My cat has a habit of randomly patting my face - sometimes when I am sleeping, or when he is snuggled in my lap, or when I am sitting somewhere. I can't really find a pattern to it, and it is somewhat cute, but can also be annoying, especially if he accidentally gets me with his claws.

Why is he doing this?

  • 9
    As a guy, it's hard for me to say this, but that's just way too cute! My cat used to do that, but not anymore. In the past I found that they paw harder when they're being ignored, so if you want to avoid the claws, just make sure to return the affection.
    – gitsitgo
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 15:27
  • 22
    I always interpreted it as "I could totally take you out, but I didn't because I like you"
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 0:38
  • My female tabby will sometimes paw at my face or arm when i am sleeping or even gently bite my arm. Sometime she simply wants to go outside (if the door is closed). But other times she wants to cuddle. And not just anywhere. It has to be in a certain spot, usually close to my face and chest. She will paw or bite at my arm until i move it so she can be exactly where she wants to be. Talk about owning the bed. Sheesh :)
    – user2805
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 14:43
  • 1
    My cat does this all the time! It's one of my most favorite things! She gazes in my eyes all lovey dovey and gently touches my lips and cheek as I hold her like a baby. Best feeling ever! I love my little girl Halle so much!
    – user3322
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 3:32

1 Answer 1


This is one way cats show affection or try to get your attention. Not all cats do this, however, but they might show this in other ways such as as kneading, gentle scratching and gifting etc. Cats also show affection to other animals by rubbing against them

"When your cat puts its scent on you, it's saying something like, 'You and I belong together because I smell you on me and you smell me on you.' It's a scent complement."

Affectionate Pawing

Some cats periodically approach a relaxed owner and stretch out their paws to softly touch the owner's face. The cat repeats this gentle reaching in the hope that the owner will pet it, brush it or show some affection. Alternatively, some cats paw their owner's face to wake them from sleep; in this case the cat probably wants affection or play.

  • 25
    probably wants affection or play - or food.
    – yoozer8
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 3:19
  • 6
    Our cats used to wake us for food. We read that cats are active for an hour before breakfast, so give them breakfast an hour after you wake. We tried that and it works wonders! Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 17:42
  • 1
    I introduced my dog to the neighbor's cat. They cautiously touched noses, and then the cat, slowly raised one paw, paused for half a moment, and then batted the dog's face. I don't think she had claws out. Even so, the dog's reaction was less than civil. The good news is, I had a good grip on his collar, and no animals were harmed in the making of this anecdote. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 21:44