When my cat is in a good mood, she’ll climb up into my lap and touch noses with me. It seems like a sign of love and affection, as if they are giving a kiss.

This left me wondering what it means when cats touch noses with other cats or their favorite humans. Is it really a sign of affection, or is there another reason for the behavior?

Why do cats kiss with their noses?

It turns out that cats kiss with their noses as a way of communicating. It can be a sign of affection, but it’s also an information exchange.

Cat Communication

Cats are seen as solitary and antisocial creatures, but they are actually surprisingly social. Just like us, communication is essential for healthy social relationships.

They communicate in a few ways. The most obvious of these is vocalization. They may meow, hiss, and purr to talk with each other.

Another way cats communicate with each other is through scent. Much of this communication occurs through pheromones.

Pheremones

Both humans and cats communicate via pheromones. Humans do this subconsciously. Studies have shown that some pheromones make humans more attractive, and can trigger sexual arousal.

Cats can communicate a wide variety of information through pheromones. This includes sexual status, sex, age, and social hierarchy. Cats can also learn about the health of other cats, and where they’ve been recently via pheromones.

Your cat’s face has a large amount of pheromone glands. This is why they rub their face against objects to mark their territory. When cats go nose to nose, it allows them to get up close and personal with the other cats pheromones.

Greeting Each Other

One reason cats rub noses is to greet each other. It’s essentially their version of a handshake. If the cats are meeting for the first time, they may take extra time to smell each other’s pheromones.

If they know each other well, they may be remembering the other cat via their pheromones.

When cats are touching noses to greet each other, you’ll notice that they are relaxed. They will not show signs of aggression.

Saying Hey, Where Ya Been?

Another reason for cats touching noses is to ask the question, “hey, where have you been?” This occurs with cats who know each other well.

When cats rub their faces on something, they leave pheromones behind on the object. However, the object also leaves its scent on their body. Since cats tend to rub their face on things during their travels, the face is a wealth of information.

These cats will smell each others faces by nose touching to learn about the places they have been recently.

Determining Place in Social Hierarchy

Most of the time, cats will touch noses as a way of showing friendship. However, this isn’t always the case. Cats can also go nose to nose to establish dominance.

In this case, they will show aggressive behaviors. If the cats are dominance smelling, they will have stiff motions. You may notice their hair standing up. The vibe of the encounter will feel tense. This is the equivalent of two humans standing toe to toe, on the verge of fighting.

Cats may also urinate or block the other cats’ movements when nose touching for dominance.

There are two ways these encounters can end. If one cat is clearly dominant over the other, the less dominant cat will back down. If you see one cat standing tall, and the other crouching and walking away, they’ve worked it out without violence.

If they are equally matched, it can descend into a catfight.

This can happen regardless of whether the cats like each other. Cats who aren’t acquainted may do this to determine who is dominant early on in their relationship.

Cats who are familiar with each other and generally get along will dominance smell when they are competing for a resource. This can be a food bowl, toy, or even a mate.

What does it mean when cats touch noses with you?

Cats touch noses with humans for similar reasons that they touch noses with each other. However, there are some important differences between the way they interact with you vs other cats.

Phereomones

Just as cats pick up pheromones from each other, they can also pick up pheromones from humans. Just like cats, we release pheromones that provide useful information.

We can learn a lot from each other’s pheromones. Studies have shown that gay men are attracted to male pheromones, while heterosexual men were attracted to female pheremones.

Pheromones also help us choose a genetically compatible mate. We are attracted to pheromones of those who are genetically different from us to produce healthy offspring.

The pheromones in women’s tears lowered men’s testosterone levels and sexual arousal. As newborns, we are drawn to the scent of our mother’s breasts through pheromones. We can even tell if someone is anxious  by differences in their pheromones.

If we can learn all these things about each other through pheromones, it’s easy to imagine what our cats can learn about us with their superior sniffer.

Research has shown that cats can understand our mood, and often provide comfort when we are sad. They may also get clues to our health and emotional status from our pheromones.

Perhaps they also know where we’ve been throughout the day as well. The smells from the day are bound to be on our skin, so our cat may know much more than we give them credit for.

Sign of Trust and Affection

Your cat touching noses with you is also a sign of trust and affection. When a cat puts their nose to yours, they are in a vulnerable position. They must have some strong positive feelings for you to put themselves in this position.

Their desire to smell your pheromones also indicates that they care for you. This is why they want to learn more about you.

Bunting is often related to nose rubbing. Bunting is what occurs when your cat nudges you or rubs their head against your body.

This is a clear sign of affection. They are essentially rubbing their pheromones on you to signal that you are a part fo their family.

If your cat touches noses with you and then rubs their head against your face, this is a wonderful sign your cat views you as part of their family.

Other Signs of Cat Affection

You may also wonder how else cats display their affection for us. It’s important to note that cats each have their own personality, just as we do.

You may have one friend who loves hugs, while another is only comfortable with a handshake or a fist bump. Cats also show different levels of affection based on their personality.

If your cat doesn’t bunt or touch noses with you, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They may simply be less affectionate, or have different ways of showing their affection.

One sure sign your cat loves you is a desire to be near you. Depending on your cat’s personality, they may want to be in your lap frequently. Other cats will show their affection simply by being in the same room with you.

Kneading is another way kitties show their love. Kneading means the cat moves its paws and claws, similar to kneading bread dough. Kittens knead their mothers when nursing. As they grow into cats, they keep this adorable behavior.

Cats knead when they are happy, content, and safe. It’s a sure sign they love you.

Lastly, their vocalizations can tell you how they feel. A plaintive meow typically means your cat wants something. This type sounds similar to a baby crying.

If they purr, or sound content when meowing, they probably are. It’s a sign they enjoy interacting with you.

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.