If you’re a cat parent, you’ve probably noticed that the bottoms of your pant legs end up covered in fur. So why do cats rub against you? Let’s find out, along with the reasons behind some other curious cat behaviors, including: Why do cats headbutt? Why do cats put their butt in your face? And why do cats raise their backs when you pet them?
Why do cats rub against you?
This behavior is essentially a cat complimenting you. It is more than a territorial action, in that a cat will rub against you as a form of scent marking. Scent marking is when the cat deposits pheromones and oils from the scent glands located on his forehead, cheeks, and chin.
“Scent communication not only signals something when the cat goes through the motions, but the smelly message lingers for long-term communication, too,” says certified certified animal behavior consultant Amy Shojai.
So why do cats rub against you? Well, they’ve claimed you. And isn’t it nice to be claimed?
Why do cats headbutt?
Also called “bunting,” cats will usually headbutt you for the same reason they rub against you—to leave pheromones that signal a friendly encounter.
PetMD cites an explanation from 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,” Dr. Sackman says. “It’s an affectionate gesture that can also be used as a form of greeting.”
And why do cats headbutt other cats? From ferals to domesticated kitty siblings, cats may also headbutt each other when feeling especially social or accepting.
Why do cats put their butt in your face?
Why do cats put their butt in your face, AKA why do cats make things so awkward? Believe or not, cats “presenting” their rear to you is another method of happy communication. As you’ve probably gathered, cats learn a lot about the world around them through their sense of smell. This includes—you guessed it—smelling other cats’ butts.
So, cats are giving you the opportunity to learn more about them by putting their butt in your face. Odd, yes, but rude? No—not in their eyes, anyway. In fact, this behavior is yet another compliment from your cat: Felines don’t willingly present their vulnerable backsides unless they trust whomever they’re presenting to. Lucky us, right?
Why do cats raise their backs when you pet them?
When you’re scratching your cat along her spine, you may have noticed that she arches her back higher and higher until it seems she couldn’t possibly bend herself anymore. That’s hitting the spot! Not all cats enjoy being pet or stroked along the base of their tails, but the ones that do will be sure to point it out to you—often through that downward-dog pose of contented stretching.
Once you know what it all means, most of the cat behavior explained isn’t so weird after all!