Why Do Cats Rub?

A cat lays on a blanket with its eyes closed while a human pets it

Cats are adorable pets, but they have behaviors, which may intrigue, perplex, or even frustrate you if you don’t understand their reasons for doing those things. One such common behavior is rubbing up against you and other people. This movement may involve their foreheads and cheeks or sometimes their entire body. Most owners appreciate and approve of this behavior and interpret it as something positive. Let’s learn the real reasons why cats rub.


Common Reasons Why Cats Rub

There are a few reasons for cats’ common behavior of rubbing.

1. They communicate their affection.

Ramming its head into your side is a cat’s method of showing affection for others. Rubbing this body part against one of yours, which is called bunting, is a way of identifying you as one of its friends. This is according to pet behavior researcher Gayle Hickman.

2. It is a territorial behavior.

Aside from bunting against you, your cat also likes to bunt against things around the house. Cats have a lot of scent glands located in their cheeks, forehead, chin, ears, and at the base of their tail. These scent glands are activated when they bunt against things. This is their way of marking their territory and claiming ownership of their environment.

3. It is a means of social bonding.

Cats’ scent rubbing behavior towards humans or other cats is thought to be a feline means for social bonding. They also greet other cats they know with a head rub or bunt to show their affiliation with the group.

4. They are looking for information.

When a cat meets someone for the first time, it may rub up against the visitor in greeting and as a way to get information about the new person, like where they come from and if they have animals of their own.


Understanding Cat Behavior

Like humans, cats have their way of communicating. Their rubbing behavior is a way of showing their affection to us, social bonding with their group, and staking their territorial claim. Now that we understand this particular common behavior, we can better tolerate our pet cat the next time it does it.

A cat lays on a blanket with its eyes closed while a human pets it