are definitely cleaner than most animals, their hygiene isn’t perfect. They use their litter box regularly, and some felines even have access to the outdoors. They can pick up all sorts of bacteria and can transfer some to you.
The filth and bacteria gather in between your feline’s paw pads and on her claws. When you let her touch your face or when she accidentally scratches you, she transmits all of that to you. It might cause a skin infection, or she might even transfer some disease.
The best way to fight against this is to wipe her paws regularly. And if she’s free to go outside, wash your hands after petting her. Keeping her away from your pillow will also make sure that your face doesn’t accidentally come into contact with bacteria.
But if you want to be completely safe, you might want to prevent her from putting her paw on your face (as cute as it may be). There are other ways of showing affection, so if you’re worried about catching something, play it safe. And if you need that fluff on you, just taking care of her and your hygiene will do.
How to prevent my cat from putting her paw on my face
Just as there are numerous reasons for it, there are many ways to stop it. You’ll need to find the cause of the paw pats and then match it to the solution. There are usually multiple reasons though, so all of these might be helpful.
It’ll be a long and difficult process, but it’ll give you an excuse to spend more time with your cat. You’ll get some quality time together and you’ll teach her new, better habits. It can be enjoyable for both of you if you just try.
1. Stopping morning pats
If your cat wakes you up in the morning because she’s hungry, there are two possible solutions. The first is keeping your feline out of the bedroom. By keeping your door closed, your furball won’t be able to pat your face in the mornings. (Plus, you’ll keep her off the bed for better hygiene.)
Though this won’t prevent her from meowing her lungs out. If your walls are thick enough and you can’t hear her, great. If not, maybe try earplugs? But if you don’t want to sleep with anything in your ears or if you like your kitty next to you, there is another way.
Consider getting an automatic feeder. You can set a certain time for each morning and your cat’s breakfast will be served without fail. That way she won’t be hungry, and you’ll be able to sleep in without any worries.
2. Other ways to show love
This habit will be a bit more difficult to break. You’ll need to train your feline to show and ask for affection in other ways. The best way to do it is to use lots of treats and positive reinforcement. Reward her every time she shows love without touching your face.
We suggest not reacting when she touches you. Wait a while and then pet her. Give her no reason to think that by patting you, she’ll receive pets as well. Reward her the instant she realizes this and asks in another way.
Teach her that cuddling and petting don’t need to include face touching to still be enjoyable. Just remember never to resort to punishments and always have patience. Slow and steady wins the race. You’ll be cuddling with no worries in a flash.
3. Reconstructing play
This boils down to distraction. Every time she tries to invite you to play by touching your face, remove access to it. And then distract her with something else. Either with one of her toys or your hand. Slowly, she’ll stop associating your face with play and start chasing after toys instead.
Rewards and treats can help make this transition move along faster. But most importantly, you need to remember to keep your face away from her when she’s playful. As long as she has access to it, she won’t stop.
There are so many toys that are much easier to reach anyway. Once she realizes that it’s easier to request playtime by bringing you a toy, she’ll give up on your face entirely. You’re so much taller than her, why go through the trouble of reaching your head?
The bottom line
If there’s anything to take away from all this, it’s that cats are one affectionate animal. They love being close to you and all up in your business. So much so that they just have to pat your face, cuddle up and follow you around everywhere.
They give their caring hearts to an endless degree, but they also know how to advocate for their own needs. They know just how adorable they are, and you can bet they’ll use it to get what they want. And their fluffy paws are their weapon of choice.
Be it for demanding food, showing love, or just exploring, their little paws are a powerful tool for communication. It’s incredible how much we can learn from the way they touch our faces and the movements that come along with it.
And whether you choose to continue letting them touch your face or forbid it, you have to admit – It’s a very sweet way of expressing yourself to another creature who you cannot understand. It only shows how love is a universal language and it truly knows no boundaries.