Cats can be very mysterious; being quite a challenge to read and to fully understand – even if you have owned one for quite some time. However, when a cat wants something, it will let you know all about it. They will do so, through a variety of different behaviors and body language; all of which are used to help them convey different things, thoughts, and emotions. But, how about cats who touch their owner’s face with a paw? What does this mean and why do they do this? Let’s find out!
So, why does my cat touch my face with his paw? Cats often touch their owner’s face when they want to communicate something. What they are trying to communicate can vary, from trying to initiate play, a request for more food, or showing affection. Equally, they may be trying to stop you from doing something they dislike, such as your singing.
To help you identify the specific reason, you should look at when and how they touch your face.
It could be while you hold them, at certain times of the day or even while you sleep.
While your cat touching your face is usually well-intentioned, nevertheless it is not the most hygienic of actions.
We need to consider that a cat’s paws are rarely cleaned, and they use them to navigate your home and the outside environment (if you let them).
This is not to mention the fact that they go in their litter box frequently, scattering to conceal and hide their toilet.
For this reason, it is not something that you should look to actively promote or let happen.
Let us now take a closer look at the main reasons why cats do this, especially while you hold them or while you sleep.
We will also look at some practical strategies that you can consider using to stop your cat from doing this, with hygiene in mind.
So, be sure to keep on reading to the end to get all the information you need!
Why Does My Cat Touch My Face When I Hold Him?
There are no specific studies on the subject of why cats touch their owner’s faces when held, but there are numerous reports, anecdotes, and theories from fellow owners on cat blogs, forums, and videos on the subject.
What is interesting is that many cats do in fact touch their owner’s face with their paw. It is very common.
Additionally, there does not appear to be a singular stand-out reason, nor whether the cat has entirely positive or negative intentions.
Therefore, it does take some discernment to figure out whether a cat is showing affection and indicating contentment in its owner’s presence, or whether, he wants his owner to do something specifically for them.
If you own your cat for a while, then chances are that you can begin to read your cat’s cues. But if you have recently adopted a kitten it can be a little more challenging.
So, let us now take a closer look at the specific and most common reasons why your cat might touch your face, especially in and around the time when you hold them:
Your Cat Wants Your Undivided Attention
Cats can be aloof, but at times they like attention; and quite a lot of it. After all, they do have needs.
Some people like that their cats are attention seekers or are demanding, while others can find this somewhat irritating.
Either way, you have to accept your cat for who and how they are.
Depending on what your own cat is like you need to get used to it if you intend to meet their needs and keep them content.
Consider that not all cats are the same; some like a lot of attention, whereas others may require a lot less. It all depends on the personality of the cat, their age, upbringing, and general state of health.
Showing Of Affection
Cats can be surprisingly affectionate, whether there’s an ulterior motive behind this gesture is another matter.
Nevertheless, it shows that your cat is comfortable with you enough to touch your face. As long as the claws don’t make an appearance, it’s all good.
Testing The Boundaries For Trust
This notion of your cat testing you to see if you trust him is a popular theory among many cat owners.
It’s hard to say if that’s what your cat is doing, but there is a lot of discussion about this.
As humans, we understand our feline friends on a basic level, but it’s hard to know what they think on a deeper level.
Another theory in the same vein is that perhaps, he’s testing your trustworthiness to see if you’ll harm him.
Some would say that a cat conceptualizing putting his paw to his owner’s face to test him is a stretch.
Cats are relatively intelligent creatures, but we must be careful not to anthropomorphize them.
In other words, attribute human characteristics or behavior to them.
Your Cat Is Stretching or Resting Up
Felines love a good stretch; it’s good for them, and it relieves a lot of stress.
After a cat finishes stretching, he may rest his paw someplace, and that could be your face.
Your face makes a nice warm pad, especially if he picks a cheek.
When your cat wants something, there is no better way of getting your attention than putting a paw to your face; they are ensuring that you pay attention and listen up.
Your cat might want something specific like more food, he might want you to let him out, he may want to be petted or cuddled, or he might want you to play with him.
In the context of being held, he may even want to be put down or left alone altogether.
You will know what your cat wants by the events that follow touching your face.
Why Does My Cat Touch My Face When I’m Sleeping?
The main reason why a cat will touch your face while you sleep is actually to wake or alert you to something. That something could even be them and their desire for attention/something more specific. Like food or being let out.
While this is annoying, it’s something that many cat owners have to put up with – it’s as if your cat is your personal alarm clock.
If you are not a morning person, this little habit your cat has can soon become grating.
You must find a way of meeting your cat’s needs without them feeling the need to interrupt your sleep.
You’ll also need to consider your cat’s own sleep/wake schedule, which does differ from that of humans.
While they may sleep a lot, they do so with regular naps instead of one consistent stretch of sleep.
Equally, they are very active during the night. Being natural predators, they’re hard-wired to chase and hunt at night. So you can except either to hear them, or have them come to visit if your house allows.
