Why Do Cats Rub Their Faces on People?

Cats have a lot of quirky behaviors that always seem to make owners and even cat behaviorist, question why it is cats do what they do. One behavior they are known for performing, is rubbing their face on you. If you’ve ever owned a cat, then you are probably familiar with the little maneuver, and you may have just chalked it up to one thing – your cat loves you. But did you know there are a number of reasons why cats rub their face on you, outside of a sign of love? This behavior has been studied in both cats of the wild, and domestic cats, and here are the reasons why cats love to rub their face on people.

Affection 

This is the most obvious reason, a sign of affection toward their owner, or even someone they just met but they developed a quick affection for them and want to show them. Cats show their affection in different ways, with head butting and face rubbing being the main ways of showing it. They are showing that they like you, trust you, and want to be around you. It’s really a sweet gesture when you think about it.

Stems from their wild ancestors

Research has been conducted on cats in the wild for many years. There is a lot of similarities in the domestic cat and their wild ancestors. Cats of the wild have to communicate as a means of survival and one way they communicate, is with their bodies. They use bodily gestures to tell cats in their tribe certain things, as well as other cats who may be invading their territory. Cats are very territorial, and in order to protect their territory, they emit a scent that tells other cats to stay away. It’s one way to tell others to stay away, or “smell my virility and know that I am the wrong cat to mess with.” This behavior followed domestic cats into their domestic world, too, and their head butts and rubs can have similar meaning.

Leave their scent behind

Cats have scent glands on different parts of  their bodies. The scent glands sets of pheromones that mark their territory, in a sense. They use their scent to claim what they believe is theirs; an inanimate object, even a human. When your cat rubs his face on you he is releasing pheromones that he believes is letting you know that you are his and there is a bond. It’s his way of saying that the two of you belong together, something else that their wild ancestors do, too. This is often viewed as another form of affection from a cat. So, the next time your cat rubs his face on you, give him an acceptance rub to let him know you return the affection.


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