I’ve often wondered what my cats think when I give them hugs and kisses.

Do they know that they’re signs of affection from me, or do they just think I’m being weird?

Perhaps they think my kisses are a bizarre attempt at grooming them!

Related: What is my cat thinking?


Do cats know that hugs and kisses are signs of affection from us, or do they think we're just being weird? Find out the answer, it may surprise you!

I went on a journey to discover the answer to the burning question of “do cats know that huge & kisses are a sign of affection.”

Read on to discover what I found out!

Related: 7 Unmistakable Signs Your Cat Loves You

Related: Why does my cat sleep on my feet

Do Cats Know That Hugs & Kisses Are Signs of Affection?

Recently, I wrote an article about whether or not cats give hugs – and the surprising answer was that they do.

Likewise, they understand to a significant extent the meaning behind us hugging and kissing them.

Cats are independent but affectionate creatures.  Much of their time is spent grooming themselves and each other – and even us if they have the opportunity.  While grooming may have obvious hygienic purposes, in many species – including our feline friends – it is also a social activity.

So, it turns out I was kind of right: cats do think our kisses are a weird type of grooming! Let’s learn a bit more about that.

Related: Ways to bond with your cat

Your kisses = affectionate grooming!

Kittens are used to being groomed right from birth by their mother.  It is a necessary part of their development and a source of comfort, as well as a means to strengthen the bond between them.

Kisses from humans really aren’t all that much different, and many cats seem to interpret them as such.  I have a cat who – as a kitten – would sit in our arms and tilt his head towards whomever was holding him.  We would kiss the top of his head, he would reach up and rub the top of his head as though he was washing it, and then he would tilt his head up again to repeat the process.

Don’t tell him I told you this (he would be so embarrassed) but now, even as a crotchety old man (he’s 12, so not really very old at all – but he’s been at that “you kids get off my lawn” stage for years) he will still crawl into our laps and stretch up so that we can “wash” his head.

Now that we know that cats do understand hugs and kisses as signs of affection, let’s talk a bit about how to get your kitty used to all that lovin’!

How to get your cat used to your signs of affection

Cats can be reluctant to change, so they will likely be more receptive to your hugs and kisses if they have been exposed to human physical affection from a young age.

In many ways, they look at us as they would their mothers – especially in cases where they were weaned too young – and will indeed expect that grooming and bonding behavior from us.

Go slow and easy

That being said, even an older cat can learn to love snuggles if they are introduced at their own pace – and not, as comes to mind, like a certain cartoon character from the 90s who approached anything furry with the phrase “I’m going to hug you, and squeeze you, and love you to pieces!”


Letting your child be the first to hug a cat might not be the most sound advice either, come to think of it..

Teach your kids to respect kitty

Small children should always be supervised during their interactions with pets – nothing makes a cat skittish faster than constant mauling by small, rough hands.

Teach your children to respect Kitty, to approach the cat slowly and gently, and to speak softly around animals, and your children will quickly learn animal handling skills and empathy that puts them years ahead of their peers.  They will also have a friend for the life of the pet, which is a gift they won’t easily come by elsewhere.

Remember, you’re much bigger than your cat!

Always keep in mind that our sheer size in comparison to cats can be intimidating, and overwhelming them with too much too quickly can be hazardous to both your health.  Many cats do not like to be tightly restrained, either – so hugs should be gentle and not causing the cat to feel trapped.

Accept that not all cats love hugs

Some cats will never get used to what we think of as hugs, but may choose to be close to you on their own terms.  My parents have a cat that hates to be petted – they’ve had her since she was very young, and their other cats love snuggles, but this one doesn’t let you touch her.  She will, however, climb into your lap and snuggle there for hours as long as you don’t touch her.

There could be a number of reasons for this.  She may have trust issues (although where those would have come from is a mystery, and she sleeps awfully soundly on people’s laps), or she could get over-stimulated – in which case any real touch at all could be more than she knows how to handle.

Say “I love you” in their language!

Your cat can most likely learn to understand and enjoy your gestures of affection towards them, but why not try changing it up a little occasionally and saying it in their own language too

Related: Cat Body Language

Related: Cat Body Language?  When your cat is watching you, slowly – very slowly – blink your eyes at them a few times. Check out this video with tips on how to speak cat:

If they’re in your arms, try a gentle “head butt” (and by this I mean leaning your forehead down to theirs – you don’t want to hurt them).  These are both ways that they typically let you know how they feel.

Bridge the gap in communication, and see how much the bond between you strengthens – you might be surprised at just how affectionate your so-called “independent” kitty can be.

Does your cat have any other favorite signs of affection other than hugs and kisses? Share below!

Stephanie Croswell-Mullin
Stephanie Croswell-Mullin

I currently have a number of pets – a dog, five cats, four zebra finches, a red-eared slider turtle, and a Betts fish. The cats and dog are all rescues, so none are pure-bred. The dog is a 17-month-old Border Collie mix, and the cats consist of two tuxedo cats, one torre, one long-haired calico, and one all-black formerly feral sweetheart.