Why Does My Cat Put Their Paw on My Face?

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Fact checked by  Ma'ayan Gutbezahl
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Man playing with his grey cat on a bed.

Cats have many cute habits and quirks. One of these is when they put their paws on your face. Whether you’re asleep, cuddling with your cat, or playing with them, it’s not unusual for them to gently reach out and touch your face with a fluffy paw.

It’s a cute gesture that makes us melt, but what exactly does it mean? Is our cat showing us affection or are they trying to tell us something? Let’s discuss all the possible reasons for this seemingly sweet cat behavior now.

Key Takeaways

Cats place their paws on a person's face for a variety of reasons, such as displaying affection, scent marking, and more.

This is a common cat behavior, although not all cats do this.

Redirect your cat's attention if you don't personally care for a paw to the face.

Why Does My Cat Put Their Paw on My Face?

When our cat puts their paws on your face, it seems like a sweet gesture that makes us feel like our cat loves us. But is it an act of affection? It can mean a few different things and we’ve come up with a list of common reasons for this below.

1. Your Cat Loves You

The first and most simple reason is that your cat loves you and is being affectionate. This is more likely the reason if they’re cuddling on your chest and gently lay their little paw on your face with their claws retracted.

They may be purring at the time, with their eyes slightly closed and moving in slow blinks. In this context, your kitty is relaxed and wants to be in close proximity to you.

2. They’re Scent Marking

Another reason that your cat may put their paw on your face, is that they’re scent marking. Cat paws have scent glands that contain pheromones, which are chemical molecules that cats use to communicate with other cats and the world around them.

Cats deposit pheromones from their cheeks, urine, and you guessed it…their paws! More specifically, their paw pads. They may also place their paws on your face and move their toes in a kneading manner. You have probably heard this gesture called ‘making biscuits’. Cats often purr when they do this.

In short, your cat’s paw to the face leaves pheromones on you to show that you are part of their family.

3. They’re Stretching

If your cat is having a snuggle on your chest and has stretched out with their front feet, it’s likely that they may place one or both paws on your face when they do this. They’ll retract them back again once they’ve stopped stretching and may even repeat this stretch a few times.

Cats love to stretch after all. It’s a sign that your cat is comfortable in their surroundings and a sign of trust.

4. Your Cat Is Trying To Get Your Attention

Woman with a small amusing kitten.

Paws on the face tend to get attention, and sometimes, that’s exactly what a cat wants.

If your cat is gently pawing your face, they may be demanding attention from you. They may also be meowing, chirruping, or purring, using vocalizations.

Whether it’s food, playtime, or just one-on-one attention that they want, your cat may be trying to tell you something when they paw tap your face.

5. They’re Being Playful

Cats can be quite playful, especially kittens. If you’re relaxing with your cat they may start to paw or swat at your hands, feet, or face in an attempt to play. Their claws should be retracted (for the most part) and they may be purring or chirruping.

It’s good that your cat is acting playful and this isn’t harmful. It’s still a good idea to direct their playing (which is predatory behavior) toward toys instead of you, as this may hurt as they grow up.

6. They Don’t Want Attention

On the other hand, some cats that put their paws on our faces don’t want attention. By putting their paw on your face, they might be trying to tell you that you’re too close and they want some space.

This may or may not be accompanied by some negative body language and vocalizations. For example, if your cat is hissing or growling and has their ears back or hair raised, it may be that they aren’t enjoying the interaction anymore.

Another warning sign is if your cat is pawing your face with their claws out. It may be that they’re scratching or swatting you. This means they want you to distance yourself from them and it’s best to respect this.

Why Doesn’t My Cat Do This?

We’ve discussed the possible reasons that your cat puts their paws on your face, but what if they don’t? The simple answer is, it’s nothing to worry about. In fact, many cats won’t do this.

It all depends on your cat’s personality (are they cuddly or more stand-off-ish?), if they were well socialized with humans as a kitten, or if they are stressed or in pain.

A happy, relaxed cat may decide to affectionately paw your face, or to simply sit near you. Every cat is different and will show different signs of affection.

How Can I Stop My Cat From Doing This?

Cat's paw on child's face

Not everyone is a fan of a paw to the face, even if it is done with affection.

Cats pawing our faces can be cute, but sometimes it can also be uncomfortable. If your cat paws your face with their claws out, it’s understandable that many cat parents won’t want them to do this regularly.

There’s no sure way of stopping cats from doing this and they don’t mean any harm by this normal cat behavior. The only exception is if it is accompanied by negative body language when your cat wants space.

You can trim your indoor cat’s nails to help prevent scratches. Don’t do this if your cat has outdoor access, as they need their nails to defend themselves and to climb. You can try to redirect your cat’s paws to a soft, fleece blanket and spray it with some synthetic pheromone spray to encourage them to use it.

If you think that your cat is stressed or upset and pawing you in order to keep you away from them, then you should respect that. Always check with your veterinarian if your cat is acting differently, as it can be a sign of pain or illness. Discuss any possible feline stress with your veterinarian or a feline behaviorist.

Final Thoughts

Do you ever wonder if your cat loves you? Well if they gently place a paw on your face while purring and relaxing, you can be sure that they do! This is generally a sign of love that cats show when they’re content and relaxed in your presence. Some cats do this to start a play session or to get attention or food.

Still, pay close attention because if your cat’s claws are out and they’re hissing or growling when they’re pawing at you, it could mean that they want you to give them space. Don’t worry if your cat doesn’t gently paw your face. Not all cats do this and it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you – it just means that they have different ways of showing their love.

Also Read: 5 Ways To Build A Stronger Bond With Your Cat

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my cat put their paw on my face?

Cats do this for many reasons including being affectionate, trying to play, scent marking, and trying to get your attention.

Why do cats touch your face with their nose?

Cats may touch your face with their nose when they’re being affectionate, scent marking, smelling you, or being curious.

What if my cat doesn't put their paws on my face?

Even though we typically associate this gesture with a cat being affectionate, there is no need to worry if this is not something your cat does. Cats are individuals with different personalities and they all express themselves differently. Your cat probably shows their love in other ways, such as simply sitting down next to you and enjoying being close.

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About Dr. Aisling O'Keeffe MVB CertSAM ISFMAdvCertFB MRCVS

Aisling qualified from University College Dublin as a veterinarian in 2015 and went on to work in a mixture of small animal hospitals here and in the UK, including a cat-only veterinary clinic where she currently works. She has completed a postgraduate certificate in Small Animal Medicine and the International Society of Feline Medicine's postgraduate certificate in Advanced Feline Behaviour. She wrote a children's book called 'Minding Mittens', which aims to educate children on cat behaviour and care. Aisling featured on the RTE tv series 'Cat Hospital'. She is a Fear Free certified vet, which aims to make vet visits as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. In her spare time, she enjoys looking after her pets, which includes 4 felines.

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