Cats don't show affection the same way that humans do, but that doesn't mean they don't appreciate it when you show them love. Of course, not all cats like the same kind of hands-on loving, so it ultimately depends on your cat's level of tolerance for sentimental human shenanigans.
Some cats love a good hug -- others can't stand it. Their level of tolerance is simpy a matter of taste, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they think it's punishment. Just like you, a cat can be annoyed by something even if the intentions are loving. In general, cats understand that hugs are a form of benevolent physical contact, and while not all of them enjoy it, the ones that do will stay close to you looking for more and more attention.
Signs to Stop
Remember that even a tolerant kitty can get sick of being hugged. Cats are notoriously opinionated creatures, and when your physical affection reaches the point of annoyance, your cat will start showing you signs that he would like for you to stop. This may include tail-flipping and flattening his ears, and his pupils may dilate, as well. His signs are often subtle and easy to miss, so if you don't heed his warnings and keep on with the hugging, petting and stroking, he'll find alternative ways of telling you to stop, like making a break for it.
Kissing Your Cat
Like hugging, cats don't necessarily dislike kissing, but they also don't necessarily understand it. To a cat, any form of physical affection is generally the same, and if he tolerates one, he'll likely tolerate another. The only difference between kissing and hugging is that cats leave themselves vulnerable when they touch each other nose-to-nose, so yours may draw back when you go in for the smooch. And don't worry about where that tongue has been, either -- cats have relatively clean mouths, so a quick peck isn't particularly risky.
How Cats "Kiss"
Cats don't kiss like humans, but they still have ways of showing you their affection. For example, when your cat kneads you with his front paws, it's a sign of pleasure and happiness -- of course, the incessant kneading of those claws can make it seem like tough love. Cats also love to rub their humans with their heads as a form of territorial marking, making it a roundabout way of demonstrating how much they care.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.