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Alternate Animal Affection

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To bed, kids! This part is for the grown-ups.

"Lip-mashing is an oddity in the wild kingdom."
Milo Bloom, Bloom County

There's a problem that arises in stories featuring reasonably anthropomorphic animals, both of the plain old talking and funny varieties. Many writers want to include romantic plots or subplots in these works. For human characters, a kiss often serves as the closure to a Will They or Won't They? arc.

The problem arises from the fact that, unless you're writing monkeys and apes (or fish, we suppose, but there are usually No Cartoon Fish), most animals just don't have the facial structure required for a human-type, lip-to-lip kiss. So having animals "kiss" like humans isn't necessarily plausible. So what do writers do?

Well, usually one of two things:

  • Ignore it. Anatomy? What anatomy? For the purposes of the work, a duck's bill can become just as pliant and squishy as human lips so that Donald and Daisy can have their smooch. Funny Animals, or just those in less-realistic works, tend to get saddled with this option.
  • Come up with an alternate gesture with the same meaning. After all, real-world animals do have ways to express affection, so why not? Common choices for this one include: licking (like dogs), rubbing noses/snouts, bumping foreheads, or crossing necks (which can also substitute for a hug). Works with Talking Animals, or more realism, tend to use this. Alternatively, it might just be more whimsical.

Compare Fantastic Arousal, for less... innocent situations. Also compare Non-Standard Kiss.

Examples of Type 1:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Donald Duck, as well as many of the McDuck clan as writ by Don Rosa. Birds deserve to kiss, too!

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Swan Princess, Lt. Puffin manages to give a kiss to the back of Odette's hand. The tip of his beak kind of... folds back.
  • Chicken Run makes heavy use of the Almost Kiss because the animators weren't sure how to animate chickens kissing. The kiss at the end is staged so that the beaks are hidden from view.
  • Rio has its two main birds kiss despite the movie having a surprising amount biological correctness up to that point. Somewhat justified: parrots in Real Life do bite each others' beaks affectionately, which is not that different from a human kiss.
  • Lady and the Tramp has the famous Spaghetti Kiss where they end up accidentally smooching.
  • Lions in The Lion King usually kiss by licking each others cheeks however they seem to have a concept of human kissing. In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Kovu and Kiara do this once by accident when they hide from the rhinos in a small cave. Later on during the main love song, two baboons do kiss on the lips, though given they are primates, this is more realistic.
  • Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders has Amber, Crystal's Golden retriever dog, licking Scooby-Doo on the cheek for showing her flattery. Averted in the ending where Amber kisses Scooby-Doo on the mouth as a heartfelt farewell.

    Western Animation 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): The characters are an assortment of animal people, and they kiss just like humans.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has used both variants of the trope. Spike fantasizes about kissing Rarity in "A Dog and Pony Show" and is kissed on the cheek twice by Rarity in "Secret of My Excess". Also, at the end of "Canterlot Wedding", Cadence and Shining Armor are shown kissing in the usual way.
  • Futurama: Two pigeons that show up in the movie, The Beast With a Billion Backs, French kiss. Interestingly, the two pigeons are otherwise normal pigeons and their beaks don't get as pliant and squishy as human lips.
  • Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville: Since all the animal characters show humanoid characteristics for some reason, this show has the first type. In the final episode, Ava shares a kiss with Wallace, with her lips clearly shown being puckered up like a human's.
  • Classic Disney Shorts stars Pluto and his love interest Dinah the dachshund kissing each other on the lips, just like humans.

    Real Life 
  • The kissing gourami is a species of fish that has large lips and actually kisses like a human would. Inverted in that those kisses are a form of fighting.
  • Some birds (such as budgies) "kiss" each other. Depending on the context this can be affectionate or aggressive. Birds also "kiss" while regurgitating into each others mouths (which is affectionate).
  • Prairie dogs kiss as a greeting, not limited to just mated pairs but also between family, friends and even enemies.

Examples of Type 2:

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Oddly enough, in ElfQuest, the obviously humanoid elves are never shown kissing, even though the comic has some rather explicit sex scenes. Word of God states that elves do not kiss.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this MonsterVerse fanfiction, Mothra does a bit of this with Godzilla; poking him with her proboscis and playfully jabbing a couple times whilst she's removing shrapnel that got stuck in between his back plates and scales.
  • The Beast Of Gusu: Wei Wuxian in his wolf form expresses affection by nuzzling his loved ones, wrapping around them and generally staying as close as physically possible.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Bolt (licking) as well as Mittens and Berlioz (bumping foreheads) express their affection in species-specific ways during "The Paris Trip," "The Cameo," "The Ship," and "The Rings."
  • How to Kiss 101: Natsu asks Happy how to kiss a girl. As Happy is a cat-like Exceed, his way of kissing is rubbing his nose against a girl's cheek as friends and rubbing their noses directly for romantic kissing. Natsu takes his lesson to "kiss" Lucy the same way, which she sees as their own personal thing.
  • No One Mentions Fear deals with the fact that one half of its main romantic pairing has a beak by stating that the Rito equivalent of a kiss is for two of them to press their foreheads together, which is a minor plot point since Link, as a Hylian, doesn't actually understand the connotations of the gesture at all when he's on the receiving end of it until it is explained to him several chapters later. This is a common trope in many other Revali/Link fics as well.
  • In Pawprints, Blake is a Panther. She shows gratitude towards Weiss for sparing her life by licking her knuckles. This confuses Weiss, because she thinks of animals licking one another as being an equivalent to a kiss.
  • In Warriors Redux, it expands upon canon's usage of this. For example, cats give each other friendly headbutts and will sometimes put their tails over anothers back like a human would a comforting arm.

     Films — Animation 
  • The Lion King (1994) uses the "crossing necks" variant, for both romantic and familial affection. Nala also licks Simba's face when they are getting really intimate.
  • In WALL•E, a robotic "kiss" is more like a static electrical shock.
  • In the Animaniacs movie, Wakko's Wish, Yakko rubs noses with Dot. As above, it's a sign of familial affection.
  • The horses in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron mostly use nuzzling or neck-crossing. Spirit also gives Little Creek a "hug" by putting his head over Little Creek's shoulder near the end; real-life horses actually do this.
  • Belle and the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast never kiss, but the Beast frequently runs his hand through Belle's hair. He also does this as a human prince before he and Belle have their first kiss, which seems to reassure an understandably floored Belle that he is the Beast.
  • In Balto, Jenna and Balto nuzzle each other or touch noses to show affection.
  • The Land Before Time: Both the original movie and the thirteen sequels has affection in the form of neck-crossing, snout-nuzzling, and the occasional platonic lick on the cheek. This can lead to a little confusion, as baby dinosaurs who are quadrupedal often use their snouts as hands in games like tag. One circumstance had Littlefoot briefly reacting to an unexpected "tag, you're it" from Ali as one might to an a Accidental Kiss.
  • The Aristocats shows Duchess and O'Malley sharing an affectionate moment by holding tails as though they were holding hands.
  • The Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp use their tails to "shake hands" with each other.
  • Aladar and Neera neck hug in Dinosaur when Kron dies.

     Films — Live-Action 

  • In Warrior Cats the cats often rub their faces together or wash each other as a sign of affection ("sharing tongues" as its called). Cats also touch their noses to different parts of their bodies to signify different gestures, such as to comfort another cat or to show respect. Cats will occasionally hook their tails together however this is never platonic, though sharing tongues does take place between friends or family.
  • Dinoverse: Bertram and Canadayce, in the bodies of short-beaked dinosaurs, spontaneously try a kind of beak-locking gesture from which Canadayce can tell that Bertram's eaten peppermint. Although Bertram had a crush on Canadayce he didn't feel anything from the kiss - dinosaurs, not surprising - and it's not until they're human again and she can kiss with lips that he's actually affected. In other books with beakless dinosaurs there is face-nuzzling. A dinosaur does this a lot with a girl in a dinosaur's body; when the dinosaur ends up Sharing a Body with another kid, this happens.
    He leaned in close and brushed his lips with hers. The part of him that had once been an Acrocanthosaurus didn't understand this odd custom.
    But it felt certain it could grow to like it.
  • For the dragons of the Age of Fire verse, a crossing necks is the equivalent of a kiss, while folding wings over another is a hug.
  • The Kantri of Tales of Kolmar have rigid faceplates, but have affectionate gestures similar to the above dragons, as well as twining together and touching faceplates.
  • Raptor Red has the titular raptor and her fellow raptor kin performing things such as neck presses, muzzle bumps, grooming, and leaning into each other as gestures of affection. This is meant to evoke comparisons with present-day birds, due to similar physiology and equally similar limitations of that same physiology (most notably, a lack of lips or mouth motions beyond open and close).
  • In I Want My Mommy! by Tracey Corderoy and illustrated by Alison Edgson, a picture book about a young mouse named Arthur who has to spend the day away from his mother at grandma's, Arthur and his mother rub noses to express affection.
  • Tailchaser's Song depicts various feline interpretations of behaviors (such as cats laughing by sneezing). Romantic affection isn't shown, but characters do butt heads (used similarly to a hug), nuzzle, and lick each other platonically.
  • Survivor Dogs features various canine ways of showing affection, such as licking and pressing their muzzles to different parts of the body.

  • The musical version The Lion King follows the movie's model by having the lion's hug and nuzzle, despite them being played by human actors able to kiss now.

