Why Does My Cat Reach His Paw Out to Me — Mysterious Cat Language

Despite the popular myth that cats are loaners, these animals enjoy being social. Did you know that your long absence can increase the cortisol amount in the cat’s blood and cause emotional stress?

So, interacting with you is an important to-do task on their schedule, as they can:

  • Express affection and gratitude.
  • Ask for something (especially food).
  • Give you a signal about health issues.

And if the question of Why does my cat reach his paw out to me? has been puzzling you lately, there are a few interpretations. But all of them mean one thing: the kitty is trying to communicate and wants to get a response.

Usually, there’s nothing ominous or alarming about a cat reaching out his paw. However, no signal can be decoded just on its own.

It can be done only in the context of other body language signs, overall health condition, habits and behavior, situation, in which paw outreaching took place, etc.

But first, let’s dissect how exactly cats prefer to communicate with us. It’s the only way to solve the What is my cat trying to tell me conundrum.

Listen to Me, Hooman!

Your cat sees you as a family or pride member. And every meow, hiss, sleeping pose, ritual, or purr has a message for you. Even when a tabby scratches furniture, there’s a hidden meaning behind that.

Mostly, cats use vocalization for that purpose. You already know that a specifically loud and demanding meow means I’m starving, and soft purring means I’m pleased with (but only so far).

But apart from the vocal language — known among zoologists as Meowsic — cats employ other non-verbal tools. Here are some other signals you might be missing right now:

  • Sleeping. Apart from looking cute, a sleeping cat can tell a lot: from the health condition to the emotional state. And even about your relationship with you. A belly up pose means that your pet trusts you. Face covered with paws is a do not disturb request. Eyes half-shut say that the kitty’s a bit alarmed.
  • Defecating. Peeing and pooping in random places, especially on your desk or bed, signals that your cat suffers from neglect. Or kidney/tummy problems. And probably that its litter-box needs cleaning.
  • Body language. It has a rich alphabet. The arched back may express aggression, fear, and need for snuggling at the same time.
  • Rituals. When your cat wakes you at 5:30 am only to show you its butt, it’s not a sign of neglect. In the wild, animals turn their backs only to the ones they completely trust.
  • Washing. Even feline hygiene can say a lot. If your critter washes right after you pett him, it’s either annoyance or you have an unpleasant smell on your hands. And giving you a few licks doesn’t mean that you’re scruffy. It’s a sign of affection and tenderness.

So, as you can see, cat language is quite byzantine. Cats psychology is still a terra incognita to felinologists, as they aren’t studied that much due to the ‘domestic’ status.

What we know, though, is that the cat language is very contextual. A certain situation, time of day, events in the house, air temperature, presence of strangers or other animals, weather, and even yesterday’s meal — there are lots of factors that interpretation of a kitty’s gesture depends on.

What does it mean when a cat puts its paw on you?


So, a cat’s behavior is directly linked to a specific situation. Let’s analyze some of the common scenarios in which your whiskery friend might be doing this.

1. Sweet stretching

If the kitty is lying next to you and then its paws are gently touching you — it’s just stretching. This little exercise helps them keep their muscles flexible by banishing the lactic acid from their muscle tissue.

If the cat looks tranquil at the moment, it means it’s happy and absolutely enjoys sharing the couch with you. On the contrary, if the kitty was lying next to someone it doesn’t know, such a gesture would be inappropriate according to the feline protocol.

2. Attention-seeking

The cat reaches out with his paw to touch me — the common reason behind that is a simple need for attention. But reasons for wanting it may differ dramatically.

Note how your cat behaves when that happens. If the critter looks relaxed and greets you with short, high-pitched sounds, this indicates a need for tactile contact: petting, snuggling, etc.

If the kitty looks energetic and agitated, and its tail is as straight as a chimney, it’s playtime. Again, it’s a good sign if your pet invites you to join a fun game — that means you are seen as a friend.

But if the kitty looks frightened and agitated, but not in a fun way, with its eyes as big as saucers — it’s alarming. Your kitty might be suffering from thirst, pain, health issues, or be scared by the sounds that the human ear can’t perceive. (Seismic activity is one of the examples).

3. Tenderness & predator’s vision

petting-the cat

Another reason behind why does my cat put his paw on me riddle is emotional and physical affection. But here’s an interesting thing. It’s not just about cuddling and getting scratched behind the ears.

Feline eye anatomy is different from ours. Their vision was designed for crepuscular hunting. They have larger cornea and tapetum, which help them see well in the dark. Plus, their view scope and peripheral vision are much better.

But it comes at a price: cats are also nearsighted. Their best distance is about 20 feet/6 meters. Anything further than that appears to them as blurry dots. So, the kitty may stretch its paws to double-check that you are 100% nearby.

4. Marking

Cats are very territorial. Marking everything — from toys to food — is one of their lead instincts. You, as a pride member, must be marked too according to their territorial logic.

This is why your tiny panther might be stretching its paws out — to put its scent on you. As a rule, this gesture is also accompanied by intensive face-rubbing and head-butting.

Cats have special glands on their whiskery cheeks that emit a territorial scent. But it’s also an honor: a cat would never do this to strangers or someone it doesn’t like.

5. Food time

Another reason behind the Why does my cat paw at me mystery is prosaic. Your fluffy friend might be just hungry. Cats are great at observing and learning the cause-and-effect connections.

If the paw maneuver paid off in the past, the kitty would surely remember it. And now, pawing you is just a move to get lunch. Quite often, your cat might be doing this like clockwork since their sense of time is astonishing. It’s like they have tiny pocket watches.

But it can cause a nuisance too. Soon enough, your fluffy roomie will be pawing you in the middle of the night/early in the morning to get a quick snack. An automatic feeder or a chunk of food left for the night might solve the issue.

6. Pain

Surely, it’s the worst reason why the kitty might be patting you. Driven by pain, it might be asking for help in case there’s a wound, splinter, injured bone, sprained muscles, dislocation, bleeding, and so forth.

Gently take your pet’s paw and examine it for possible injuries. Also, there’s another unfavorable reason behind pawing: it’s called feline calicivirus.

This is a contagious disease that causes serious respiratory problems. Usually, cats contract it from other cats who, in turn, can get infected from their prey: birds, small amphibians, etc. And the pain in paws and lameness are among the symptoms of calicivirus.

So, if you notice any trace of physical injury on the fluffy paws, visiting a vet is a must. There’s no guarantee that a tiny swelling or a little scratch won’t evolve into something deadlier.

7. Biscuit time

cat is lying

And one more theory to end the article on a positive note. Your kitty-cat might be touching you while simulating the process of kneading. And there’s nothing alarming about that.

It’s just your friend remembers its kittenhood days — how loved, warm, and protected it felt back then. You’re being associated with its mama-cat, which is the highest degree of trust and affection.

Every Meow and Then

As you can see, paw action may be dictated by various reasons. Luckily, in most cases, there’ll be nothing to worry about. You just need to learn to interpret these little signs.

Understanding your cat is a true craft. It comes with time, patience, and practice. But in the long run, it can be quite rewarding. Think: how many people do you know who can seamlessly communicate with their kitties? Probably none. But you can be different.

Just remember: animals never do things only to disturb or annoy you. Behind every action, there’s a specific motivation. Even though most of the time your pal will attract your attention to get a snack, there might be a moment when it seriously needs your help.

Listen to your tabby carefully and don’t forget: you’re the only one who can help it in the hour of need. It sees you like a bigger, wiser and probably omnipotent cat. So, next time don’t ask yourself Why does my cat paw my face? and paw it in return.

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