Other Reasons Why Cats Put Their Paws On Their Owner’s Face
As mentioned above, there are numerous reasons why cats put their paws in their owner’s faces, and we discussed some of the more popular reasons.
But, there are some further, less common reasons we may even consider strange for why a cat would feel the need to put its paw on its owner’s face:
Cats mark and possess things, items, and people in a number of ways. Rubbing is one of the most commonly used ways of marking.
Felines actually have scent glands on their paw pads (along with their cheeks), so when they rub your face, they may be doing so to leave their scent on you.
The purpose behind this is to leave a message to other cats that they’ve been somewhere, or a person is their own.
To Stop Kisses
If you attempt to kiss your cat and you notice they place their paws directly to your lips, chances are they want you to stop. This usually indicates they dislike the sensation of kissing.
Some cats understand kissing is a form of affection from their owner, and it doesn’t bother them, whereas other cats despite it and will recoil if you try to kiss them.
You mustn’t force your cat to accept certain displays of affection if he’s uncomfortable.
Keeping A Distance
This is similar to the reason above, but your cat may want a little distance between you and him, and he may not want you in his personal space.
Should You Stop Your Cat From Touching Your Face With His Paw?
It is generally advised that you do not let your cat touch your face. This is purely for hygiene reasons.
Consider that every day, your cat will enter their litter box, walks around inside it, and even cover up their business before they leave.
They will also likely go outside, across the grass and many other surfaces with who knows what is on them.
Thankfully, cats are very clean animals and do their best to regularly groom themselves.
But nevertheless, there is always the risk of Toxoplasmosis (a parasite that can be found in an infected cat’s feces). For this reason, among others, you should look to prevent any touching of the face.
Prevention is always the best strategy, as opposed to stopping them in the moment and while they are doing so.
For this reason, you should attempt to pre-empt when and why your cat is likely to do this.
Depending on your cat this may mean not holding them at particular times (or not at all).
It may mean keeping your bedroom door locked and stopping them from sleeping on your pillow and being able to access your room at night.
That being said, there will be times when your cat attempts to touch you where there is little you can do.
In this instance, if you are uncomfortable with your cat touching your face, by all means, gently move their paw away from your face. When doing so, say no, to show him, you don’t appreciate the gesture.
Consider that if your cat usually touches you because they want something, by taking away this method of communication you may begin to have trouble trying to understand what he wants. You’ll need to be more mindful and look out for the needs of your cat, through other behaviors instead.
If he’s touching your face to prevent you from kissing him, or he wants a little personal space, he’s within his right.
After all, he can’t speak, and this is the only means he has to communicate that something you’re doing is bothering him.
Still, you should not allow this nonetheless.
How To Stop Your Cat From Touching Your Face With Their Paw
There are few documented strategies of how to prevent a cat from touching your face with its paw. Consider that cats are untrainable for the most part.
This is one of the sole reasons why prevention is best.
You might be able to avoid your cat touching your face by being preemptive and making sure your isn’t within his reach.
If you know they dislike kissing, being held, or if something else makes them uncomfortable – you may need to consider stopping doing this altogether.
Some cats will not attempt to touch your face when you pet them, that’s something to consider too.
If your cat touches your face when you’re sleeping, you are unlikely going to be able to stop them in the act.
Even if you turn away and cover your face with a blanket, this will not likely stop them from any attempts.
When cats try to wake you from your sleep, it’s always because they want something – so you must figure this out ahead of time.
Does your cat want food during the night? Or to be let out? Or play?
Perhaps you can help him meet his needs without him needing to let you know.
If it’s the food he wants, you can invest in an automatic pet dispenser so that he can fend for his own kibble without interrupting your sleep.
Make sure that you spend time familiarizing him with the machine so that he knows where to go for food.
This is the best automatic dispenser currently available on Amazon. It has hundreds of positive reviews so it is worth taking a look at at the very least!
If he needs to be let out, get a cat flap whereby he can come and go as he pleases.
If he wants to play, you can leave out some toys for him and install some shelves in your home.
There is no guarantee that any of that will stop your cat from touching your face when you’re sleeping, but it’s worth a try.
Of course, your only other option is to deny them from having access to your bedroom altogether. Close the doors, but be sure they will have their needs met during the night.
Whatever the reason (or reasons) for your cat wanting to touch your face with their paw, one thing is for certain, and that is that they trust you.
Cats simply wouldn’t do this if they didn’t.
That being said, just because they can doesn’t mean they should.
But we must also consider that it is a means of communication for our cat. Preventing or restricting their behavior simply requires us to be more aware of their needs and ensure they are being met.
We should look for cues and signs, always ensuring they have toys to play with, food to eat, and never doing things that irritate them or make them feel uncomfortable.
At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to keep them safe, content, and satisfied.
Knowing how to meet their needs without them feeling the need to resort to a regular paw in your face, is ultimately the goal.
Have other questions relating to your cat and their behavior? Then my following guides may be of help:
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.