This is Why Cats Rub Their Faces on You

It is common for cats to rub their faces on cat owners. However, it can be much more challenging to figure out why they are engaging in bunting, seeing as how they do so for a wide range of reasons. Here are the reasons that cats will rub their faces on cat owners:

Scent Marking

Cats have multiple scent glands that can be found in locations such as their cheeks, their paws, and their lower back. As such, when they bunt, they put their personal scent on whatever it is that they are bunting. Something that lets cats communicate to other cats that they have laid claim. In any case, cats engage in this kind of behavior because they are territorial animals.

This kind of thing is very common. In fact, there are those who consider humans to be territorial animals, though it should be mentioned that humans are complicated enough that the term makes for a rather awkward fit. Regardless, cats are territorial for the same reason that other animals are territorial, which is to say, they need to ensure a supply of the basic necessities of life. This can be seen in how cats maintain bigger territories in resource-poor areas and smaller territories in resource-rich areas.

Curiously, cats can have territories that overlap with one another. One cat’s scent marks won’t repel other cats. Instead, their scent marks help them keep out of each other’s way. This is important for preventing direct competition, which in turn, is important for preventing direct conflict. Simply put, predators can be very cautious animals. After all, if they get hurt, that has a direct impact on their ability to hunt for food. Something that can send them into a death spiral because hungry animals are also weak animals.

On top of this, it should be mentioned that cats tend to be solitary hunters, meaning that they can’t count on feline companions for backup. Anyways, while the modern housecat is very far removed from their wild ancestors, they have retained their territorial nature. Due to this, they continue to mark out their territories through their scent markings, thus enabling them to communicate with other cats even when they are not physically present.

The Communication of Relevant Information

Speaking of which, a cat has a much stronger sense of smell than humans. As a result, their scent markings can communicate a lot of information about them, with examples including but not limited to their age, their sex, and their state of health. This is useful for enabling cats to coordinate their movements so that they won’t come upon one another at an inopportune moment, thus creating the potential for a conflict between them.

For example, if a cat comes upon a scent marking that is relatively fresh, they know that the other cat is still in the area, meaning that they are likelier to leave so that they won’t come into contact with one another. In contrast, if a cat comes upon a scent marking that is not so fresh, they know that they have a freer rein. Due to this, cats can bunt on a regular basis because they want to make their intentions clear, which in turn, helps them achieve their goals while minimizing the chances for a cat-on-cat conflict.


There is some evidence to suggest that cats might bunt to make themselves feel more comfortable with a situation. Basically, cats like familiarity. After all, familiar surroundings are also more survivable surroundings. In part, this is because a cat’s familiarity with their environment can help them find food as well as other basic necessities. However, it should also be remembered that cats are predators that can be predated upon by bigger predators, thus making them very vulnerable unless they are prepared for such eventualities.

When cats are in a strange setting, they don’t where they can run as well as where they can hide. Even worse, they don’t know if their surroundings are concealing potential threats to them or not. In contrast, familiar settings offer them a fair amount of reassurance when it comes to both factors, which explains why cats are so much more comfortable in them. In any case, cats might bunt as a way to make an unfamiliar environment seem more familiar to them, which can be helpful for them managing their stress levels.

Show Affection

We see the world from our own perspective. As a result, it is perfectly natural for us to interpret the world based on our own fundamental assumptions. For instance, we like to interpret the actions of other species based on our own behaviors, which can make for a lot of bad interpretations because different species are indeed different.

Having said that, there are also times when the interpretations based on our own assumptions are very accurate. After all, different species are different from one another, but not so much so that there are no commonalities between them. If anything, a lot of mammals are more like us than what a lot of people assume. As such, when cat owners think that their cats are expressing affection by rubbing their face on them, that could very well be the case.

There is a longstanding perception that cats are aloof creatures with either no or next-to-no fondness for humans. However, the evidence suggests that this isn’t the case. Instead, cats do get quite attached to their cat owners. Furthermore, cats put a high value on interaction with humans, so much so that they prefer it to either eating or playing with toys.

As such, it is natural that cats have ways to express their affection for cat owners, with bunting being one of the best examples. This isn’t limited to humans because cats will also engage in such behaviors with other cats, which is very interesting in its own right. Moreover, there are times when cats will use bunting as a way to get humans to pay attention to them. Something that can cause them to repeat the same behavior for the same reason in the future should it prove to be successful.

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