As a pet parent, you have probably wondered why your cats do the things they do. Often, the way they communicate is 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 actually enjoy our company and seek to communicate with us. Since they can’t ensure we understand, they find different ways to communicate and express their feelings. Cats are highly expressive animals and usually communicate with their bodies. This probably makes you wonder, why is your cat putting her paw on your face?
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. This means 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 could mean she wants food, attention, cuddles, or anything of the like. 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 to you. 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. In this case, their claws are sheathed, and they are gentle when practicing this gesture.
Notice your cat’s body language when they put their paw on your face. If they are relaxed, blinking slowly, and purring, that means this is a sign of affection. Be careful if your cat is kneading before putting their paw on your face. While adult cats are usually gentle and can understand your skin is too soft, kittens might not.
To Mark You
Cats, whether wild or domestic, have an instinctive 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 also put her paw on your face to mark you with her scent. This is a way for them to express love, since 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 be an indication of 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 are demanding, or will it result in a negative experience? If you have adopted a cat that is either timid or has negative past experiences, establishing trust should be your first priority.
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, they won’t be as happy and uncomfortable. 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 her 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, its 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 they reach for your face. A kitten might not understand they can hurt you with their claws.
Learning exactly what your cat wants when engaging in this behavior can be difficult. However, if they want to play, they will probably put their paw on your face in a playful way and run off before you catch it. They could also tap you with their paws and run to their preferred toy.
Studies show that pay 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, she 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 really speak to our cats, we often use physical touch to communicate with our cats. We pet our cats and rub their faces, so they could just be copying our behavior when they do the same. 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 are copying your behavior when putting their paw on your face.
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 will 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 they stretch. If your cat is very comfortable, they might rest your paw on their face after stretching.
To Wake You Up
Being a pet parent, 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 with you, while others prefer being close to your face. In this case, it’s just a way to snuggle close to you before bed and their paw will often end up on your face unintentionally.
When your cat rubs against you before sleeping, this is a sign of love and trust. 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 just 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 certainly 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 their claws. While their claws are sheathed when they put their paws on your face, they could hurt you by accident if something startles them.
This could be something as small as the movement of your hair. With kittens, being careful is a necessity 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 can also be transmitted to humans in unhygienic conditions. 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 face.
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
Similar to 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 also prefer hunting during the night, so they could 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.