What does it mean when a cat paws 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. So, what does it mean when a cat paws your face?

When a cat paws your face it’s usually a sign of affection. Or your cat might be marking you with its scent as cats mark their territory with scent from glands on their paws. When your cat pats your face with its paws it doesn’t usually scratch as its claws are retracted.

Most owners adore the feeling of a gentle paw on their face, even if it is the middle of the night! Here are 10 reasons why cats might 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.

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.

cat with paws on owners shoulders

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 with its paws 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 bored! This often happens to me in the middle of the night.

Sometimes one of our cats brings her wand toy and places it on the 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 paws. 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!

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.

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.

Ginger cat on its side stretching

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?

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.

Jane Pettitt

Hi. I'm Jane Pettitt and I co-own petsKB with my husband, Matt. I've always been crazy about animals and have shared my whole life with cats, We currently live with 4 gorgeous Maine Coons and have 25 years of experience with this breed. There's not much we can't tell you about them. We've also owned dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish, mice, and tortoises. All of our articles draw on the extensive pet knowledge base we've built up throughout our lives as pet lovers.

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