Why Does My Cat Put Her Paw On My Face

As a pet parent, you have probably wondered why your cats do what they do. The way they communicate is often different from ours, and deciphering their behavior can be tricky. One thing that cats tend to do is put their paw on your face. Aside from being adorable, it can be puzzling why your cat engages in this behavior.

There are many reasons your cat puts her paw on your face. It could be to get your attention, wake you up, ask for food, or even just to show you affection. It is also possible that they could be marking you with their scent.

To understand your cat better, keep reading to learn more about why your cat puts her paw on your face.

Reasons Your Cat Puts Her Paw on Your Face

Despite what some might think, our pets enjoy our company and seek to communicate with us. Since they can’t be sure we’ll understand, they find different ways to express their feelings. Cats are highly expressive animals and usually communicate with their bodies.


Many people believe that cats are autonomous creatures who rarely demand attention. Compared to dogs, many people say cats are “low maintenance” due to their independent nature. Although this is true to some extent, house cats can be very affectionate and crave your attention.

While there needs to be more research in this regard, recent studies show that cats can form attachments the same way as a human child. Their socio-cognitive abilities match those of humans and dogs, meaning that your cat will demand your attention.

Cats may use different methods to communicate their needs. For example, an anxious cat might meow for reassurance. In any case, physical touch is the most effective way to get your attention. Your cat might tap your arm or even put her paw on your face for attention. This gesture could mean she wants food, attention, cuddles, or anything else. It is your job to figure out what your cat could be asking for if she puts her paw on your face.


Similar to humans, physical touch symbolizes your cat’s love for you. Whether she does it for your attention or to mark you, it is a way for your kitty to communicate her feelings. Just as mothers groom their kittens and bonded cats use their paws to play with each other, your cat shows you her affection by putting her paw on your face. Thankfully, their claws are sheathed, and they are gentle.

Notice your cat’s body language when they put their paw on your face. If your cat is relaxed, blinking slowly, and purring, this is a sign of affection. Be careful if your cat begins to knead when putting its paw on your face. While adult cats are usually gentle and can understand your skin is too soft, kittens might not.

To Mark You

Whether wild or domestic, cats instinctively need to mark their territory. They may use various ways to do this, such as spraying, scratching, or rubbing against objects to leave their scent on them. Domesticated felines also engage in these behaviors in many subtle ways. Unlike humans, who have sweat glands all over their bodies, cats and dogs have most of them on their paw pads. Your cat will scratch furniture and your shoes to leave her scent on them.

Similarly, your cat will put her paw on your face to mark you with her scent. Marking you means they consider you a part of their family. It is more common in households with multiple cats, where your cats will put their paw on your face, so their scent stays on you.

An Indication of Trust

Cats use their paws to explore the world around them and as a tool for communication. If you’ve recently adopted a cat, gently putting their paw on your face could indicate trust.

In some cases, timid cats or those traumatized previously might use this tactic out of curiosity. They might be testing the waters to see how their new owner responds to this behavior. Will they get the attention they demand, or will it result in a negative experience? Establishing trust should be your priority if you have adopted a cat that is either timid or has negative past experiences.

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In any case, it is essential to provide your cat with the choice of initiating an interaction with you. If your cat feels forced to interact with you, it may take longer for them to come around. Some cats are naturally aloof and do not enjoy cuddles. Gently offer your hand to your cat and let them decide if they should interact with you or not. If you’ve given your cat the space to make autonomous choices, putting its paw on your face is a way to show you your efforts have paid off.

They Want To Play

Focusing on your cat’s body language can help you differentiate the purpose of their movements. Cats will use their paws differently to show affection or play. The movement, speed, and whether their claws are sheathed or unsheathed can indicate if your cat wants to play with you. Unlike the gentle way they put your paw on your face to show affection, they will playfully swat or tap your face if they want to play. Many things can trigger this gesture, such as the movement of your hair or face. Keep an eye on your cat’s claws when reaching for your face. A kitten might not understand they can hurt you with their claws.

Learning what your cat wants when engaging in this behavior can be difficult. However, if it wants to play, it will probably put its paw on your face in a playful way and run off before you catch it. They could tap you with their paws and run to their preferred toy.

