why does my cat always rub against me
By Samantha Drake Trying to understand a cat s behavior can be downright maddening. Oftentimes, feline actions are dictated by stress and fear but fortunately, one cat behavior in particular usually comes from a good, friendly place. When your cat rubs up against your legs or pushes his head against you, it s a very positive sign. According to Dr. Jill E. Sackman, senior medical director for BluePearl Veterinary Partners Michigan Region, head rubbing is a behavior cats learn as kittens with their mother. It s an affectionate gesture that can also be used as a form of greeting, she says. Learn more about the reasons cats rub against people, things and each other, below. Cats are very olfactory creatures that rely heavily on their sense of smell to give them information about their environment, says Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil, a resident in Animal Behavior at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, Mass. When a cat rubs or pushes its head against you, also known as head butting or bunting, the cat is also marking you with his scent in a show of affiliation, Borns-Weil says. Affiliative behaviors serve to maintain a connection within a group of individuals. Head rubbing is a cat s way of marking its people and its environment and grouping them together with the same scent. When meeting someone for the first time, a friendly cat 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, says Borns-Weil. Whether or not this type of behavior serves as an invitation for affection varies from cat to cat, however. Some cats don t want to be petted but want information from you, Borns-Weil says. In other words, don t assume head rubbing from a strange cat is an invitation to be pet. Cats also greet other cats they know with a head rub or bunt. Feral cats, who tend to live in groups, use this behavior to show their affiliation with the group and single out their preferred associates, Borns-Weil says.
When cats live together and all rub on each other, a communal scent is spread throughout the group. So then why do cats rub up against things in your home like the couch, table or doorway? Borns-Weil explains that cats claim objects by marking them with their feline scents. Cats have scent glands located in their cheeks, forehead, chins, and a the base of their tail and rubbing up against people, other cats and objects is a form of marking without being a territorial action like spraying, Sackman says. It s a friendly, relaxing behavior, and in fact, synthetic feline pheromones used to help calm anxious cats are derived from the pheromones found in these scent glands, she says. Of course, scent marking doesn t last forever so a cat will frequently go back and refresh its marking. Humans may also reinforce the head rubbing or bunting behavior when we stroke or scratch the cat s head in response, which cats enjoy, Sackman says. A lot of people don t realize that cats prefer to be scratched and stroked on their heads and around their ears and are less fond of being petted along their backs or sides, she adds, so it s entirely possible that head rubbing and bunting is also a cat s way of encouraging his people to focus on scratching and stroking his head, and leave the rest of his body alone. Image: via Shutterstock
One of the benefits of working at home as a freelance writer is spending more time with my cats Б but countless times, they have messed up my typing and even accidentally shut off my computer by rubbing their faces and butting their heads on my hands. So, what gives? Why do cats rub against you? This universal cat behavior is a compliment, experts say, because your kitty is communicating with you and marking you as his kin. БCats define their worlds through scent,Б says Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant in California, who is also known as. б БItБs one way they identify their families, their friends and also their enemies.
When a cat is rubbing up against you, what they re doing is exchanging your scent. ItБs reinforcing that you are part ofб [their] group. ItБs very sweet. Б Why do cats rub against you? б Long-lasting messages from scent mingling. Cats have scent glands that secrete pheromones in several parts of their bodies, including their cheeks, tails, foreheads, paw pads and anal areas. When they rub something or someone, they deposit this scent and it sticks, says, a certified animal behavior consultant in Texas. БScent communication not only signals something when the cat goes through the motions, but the smelly message lingers for long-term communication, too,Б Shojai says. БFor other types of communication, the cat and the other party must be present to see the friendly tail greeting, for example, or to hear the and,Б says Shojai, the author of more than 30 pet-care books, including ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems in Your Multi-Cat Household. БVocal communication can only last as long as one breath at a time,Б she says. БBut scent continues to communicate, even when kitty has left the building. Б Cat rubbing can also be a matter of claiming territory, but it goes beyond that, Shojai says. Territorial marking is more directed toward objects and spaces, and typically involves clawing and cheek rubbing. Why do cats rub against you? б To mark members of their tribe. In colonies of feral cats, the felines mark each other as members of their tribe by rubbing and bunting their heads among themselves. This is a form of communication and acceptance, Krieger says. When cats transfer this behavior to humans, they are mingling their scents with ours, and also claiming acceptance. If a cat doesn t like you, she probably will not rub against you, Krieger says.
When cats rub you, they are saying, БYou re part of the group, I m part of you, we re all part of the same group,Б she says. Do cats target different spots to rub on purpose? Cats donБt really target certain human body parts with different messages; they usually just go for whichever area is accessible, Krieger says. However, if a, it feels more intimate and might be something a kitty only does if he particularly likes you. One of the most distinctive cat rubs is, which is when cats bump their heads on you with oomph. This, Shojai says, signals БI am your friend. Б БNot only does the head rubbing/bunting behavior leave pheromone signals that identify friendly encounters, it also places the cat s face and eyes in vulnerable positions,Б she says. БSo, itБs not only expressing friendliness, but also trust. Typically, itБs the most confident cat that offers the head-bunting behavior, too. Б Cats also like to walk closely past us, rubbing their whole bodies against our legs. They often finish this by wrapping their tails around our legs. БThis, again, is a friendly greeting between cats, and by extension, the humans they love and trust,Б Shojai says. Want your cat to rub against you? Reinforce the behavior! As long as your cats aren t knocking things out of your hands, you probably enjoy it when they rub up against you. Pet your cats when they rub against you to reinforce and reward the behavior, Krieger recommends. БWhen cats come up to youБ and they haven t seen you all day and they rub you on the legs Б if you automatically pet them, you reinforce that behavior and you put your scent back onto the cat,Б she says. БThey enjoy the affection and they like that. Б Tell us: Does your cat rub against you? Where does your cat rub against you? Thumbnail:б Photography бFonrimso iStock / Getty Images Plus. Read more about signs of cat affection on Catster. com:
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