     Video Games 
  • Nuzzling noses is apparently a common display of affection among the monsters in Undertale, to the point where they even made a competitive event out of it. A Battle Couple you encounter were the runners-up one year. Asgore and Toriel were the multi-year, undisputed winners until their divorce. With them out of the way, Dogamy and Dogaressa finally took the title.
  • Alpha, the miniature chocobo in Final Fantasy XIV nuzzles its beak against the defeated Omega in its human form as if to say that it understands their suffering and loneliness.


     Western Animation 
  • Gargoyles:
    • According to Word of God, Gargoyles stroke hair, horns and brow ridges rather than kiss. This can be seen between Goliath and Demona in the 5-part series premiere, "Awakening."
    • Angela and Broadway's kiss was explained as Angela being raised by humans and Broadway having seen a lot of movies. (Admittedly, that doesn't explain the flashback of Demona kissing the petrified Goliath goodbye before leaving Castle Wyvern in the City Of Stone arc.)
    • Elisa and Goliath share a very human kiss at the end of season 2. Well, it was more like she kissed him and he was too surprised to really respond ... but that didn't stop him from having a very goofy grin on his face after.
    • Elisa and Goliath kiss again in issue 7 of the Slave Labor Graphics comic book. This time she strokes his hair first, then he picks up and kisses her.
  • My Little Pony:
  • The Penguins of Madagascar:
    • Lampshaded in the episode "The Falcon and the Snow Job." After rescuing Kitka (the Girl of the Week falcon), Skipper goes in for the big kiss, only to be interrupted by King Julien mocking them (and making pecking gestures with his hands):
      "Mmm... peck peck. Pecky, love peck... (I'm trying to kiss but I got no lips)... peck... no, wait! I'm getting good at this pecking."
    • Though a frame by frame shows that the animators know how to animate CGI penguin kisses by when Private kisses the Peanut Butter Winky in "Skorca."
      "Mmm... nutty!"
    • Hans the Puffin in Huffin' and Puffin:
      Hans: You should know I kissed your sister. On the lips!
      Skipper: I don't have a sister. And if I did, she wouldn't have lips.
      Hans: Then who did I kiss?
  • Primal (2019): Or rather, expression. Fang obviously cannot speak, but none the less is able to understand Spear very well, and has moments of snarkiness and sass as well as affection and loyalty to Spear.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: Cerbee and Jasmine kiss by licking.
  • In episode XCIV of Samurai Jack a few of the assasins from the Cult of Aku see a buck and doe nuzzling their noses together. Being raised as Tyke Bombs, they don't understand what such affectionate gestures mean.
  • On Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, the Tigers rub noses and say "Ugga Mugga" to express familial affection.
  • On Llama Llama, Llama Llama and Mama Llama sometimes show familial affection by rubbing noses.
  • The Lion Guard: Kion and his parents share nuzzles and head bumps a few times, especially when he returns from the Tree of Life. And he neck hugs Rani, his eventual mate, when her grandmother Queen Janna dies.

     Real Life 
  • Dog owners often refer to their dog licking a face as getting "kissed", more so for small breeds. Puppies lick their mother's muzzle to get her to vomit food for them. In adulthood, the same gesture demonstrates closeness and trust.
  • Cats nuzzling their owners is also often said to be this. They also headbutt as a sign of affection. The page image shows Nala doing this to Simba (she's also rubbing her muzzle on him, but it starts as more of a headbutt). Cats will do this to mark territory, but also as a sign of affection (since this "ownership" would be mutual between two cats). They may also blink slowly, sniff each other's muzzles, or rub bodies and wrap tails around each other. They will do this with humans or other animals as well - in the last case, rubbing against your leg before hanging on with their tail. And like dogs, they may try to groom you - except their tongues are covered in small hooks made of keratin (like fingernails), meaning it will be far less pleasant to most people.
  • Among sociable mammals, such as chimps, baboons, or rats, mutual grooming can serve a similar function to human kissing. In fact, the male Crab-eating Macaque will groom the female so she'll agree to mate.
  • Puffins 'kiss' using a process called 'billing'. They rub both their beaks against each other in a way that is similar to kissing. Awwwwww.
  • Inverted by 'kissing fish'. What looks like a kiss is actually two males fighting for dominance and the right to breed with local females.
  • Parrots will nip at each other's beaks to show affection, either between mates or close family members (siblings, children and parents, etc.). They'll do this with humans they like too, usually but not always gently enough not to hurt our "soft beaks".
  • Mice will sometimes express affection or friendship by "holding tails", coiling their semi-prehensile tails together as they stand or lie side by side.
  • Social whales and porpoises, having no appendages suitable for hugging, will rub or nudge one another to express affection. Dolphins do the same, and pairs will also swim in perfect synchrony with bonded companions.

Alternative Title(s): Kissing Without Lips, Animal Kiss Substitute, Alternate Nonhuman Affection