Why Does My Cat Reach His Paw Out To Me? Our Cat Expert Explains

  • Authors:

  • Cats are strange creatures. No matter how much we study them, there are always more mysteries. We will likely never know the full extent of their secrets. But thankfully, some things we have answers for.

    Your cat is most likely reaching out to you:

    • To say hello
    • To pull you in
    • To get your attention
    • You trained them to

    Why do cats reach their paws out? Our Cat Behavior Expert Shares the Top 4 Reasons

    One of the great cat mysteries is why they reach their paws out? Our resident Certified Cat Behaviorist for Cat-World, Katenna Jones, has answers.

    Saying Hello

    Cats will often reach their paw to you to communicate “hello.” This is an invitation for interaction if they are in the mood. To follow up, the cat may rub its face along your skin. By doing this, the cat is scenting you. Scenting is a message for other cats: “this human is mine.”

    Trying to Pull You In

    Something we wish cats could talk; it would be far easier to communicate. However, a cat putting their paw out might signify they need something, their version of talking. If your cat puts their paw out and doesn’t seem to want to be pet, try following them. Often, cats will lead you to a particular place for a reason.

    Getting Attention

    Not all cats meow to get attention. Some will put their paws out to get your attention. While cats are widely known as independent, cats are very social creatures. They may be bored or want to play with you by getting your attention.

    You Trained Them To

    Cats are creatures of habit. When they are kittens, we inadvertently train them on how to behave. If they often were cooed at while doing this, it incentives them to continue.

    Additionally, cats think of us as part of their pack. While the common phrase is “monkey see, monkey do,” cats mimic us every day. Some meow when we sneeze. Others mimic human movements by reaching their paws out.

    What are the best ways to respond if your cat does this?

    If the claws are out: Is your cat pawing at you with claws out? It’s frustrating if your cat does something annoying. Thankfully, there are ways to tame that beast. According to Katenna Jones, “If the claws are out and you want to end the pawing, turn around and walk away from your cat.

    If the claws are in: or if you don’t mind or enjoy the pawing, Katenna explains that “You can give them attention. Just know giving attention of any kind will cause the pawing to continue and even increase.”

    While it’s tempting to playfight with a cat the same way they would with another cat, another issue arises: If we play-fight kittens using our hands, we teach them they are toys. And cats are more likely to attack them.

    To play with a cat appropriately, use a toy instead of your hand. Tap them with it. Throw it for them. Using a string toy to play. Cats don’t care how you play with them—they just want your attention.

    FAQs

    What does it mean when a cat hits you with their paw?

    Your cat pawing is often a sign of initiating play or kneading. From kittenhood, cats learn how to play fight with their littermates. It teaches them appropriate play and how to understand communication during play.

    Why does my cat paw my face or while walking?

    This is another method of initiating play. Most owners will worry whether their cats are play-fighting or fighting. You’ll know fighting when you see it—it is fiercer.

    During play-fighting, cats will slap you or another cat. If the cat responds by smacking back or butt wiggling, it’s a “yes”. If the cat doesn’t respond, hisses, or walks away, it’s a no.

    Is a cat pawing at you a way for a cat to bond with you?

    Cats will paw you to show affection, get your attention, or try to play with you.

    What does it mean when a cat is bonded to you?

    A cat is bonded to you by showing you signs of trust. If a cat shows you their stomach, the vulnerable area is a sign of trust. If they need or rub against you, it’s telling you they love you. As long as your cat is interacting with you positively, they love you.

    Why does my cat have to have his paw on me when he sleeps?

    Cat owners are split on whether to let cats sleep with you in bed. Those who allow it may notice the cat snuggled close, touching you with one paw. It’s adorable, but it always seems to happen right when you need to go to the bathroom!

    Cats will place a paw on you while sleeping for multiple reasons.

    • Warmth: When you lay in bed, they want to share in the warmth. Our bodies are a toasty 98.6 degrees, after all. By laying beside you when the sun is down, kittens can soak in our body heat.
    • Affection: By the time you are ready to sleep, a cat’s day isn’t over yet. Cats are most active at night. They choose to spend their awake time cuddled because they love you.
    • Protection: By touching you while sleeping, your cat is protecting your back while vulnerable. It’s the same reason they may follow you to the bathroom.

    Authors

    • Elizabeth is an animal lover who is owned by three cats: Vivan, Burr, and Puck. Her passion for writing started in the 9th grade when she began writing her novel. She hasn't stopped since.

    • Katenna Jones is an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB) and Certified Cat Behavior Consultant. Katenna works with families and their cats and dogs in person or virtually with her company Jones Animal Behavior in Rhode Island. She earned a Master's in Psychology, with a focus on animal behavior, from Brown University.