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Why Do Cats Rub Their Faces on Things? 8 Reasons

Does your cat like to rub its face on everything? From you to the couch to other animals to soft toys? There are several reasons that cats like to rub their faces on things and they can vary depening on the object being rubbed and the context.

A key thing to know about why do cats rub their faces on things is that cats have several scent glands located across their heads. They rub their heads on objects or “bunt” to leave their scent behind. Cats generally like to choose objects that stand out to bunt and male cats tend to bunt more than females. This behaviour was developed by cats when they were in the wild.

Cats tend to rub their ears and foreheads on items that are quite high to them and then use the bottom of their cheeks to mark objects that are at the same height as their heads. The chin and the throat then rub against lower items. Cats also have scent glands in their tails and their feet.

Here are eight reasons why cats like to rub their faces on things.

woman and tabby cat with heads together

Why do Cats Rub their Faces on Things? 8 Reasons Why

1. To Pick up Scent

Sometimes your cat wants to not only provide you with their scent but also to grab some of your scent. This is can be a way to express affection or it could be to say hello. When cats live in groups they will often rub on each other as a way of saying hello.

Your cat may also be looking to merge their scent and your scent to create a new common aroma. Cats that live together often create a scent that is unique to their group. This can be one of the reasons why some cats fight after having been to the groomer or the vet.

black cat rubs against man's legs

The communal smell on the cat that has been outside the home may well have changed and the other cats will react negatively. One way to avoid this is to use a brush or cloth on both cats regularly and brush or stroke the cat who has been de-scented before it heads home.

2. To let other cats know they are interested

Sexually active cats can use marking their scent on objects to provide cues to cats of the opposite sex during mating season. Male cats tend to be more interested in the scent and markings of female cats during mating season. Female cats exude a powerful sex pheromone when they are in heat. Once they experience this pheromone they will be keen to spread it around to entice male attention.

golden retriever dog and grey british short hair cat ru

3. To mark their territory and the time of their visit

Not only does adding their scent let other cats know that this territory is taken, based on the strength of the odor a cat can determine how recently that cat has been in that territory. This can help them to avoid problems eg if the aroma is strong the cat may well still be in the area so the cat can choose to leave quickly to avoid any type of conflict.

Pheromones are a natural chemical that animals emit in order to communicate with others. When today’s domestic cat’s forefathers were in the wild this scenting behaviour was critical to keep them safe and alive. Today domesticated cats practice the same behaviours although sometimes in a slightly different context than what their predecessor did.

ginger cat why do cats rub their faces  on things

4. To make themselves feel more comfortable

Some cats will rub their faces on things when they are feeling anxious. Bunting can help cats feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment or help to calm them if they are concerned. This is also why cats like to put their scent on items around the house. It reminds them that these items are safe and that they can relax around them.

If you have visitors to your home, your cat may begin marking objects with their scent once your guests leave. This allows them to reclaim their home and feel calmer.

tabby cat rubbing up on white stool

5. To get your attention

Have you ever noticed how your cat likes to rub themselves up against you and move through your legs as you prepare their meals? This transfers their scent on to you as is their way of making sure that they have all of your attention.

If you’re not preparing food and they are rubbing their face against you this probably means that they want some stroking and attention.

white cat rubs against man's legs

6. To show affection

When your cat rubs up against you it is called “allorubbing”. This is their way of showing love and affection. When they were kittens this is what their mother would have done to them and their siblings and the siblings to each other. It is a wonderful sign that your cat loves and trusts you.

Red Cat rubs head against dog in the yard

It is perhaps nicest of all when your cat pushes their face up against yours. This is a true indicator that your cat trusts and adores you. Some cats will even do this to other animals in the house.

7. To trump other cats

If you have more than one cat in your home you may have noticed that they often rub their faces on the same spots. Each cat is trying to rub their scent over that of the other cat or cats. They will tend to do this in the most conspicuous and high traffic areas of the home. Male cats tend to rub their faces against items more than females.

ginger cat rubs face on seat

8. To check out newcomers

Cats will often rub themselves up on newcomers to their home. When they do this they are looking to gather information about the scent of this new person and also to see if they can smell other cats on the newcomer. It is part of them assessing if that newcomer is any kind of threat to them.

The cat rubs the girl's hand on the street .

In Conclusion on Bunting

Personally, I love it when my cat Alexei rubs up against me – no matter what the reason! But it is useful to be able to interpret why your cat is rubbing its face at different times and in different places to understand what is going on with your favourite feline.

Cats virtually never rub their faces on strangers so when your cat pushes its little face up against you it is giving you a huge compliment.

ginger cat rubbing past boots

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