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We humans have well-defined ways of showing affection to those we love. We cuddle, hug and kiss those we feel particularly close to, and for many cat owners, that includes their furry friends.

Planting a smooch on the top of your cat’s head may come naturally to you, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if your cat understands what you’re doing. And it can hurt a little to pull away from the kiss and see him glaring and scowling at you!

That brings us to the question that all cat-kissers need to ask themselves: do cats actually like being kissed?

And if not, what are some feline-approved ways to show your cat how much you love him?

Pucker up — we’re about to pay some lip service to these conundrums.

Do Cats Understand Kisses?

First things first: does your cat even understand what you’re doing when you kiss him?

Well, it varies from cat to cat, but generally, the answer is no.

Your cat understands that when you scratch him behind the ears, rub his butt or stroke his back, you’re doing so in order to be closer to him. He does interpret petting as an affectionate behavior that bonds the two of you in addition to feeling really good.

But when you finish up that petting session with a kiss on the head, it’s likely to leave him a bit confused.

Kisses don’t really feel like pettings do. They feel more like brief, direct presses than long, massaging motions, and cats generally prefer the latter.

So he doesn’t get any of the physical pleasure that he associates with affectionate touch. And since cats don’t kiss to demonstrate affection, they don’t have any way of knowing that what you’re doing is an act of love.

However, some cats do eventually put two and two together and learn to associate kisses with love. This is most likely to happen if your cat has a laid-back, affectionate personality and if you consistently kiss him while petting him.

Cats Who Don’t Understand Kisses Don’t Enjoy Them

Your cat’s enjoyment of kisses comes down to whether or not he knows what they are. But you don’t have to read his mind to get on the same page with him — he’ll let you know if he doesn’t like what you’re doing!

To find out, give your cat a kiss on the head and see what he does.

Does he start swinging his tail back and forth, stop purring or try to move away from you? These are good indicators that he finds this type of affection annoying and would prefer it if you stopped.

Or does he get up and swat at you with his eyes dilated and his tail fluffed up? If so, not only does he dislike kisses, he hates them and is trying to defend himself from them — he’s telling you as clearly as he can to knock it off!

On the flip side, if he enjoys your kisses, he’ll purr, knead his paws and maybe even lean into the kiss. If this happens, it’s a good sign that he’s learned your particular love language and doesn’t mind the sensation.

And if he really loves kisses, he may even reciprocate with a lick or a headbutt when you pull away from the kiss!