Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
A year ago, I rescued a 3-week-old kitten from a very busy store parking lot and we grew very close to each other. She ended up pregnant at 10 months old, though I did not know it until her stomach grew large. The morning she gave birth, I was with her but didn’t interfere unless she was in crisis, which thankfully never happened. When I would take care of her and the kittens, she’d reach up and gently stroke my cheek with her paw and give me a kiss on the mouth once. I think this is the way she tells me “I love you” or “thank you,” but I am not certain. I just enjoy it. We have had her fixed, as we will her kittens, but occasionally she still gives me the stroke and kiss. I would like to know what it means.
~ Bella Mia
Siouxsie: That certainly sounds like a gesture of affection to me.
Thomas: As long as it’s combined with other body language that indicates friendly intentions rather than distancing behavior, it sounds like “I love you” or “thank you” to me, too.
Bella: Thomas kisses Mama when she pets him, so he knows what he’s talking about.
Siouxsie: Hey, I kiss Mama and give her head-rubs when she holds me close, too.
Bella: I’m more of a purrs and head-rubs gal myself. I save my licking and grooming for Thomas. Oh, my sweet Thomas, my loving gentleman partner and snuggle buddy ….
Siouxsie: Oh, for Bast’s sake, quit your swooning, Bella. We’ve got work to do!
Thomas: Siouxsie, that’s not nice. Come here, little sweet girl, I’ll protect you from that mean old Siouxsie.
Siouxsie: Mean? I’m not mean! You know what’s mean? When that little brat chases me all around the house even though she knows I’m sore and achy and I just want to take a nap or eat in peace.
Bella: I’m sorry, Siouxsie, I just can’t help it. I’m really trying not to chase you so much.
Siouxsie: I know you are, sweetheart, and I’m trying not to be so grumpy with you, too. But it’s hard not to be grumpy when I’m hurting.
Thomas: Oh, Siouxsie, I’d be happy to snuggle you, too.
Siouxsie: Anyway, Bella Mia, back to your question. We’d definitely say that what you’re seeing is a friendly gesture, as long as it’s accompanied by other relaxed body language.
Thomas: Are her ears forward when she does this, and do her eyes look relaxed? Is the paw gesture more of a push or a stroke.
Bella: If she’s pushing you with her paw, she’s asking you to back off, especially if that push is accompanied by narrowed eyes and ears slightly back.
Siouxsie: But again, the way you describe your kitty’s behavior sounds like distance-reducing behavior, not distance-increasing behavior. And it’s super sweet that she still reaches out to stroke your cheek and kiss you!
Thomas: We’re also glad to hear that you had mom-cat spayed after she’d weaned her kittens and that you plan of spaying and neutering her litter, too. Every single cat we have spayed or neutered helps to control cat population and reduce the number of cats surrendered to shelters.
Bella: And that reduces the number of cats that are put to death solely because there’s no room for them at the shelter and nobody came to adopt them after a certain amount of time.
Siouxsie: Thank you, Bella Mia, and thank you to all you responsible kitty caretakers for making sure your feline family members are spayed or neutered.
Thomas: How about you readers? Do you agree with us that Bella Mia’s cat is saying “I love you” with her cheek stroking, or do you think we’re way off target here? Do you have a cat that strokes your cheek or kisses you to indicate affection?
Bella: Please share your cute stories in the comments.