I believe at least some of us have experienced that adorable head bump from our lovely felines. I don’t know about you, but I find this behavior to be one of the cutest things they do (and they do many cute things). It’s just so calming and exciting all at once every time I get to experience it.
And the best thing is, not only do we enjoy it, but cats do too. They love to rub themselves against us! Sometimes they’ll use their entire body for it, and other times just their head. Either way, it’s a positive experience that’s definitely a sign of affection, more than anything else.
But what does this peculiar behavior mean? It surely has to mean something, right?
Well, don’t worry. You won’t have to live in bewilderment much longer. Here are 6 possible reasons why cats rub themselves against humans.
1. That’s their way of saying, “Hello!”
Usually, there’s not much science behind feline headbutting. Oftentimes, they do this to you with the intention to greet you. If you have a feline yourself, you have probably experienced this every time you come home from a long day of being absent.
Rubbing against your leg on any other body part is your cat’s weird little way of saying, “Oh, hello there, human! I haven’t seen you for so long. Where have you been?”
This is a good sign because by doing so, your kitty is trying to tell you that she has missed you dearly.
2. They are seeking attention
Apart from just innocently greeting you at the door when you finally arrive back home, your cat might be rubbing herself against you for other, more serious, and demanding reasons.
Cats are prone to using this method to show the desires of their feline hearts. Whether they are hungry and want food ASAP, wish to play throw and catch, or simply desire to be cuddled for hours, headbutting is their number one strategy to achieve any of it.
My cat, Luna, does this all the time! Every time I lay on the couch to watch The Office, she is on me, rubbing her head and face against my arms, or even my own head. Sometimes, she would headbutt me so hard that I would end up being worried she hurt herself.
Once I start petting her though, she calms down and soon falls asleep. Such a weird creature, right?
But I envy her and her kind so much, to be honest. Imagine how amazing it could be if humans could headbutt someone and get what they want. That would be a true Utopia. Unfortunately for us, it’s reserved just for felines.
3. They’re claiming you as their property
It’s no secret that our feline buddies experience the environment mostly relying on their scent. They have special scent glands that are evenly distributed over their body. They can be found on their chin, cheeks, forehead, ears, back, rear, tail, and paw pads.
These glands release special chemical messages called pheromones which are basically odorless for humans and dogs and can only be detected by cats. So, in a way, perceiving pheromones is a secret feline language! How cool is that?
When your cat rubs herself against you, she is actually leaving her scent and labeling you as her property. That’s her way of letting know other felines, “Hey, this human is mine!”
So, if you get a chance to meet another cat, she will know you have a kitty that’s waiting for you at home. Therefore, basically, cheating your fluff and petting another cat will not come unnoticed.
This ownership marking is, of course, not a one-time thing. Anytime you come back home, and you bring various nasty outdoor smells, your cat might want to get rid of them. And by rubbing herself against you, she will re-claim you as her property and establish dominance over you.
She will also do this with her toys, or any object in your home. Especially if she is part of a multi-cat household.
4. They are seeing you as a part of their gang
In multi-cat households, the cats usually have to fight to establish dominance and choose the Alpha among them. However, their relationship is not necessarily based only on rivalry.
By sharing a home, cats quickly become aware that they must cooperate in order to survive. Because of this, you can often see your cats rubbing against each other.
And while it may seem like an opportunity to snap an adorable Instagram photo, this behavior is much more than that. This is their way of creating a “group scent” and establishing a pack.
So, when they rub against you, they’re trying to let you know, “Hey, you’re also a part of the gang, hooman.”
5. Maybe they want to show you some affection
I don’t want it to come off as if the cats are callous and selfish and rub off on you only when they want attention and cuddles. Quite the opposite.
Pretty often, the reason behind your cat’s sweet behavior can be to give you attention because she loves you and feels like you need some love. She feels safe with you and taken care of, and she wants to return the favor.
I’m not sure how many times my Luna has randomly come to cuddle me. And all of those times I was feeling sad and distressed. It’s like she sensed something’s off, and she should come to my pawscue.
6. Or, they’re in heat
Lastly, cats can rub against you when they’re in heat. This is especially significant for female kitties as they can become more affectionate and frisky when they are going through heat and become ready to mate.
In this case, their behavior can also be accompanied by excessive vocalizations and constant meowing (because you know, they are serenading their potential baby daddy). They will also keep their tail high and lift it a bit too close to your face while rubbing against you.
Generally speaking, an average heat cycle last for 7 days. However, in some cases, it can last up to 20 days.