Studies show that play aggression is the most common type of aggressive behavior among cats. Through playing with other cats, kittens learn to inhibit biting behavior and sheath their claws. If your cat doesn’t have enough opportunities to play, it can be more aggressive to you and other cats.

Mimicking Your Behavior

Felines are intelligent creatures who can learn to mimic your behavior. Since we can’t speak to our cats, we often use physical touch to communicate with them. We pet our cats and rub their faces so they mimic our behavior. Many assume cats to be aloof and autonomous, but they are intelligent creatures who watch and learn from us. If you have a cat of your own, you’ve probably seen them do unexpected things like unlocking doors and cupboards on their own. If you touch your cat’s face often, they copy your behavior when putting their paw on your face.

Establishing Boundaries

Every time your cat puts her paw on your face isn’t a sign of affection or playfulness. It could also be a way to claim personal space or establish physical boundaries. Cats are independent creatures who enjoy their personal space. You’ve probably experienced it yourself when reaching to touch your cat. Sometimes, when you try to kiss or hug your cat, they might push you away with their paw.

Be mindful of your cat’s boundaries, even when showing affection. Although most cats gently put their paws on you to establish a boundary, they can become more aggressive if you persist.


Your cat doesn’t always put her paw on your face with a motive. You might try to judge their intention, but they could just be stretching, and your face was in the way. It could just be a coincidence, so you don’t always need to understand why your cat put her paw on your face. Some cats unsheath their claws when stretching, so you should move out of their way when stretching. If your cat is very comfortable, they might rest your paw on their face after stretching.

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To Wake You Up

We’ve all had difficulty sleeping because our pets won’t leave us alone. Just like us, cats choose different positions to sleep near us. Some might prefer sleeping under your blanket, while others prefer being close to your face. In this case, it’s just a way to snuggle close before bed, and their paw will often end up on your face unintentionally.

It shows love and trust when your cat rubs against you before sleeping. They feel safe next to you since they are the most vulnerable when they sleep. If your cat is comfortable, she might put her paw on your face to say good night. Although if their behavior is more persistent, they are trying to wake you up. They could be hungry, scared, or want your attention. If your cat is tapping her paw on your face, you should get up to see what she needs.

What You Can Do

Although it is adorable when cats interact with us the way we interact with them, accidents can happen. This endearing gesture is usually harmless but can have serious consequences if things go wrong. When your cat places her paw on your face, your face is under its claws. Petting your face with sheathed claws is a nice gesture, but they could hurt you by accident if something startles them.

Being careful with kittens is necessary because they might be unaware their claws can hurt you. Even when your cat stretches, their claws retract, and you could end up with a scratch.

Aside from unexpected consequences, your cat’s paws aren’t the cleanest part of her body. Cats use their paws to walk around the house, outdoors, use their litterbox, and hunt. Grooming certainly isn’t enough to clean your cat’s paws entirely.

Some feline diseases are transmissible to humans. One of these conditions is Toxoplasmosis, which you can contract from your cat’s paws after she uses her litterbox. If you have infants in your house, you should avoid letting your cat touch their faces.

If you don’t want to deprive your cat of the opportunity, clean their paws thoroughly before sleeping. Although it is best to avoid letting your cat put her paw on your face since you can get hurt.

How To Stop Your Cat From Putting Her Paw On Your Face

Like other unwanted behavior, you first need to figure out why your cat is putting her paw on your face. If this is a persistent behavior, your cat probably has a reason for it. It could be anything from being hungry or bored to wanting your attention.

Cats can also be bored. The best way to deal with this situation is to ensure they get enough playtime before bed. This way, the mental and physical stimulation will tire out your cat so she can sleep peacefully.

If your cat is still putting her paw on your face, it is best to ignore it. Wait till she taps another part of your body to respond. This way, your cat will learn that putting her paw on your face isn’t the best way to communicate. Use positive reinforcement to reward other forms of communication so your cat stops putting her paw on your face.

If your cat mistakenly scratches your face because she was startled, do not shout or blame them. It was an unintentional mistake and not something they could control. Clean the scratch with soap and water to remove any bacteria, and use a clean cloth to stop any bleeding. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment over the scratch. If you develop any worrying symptoms, consult a health professional.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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