If you have a cuddlesome kitty who seems to always need to be right up in your face, the reason's very simple. She's treating you like another cat -- specifically, like her favorite, most loved other cat. Cat-on-cat love means lots of cuddling and is centered around the face.
Doing the Nose Bop
You may have noticed cat and human faces are surprisingly similar -- it's one of the things some anthropologists speculate made cats so attractive to us. Like humans, cats' eyes are on the front of relatively flat faces, so they encounter one another (and us, if we're at eye level) eye to eye and nose to nose.
When cats are on good terms, they greet one another by rubbing noses. When your kitty needs to get up in your face to nose bop, she's accepting you as another cat.
Cats who love each other love to rub their faces together. Animal behaviorists call this "allorubbing" and say it's "affiliative." That means they do it to each other and it makes them like each other even more.
Cats have scent glands all over their faces. They use these to mark their favorite stuff -- including each other -- and to get their loved ones' scents all over themselves, too. When your kitty rubs her face against yours, she's confirming you're part of her group of special feline friends.
You Wash My Head...
Allogrooming is another favorite pastime between friendly felines. This is reciprocal licking, usually concentrated around the face and head. It's just another example of how cats associate good, friendly feelings with being intimately close to each other's faces ... and another reason why your kitty may feel the need to be close to yours.
Smell Ya Later
Cats have over 200 million scent receptor cells, well-developed vomeronasal organs and heat receptors, all on, in or near their noses. They use these in part to orient toward their mommies in early kittenhood, when their lives depend on her warmth and milk.
Your kitty may transfer the sense of well-being she got from her mother's warmth against her face onto you, and your warm breath against her face. She also gets to know quite a lot about you through her scent receptors and that funny-sounding vomeronasal organ -- the organ that senses pheromones. You are familiar and loved, and your scent and warmth just plain make her feel good -- hence her heat-seeking cat missile orientation on your face.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.