Why Do Cats Rub Against You?

Trying to understand your cat’s behaviours can be quite difficult. 

Are they anxious, happy, angry, sad? Do they want attention?

You can never quite figure it out because feline actions are usually dictated by stress and fear.

So, what does it mean when you cat rubs against you, places or objects?

cat rubbing on mans head

When a Cat Rubs on You

A cat’s behaviour of rubbing its head and body against someone, other animals, places or objects is called bunting.

Cats have scent glands located in their cheeks, chin, lips, forehead and tail. This means when they rub on anything, they are able to leave their scent behind. They do this in order to identify family members and safe objects with familiar odour. 

It is a nice compliment when a cat rubs up against you as your cat is marking you as part of their family and favourite part of their territory. They also sometimes just want a little more attention.
Studies have discovered that specific pheromones produced by cheek glands have a calming influence on cats. These specific pheromones have been artificially reproduced in the product Feliway in order to identify territory as safe. It is also said that another pheromone that is produced by a cat’s cheek glands can identify other cats as friends.

Cats will also perform bunting as a form of greeting. When a cat meets someone for the first time, they will rub up against them to greet them and to find out information about this new person. From this they can discover where someone comes from and if they have animals of their own. 

However, if a cat you’ve never met rubs up against you, it does not necessarily mean they want affection from you. So, be sure when greeting cats to give them their space if needed.

cat rubbing on woman

When a Cat Rubs on Something

A cat will claim objects by rubbing up against them with their feline scents. Similar to spraying, they can mark their territory.

However, their scent does not last forever, therefore they will frequently go back to the same spots and refresh their marking. 

Cats will also rub on objects or places to inform other cats of their presence in the neighbourhood. They will also bunt to pick up scents. From this they are able to determine how long ago another cat marked a certain spot. If the scent is relatively fresh, they will know to leave that area soon in order to avoid conflict.

Cats may also bunt if they are feeling anxious as spreading their scent around is a way of coping and can make them feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.

cat bunting

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