Cats never fail to amaze us with their curious nature and bizarre behaviors. Your cat might be sitting comfortably, and suddenly, it starts rubbing its head against everything in the room, including you.
So if questions like “why do cats rub their faces on things?” pop up in your mind, you’re about to find out!
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Top 9 Reasons That Make Your Cat Rub Its Face on Things
There are a lot of different reasons that make your cat rub its face against objects. In the following list, you’re going to find all these reasons whether they’re common or rare.
1. They Might Be Marking Their Territory
This is the most common reason for cats to rub their heads against things. In fact, many other reasons depend on this one.
Although cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, they’re still in a strong connection with their wild roots. They still have an instinctive urge to mark their territory, as they can’t be at two places at the same time to monitor their land.
Cats have multiple glands that produce pheromones. These glands are located all over the cats’ body, such as the ones between their toes and throughout their tails. They use these pheromones for a wide variety of purposes.
However, cats also have some of these glands all over their faces. They are located around the corners of the mouth, beneath the chin, temples, and even their forehead and ears.
These glands produce certain pheromones known currently as the “feline facial pheromones”. Cats tend to use these pheromones to target different objects.
For example, they use the ears and foreheads to rub on the highest things. If these objects are on their head level, they tend to swipe it with the side of their cheeks and temples.
If they want to rub on a lower object they tend to use the neck and the bottom of the chin instead.
Although cats use scents through rubbing as their primary way to mark their territory, they can use other ways to do it. For example, they can also scratch on things. In some unfortunate events, they might also tend to use a more aggressive way of marking like urinating on things.
When a cat is rubbing its face on something, it’s trying to claim this thing as its own. This can be a piece of furniture, another cat, or even you. They use this method to leave a clear message for other cats that they’ve been there first and laid claim on all that.
When your cat rubs against you before you’re going out of the house, they’re marking you as a way to tell other cats to back off. But more on that later.
2. They Feel More Secure
Just like any other creature, cats feel more relaxed when they’re living in a place where they feel safe and secure. However, their marking fades away with time, so they have to keep rubbing on things to keep their marking fresh.
3. Cats Use Rubbing as an Integral Part of Their Communication
As we already established, scents and pheromones are essential for marking the cats’ territory. But, it isn’t the only reason for them to rub on things.
Cats can also use their faces to run on things that bring them comfort. This includes other cats that they consider family.
In a household with multiple cats, they’ll start rubbing everything around them to mark and establish territories. That’s why it’s common to expect aggression when new cats are introduced into the house. In cats’ world, these new cats are intruders who stepped on their territories.
However, as time passes, these cats get a good sniffing of each other, and the aggression starts to fade away slowly. When these cats get used to each other, they’ll shift from sniffing each other to rubbing against each other.
This is the most common form of social bonding within cats. If cats are familiar with each other, they’ll smear each other with their scents.
The most dominant cat usually initiates this by licking and rubbing against other cats in the colony. This way, they all smell the same. This behavior helps in easing the tension between the cats.
If you own more than one cat, you’ll also notice that when one of them returns home for the vet’s clinic, the other cats may treat it as a stranger for some time. That’s because they’ve picked other scents, and they need a bit of time and sniffing to get used to it again.
4. They Might Be Trying to Show Their Affection Towards You
Cats might seem busy rubbing their faces on any inanimate object in your house. They’re mainly doing this for the purpose of declaring all these items as their own.
Surprisingly enough, cat’s don’t only rub on objects as a way to leave their scent on it. In fact, they might be picking up different scents as well.
When a cat is rubbing its head against you, this doesn’t mean that they only leave their territorial mark on you, as they might be also picking up your own smell. By doing both these behaviors at the same time, we can conclude that they both apply.
This means that they’re rubbing their heads against you to also mark you as their own. But also, they use the same technique to show you their affection or to greet you. You can notice that because cats that live in groups greet each other by punting and rubbing.
It’s easy to say that when they rub their faces on your legs, they’re trying to bond. It also means that you’re both familiar and that they feel safe around you. The reason behind that is that cats regard their owner as a non-hostile cat and a part of the group.
