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Why do cats put their paws on your face?

This morning, at 7 am I was dozing in bed when one of my cats decided to wake me up. I was vaguely aware she was on her way because of the trilling meows approaching at a fast pace. The next moment, she was on my pillow gently patting my face with one paw. Why do cats put their paws on your face?

When a cat approaches and puts their paws on your face, it’s a sign of affection and the need for attenion. However, if you put your face close to your cat and it puts its paws up to stop you, its sending a message that you’re invading its space. In either situaltion, a cat’s claws remain retracted as it doesn’t intend to scratch your skin.

When a cat paws anything, it deposits scent from glands located in its paws. Most owners adore the feeling of a gentle paw on their face, even if it is the middle of the night!

Here are 10 common reasons why cats put their paws on your face.

1. Your cat wants food

If your cat visits you in bed and gives you a friendly pat on the face, it probably wants food, especially if it’s early morning. You can of course believe it’s a sign of affection, and sometimes it is.

But if you ignore your cat you can bet she won’t leave you alone to go back to sleep. You’ll have to drag yourself into the kitchen and prepare her breakfast. Then you might be allowed to go back to bed for a lie-in.

A grey cat lying on its owners chest.

2. You are being scented!

On each of your cat’s paws are glands that release pheromones. Cats use these to mark their territory. When your cat taps your face or any other part of your body with its paw, it could be staking a claim on you by marking you with its personal scent.

This is a sign of great trust so you should feel honored. Any other household cats will smell that you belong to the cat who just pawed your face.

3. Kittie is bored

If you know your cat isn’t hungry then it may be pawing at your face to get your attention for another reason: it’s feeling bored or it wants a fuss! This often happens to me in the middle of the night.

Sometimes one of our cats brings a toy and places it on our bed before tapping me gently on the face. The paw tap in this case simply means wake up and play.

4. Your cat is keeping you at arms length

If you invade your cat’s personal space, it may extend its paws onto your face to prevent you from getting any closer. Cats like attention and sometimes they don’t mind you getting up close.

Cats are also fickle creatures. What they like one day they don’t like the next. You may swoop in to kiss that cute nose as you’ve done on countless occasions to find your cat face palms you with its paw. Basically, this means stop human!

This action is never aggressive but, by placing its paws on your face, your cat prevents you from getting any closer. Take the hint and don’t persist with the attempted kisses!

A tabby and white cat stretching one paw up and forward.

5. You make your cat feel secure

If your cat chooses to sleep with you and stretches out to place its paws on your face, this means you make it feel safe and secure. Cats are usually light sleepers as they instinctively remain alert for dangers.

If your cat really trusts you, it can afford to relax when it sleeps with you because it truly believes you will protect it. When its paws touch your face as it sleeps this is so it knows you are still there. It can then relax into a deeper sleep. If you move or stir it will feel this through its paws and become more alert.

6. Your cat wants to pet you

We show our cats affection by stroking them, tickling their chins and scratching their heads. When two cats are close, they reach out and touch each other and even groom each other.

Some cats extend their affection to us as they would another cat. When your cat pats your face with its paws, it could simply be showing you affection.

7. Your cat wants a cuddle from you

Sometimes cats put their paws on your face to make you reciprocate by stroking or cuddling them. Cats are clever creatures and remember how you react to many things they do.

If you have ever petted your cat after it patted your face with its paws, it will have committed this to memory. It will recall this and paw your facewhenever it wants to be made a fuss of.

I’m sure lots of owners will recognize this scenario.

A grey cat with orange eyes sitting down and looking up.

8. It’s testing if it can trust you

A new cat may extend its paws on to your face to test if it can trust you. If you don’t react badly and accept its paws in your personal space, it will know you are no threat to it and start to feel bonded.

9. It’s letting you know you can trust it

When a cat paws gently at your face, it may be giving you a sign that you can trust it not to hurt you. This is more common with a new cat rather than a cat that’s been living with you for a long time.

10. Your face just happened to be in its way!

Occasionally your cat might touch your face with its paws by accident. It may have just had a big stretch and found your face at the end of its paws. Once they landed there, it felt comfortable and couldn’t be bothered to move.

In the meantime you didn’t dare move,enjoying the contact with your cat and wondering: Why has my cat put its paws on my face? What can it mean?

A cat with its face next to sleeping owner.

What does it mean when a cat paws your face? Conclusion

We’ve covered 10 common reasons why cats put their paws on our faces. There are probably many more. We can only guess by reading a cat’s body language and by what happens next as to what is really going through a cat’s mind.

It is rare for a cat to gently reach for your face and then attack you. A kitten might get a little excited and scratch by accident, but mature cats are unlikely to.

Try to respond to your cat’s actions. She may be hungry, need to go outside, or want some attention. This will help the two of you to bond and form a loving relationship.

Here are some of my favorite products for cats

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it helpful whether you own a cat or are considering it. I thought I’d share a few of the cat products I love which you might find really useful too.

The following are Amazon affiliate links, and if you decide to use them, I’ll earn a small commission from Amazon at no cost at all to you.

An indoor cat tree: This is an excellent item to satisfy a cat’s urge to climb and scratch. There are several sizes to choose from so you can pick the right height for your home. Our cats love this Amazon Basics tree with multi-levels, scratching posts, and a little hideaway.

Fred and Oscar in their Amazon Basics cat tree

Drinking fountain: Cats love to drink from flowing water. Many don’t seem to drink enough so a fountain is a good way to get them interested. This Orsda Fountain is quiet, has a large capacity, and looks stylish too.

Scratcher Lounger: The more cat-scratching posts you have the better. Many cats like to claw horizontally which is why we chose the PetFusion Ultimate cat scratcher. It has seen quite a bit of action from 4 Maine Coons but still looks great.

This article may contain affiliate links; if you click on a shopping link and make a purchase I may receive a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.