However, Cats also use the same behavior to mark things as their own. This means that they don’t only consider you a part of the family, but they’re also trying to say that you belong to them. It’s for that reason that your cat gets mad when you play with a stranger cat.
You can also notice this behavior in cats when a stranger enters the room. In that case, you might find some cats rubbing their heads against their owners’ legs.
As you can see, cats have plenty of ways to show their love and affection towards you or other cats. They might have a confusing way of showing this love, but it’s true love indeed. The more your cat rubs its face on you, the more it’s saying that it loves you.
When they do it in front of others, it’s their way of saying: “I like this human, this human is mine, and I’m going to rub my face on him or whatever”.
5. They Use it as a Visual Cue During the Mating Season
For unspayed female cats, rubbing on things more than usual is one of the clear signs that they’re in heat. They use this method as a cue to invite other males to mate during the mating season.
If you pay close attention to cats’ behavior during this season, you’ll find that males are more likely to rub their heads against female cats. This indicates that the released pheromones attract the males’ interest.
6. It Might Be Looking for Information
Cats are members of the feline family. Felines depend on the sense of smell to collect and share information with their surrounding environment.
Cats use it for marking territories, bonding and showing affection. However, cats can also use their pheromones to keep track of the world around them.
For example, they group things with a similar scent to group them together. But what if the cat is on the receiving end of that line?
When a cat meets someone for the first time, it’ll rub against them to greet them if they’re friendly enough. But before they attempt such risky behavior, they’ll try to investigate this person as much as they can.
By smelling this person, they can learn more than we do. For example, they can pick if this person lives with other cats.
This is also noticeable in feral cats, where they tend to live in groups. They use this behavior to collect information about their territory and group themselves.
7. It Might Be Encouraging You to Pet Them on Their Head
Cats are smart and adaptive creatures. If you react to a certain behavior they do in a way, they can learn from it.
For example, my first reaction to a cat that rubs its head against me is to pet it, which the cat enjoys. This builds a relationship inside the cat’s head between rubbing its head against you and petting.
Some cats might prefer petting and scratching their heads compared to the rest of their bodies. So it’s possible that they’re rubbing their heads against you to make you focus on their heads rather than their bodies.
8. It Might Be Seeking Attention
In addition to rubbing their heads against you, cats can combine it with other behaviors to signal for different things.
For example, you may find that your cat also keeps flipping over its back or feet while rubbing its head against you. If you come across such behavior, this doesn’t only mean that your cat is showing you affection or marking you as their own.
In fact, they might be trying to tell you something. In the previous example, you might observe this behavior every morning when you’re getting ready for your day.
This might be a sign that your cat is trying to seek some attention from you and wants you to spend some quality time together.
It might also be your cats’ way of starting their own day. Cats are routine-loving creatures, so once they’re used to do something, these rituals become their comfort zone.
This attention doesn’t need to be concerning. Sometimes, this rubbing is just a way to tell you that they can’t wait for the next meal.
9. It Might Be an Alternative to Aggression
This reason is one of the uncommon reasons for cats to rub their heads against things. If you notice that your cat starts doing this after a bad incident, it might be the cat’s way to vent off its frustration.
Having any more questions? Here’s an answer to the most commonly asked questions regarding this topic.
As you can see, there are many reasons for your cat to do this cute behavior. From territory marking to showing their love for you, cats rub their faces on things for a lot of reasons.
Most of the time, this behavior is natural and you shouldn’t be worried about it.
However, In rare events, they might also follow it with continuous meowing. In that case, you should observe your cat closely. If it seems a bit unusual or less active, this might be a sign that it’s sick and needs a visit to the vet.
I’ve been living with cats since 2008 and I can confidently say I have more feline friends than humans lol. I currently live with 5 cats in different life stages; two of them are less than one year old, one is 2-ish years old and the oldest two are 9-ish years old. I’ve developed a strong bond with cats over the years and I’m eager to share my experience through this blog. You can learn more about my cats here.