That best feeling is when you get when you come home from work and your cat greets you with a rub against the legs. That is a special feeling that only cat owners can experience.
Especially if you have a cat that isn’t the most cuddly, it feels like you are being appreciated. Although it feels like your cat is giving you a special cat hug, it doesn’t exactly mean that is what they are doing.
If a cat rubs against your legs doesn’t necessarily mean they are being affectionate. It means that they are marking and exchanging scents.
Cats rub against things to claim as their own and to collect information.
Read more about the 20 Weird Cat Behaviors here!
That fuzzy feeling you get when your cat comes to rub against your legs is amazing. Despite the feeling that cats do this to show how much they love us, the reality is a bit different.
Cats rub against things, like our legs, to practice scent-marking. Scent-marking is the process of exchanging scents. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks, flanks, and on their paws.
Scent marking is one of the ways cats communicate. Cats can tell a lot based on the scent of their surroundings.
Through the scent of pheromones from their scent glands, urine, and feces, cats can discern a lot about an area or person.
You might notice that your cat will rub against all kinds of things in your house. A tv stand, chair, scratching post, or your legs. When a cat does that, they are trying to leave their scent onto those surfaces.
If another cat smells that scent, they will know that that object belongs to another cat. Cats rub not only against objects but people as well!
When your cat rubs against your leg, they want others to know that you are their human! It’s a way of claiming territory.
Well, what about your friend that just met your cat? Does this mean your cat wants to claim them as well?
Not necessarily. Cats also use scent to collect information about things.
When a cat meets a stranger they try to gather as much information as possible. They achieve that by smelling and rubbing against your friend. Through their scent, cats can tell a lot about a person.
Just because a cat rubs against someone new, it doesn’t mean they want to be petted. Be careful because you might scare them off!
Sharing Family Scent:
Another goal of scent-marking is to assure that you and your cat share the same scent. This scent will be a “family or pack” scent.
This is so other cats know you are part of the same pack. When cats do this it means that they accept you as a part of their family.
In the wild, cats do this so they can identify other cats in the same family.
Although cats will rub against people to claim them, they may be doing so for a sense of security. The thing about cats is they enjoy smelling things that smell like them.
If their environment smells like their scent, they feel comfortable. When they smell you and you share their scent, they feel secure and recognize that you are their family.
Cats don’t target legs to rub against, it’s just easy! With their tiny bodies, they will rub against your legs because they have easy access to it.
Cats will rub against other parts of their owner’s bodies as well. They also rub against people in different ways that mean more than a regular rub against the legs.
One of the ways cats rub against their owners is through bunting. Bunting is when a cat rubs things with their head and essentially headbutts things or people.
All types of rubbing are forms of scent marking however, bunting is much more intimate. Cats might headbutt you anywhere they see fit however, a lot of the time they choose to do so on your face.
If a cat headbutts you on your face this is a great sign!
Headbutts, in general, are reserved for people that cats hold with high regard. However, if a cat headbutts your face it means that they have a deep trust with you.
Headbutts are a form of bonding that cats do with owners that they love! When cats place their eyes and face next to yours, they trust that you will not do anything to hurt them!
Rubbing With A Wrapped Tail:
Headbutts aren’t the only way a cat can intimately rub against their owner. Sometimes cats rub against people with their entire body and follow that up by wrapping their tail around them.
If a cat does this, it’s similar to holding hands! This shows your cat’s feeling of friendship with you!
Similar to headbutts, cats do this to people and cats that they trust.
Sometimes it seems that our cats rub against us to tell us something. That can sometimes be the case.
If your cat knows that rubbing against you will get them something, they may do it more often. For example, if your cat notices that when they rub against your legs, they can nab some treats, then they will probably do that! At times, cats can rub and nudge their owners to get their attention.
If they know it will work, then they will definitely remember that and keep doing it.
A lot of times when cats excessively rub against their owners, they look up at them as well. This could mean that they want something in particular.
If you normally pet your cat after they come up to you, then they may be rubbing your legs so you can pet them! Knowing your cat’s typical behavior and tendencies will help you to determine what it is that your cat wants.
Sometimes it isn’t that your cat wants treats, just attention, and someone to play with!
Every cat owner I know loves it when their cat rubs against them. However, what should you do if your cat doesn’t rub against you too much? A positive response to rubbing can encourage that behavior to continue.
If your cat knows that you will react positively to their rubs they will be more inclined to repeat it.
Giving your cat a pet or scratch under the chin can make them understand that you don’t mind their behavior. Even giving your cat a treat or two can leave this impression.
Next thing you know, they won’t be able to have enough of you!
Cats rub against things to mark their scent, but are there other ways that cats do this? What are some of the ways cats mark their scent?
Cats scratch things not only to sharpen their nails but to mark their scent. Cats have scent glands in their paws and when they scratch something, that scent is transferred to that object.
This is one of the ways they might choose to claim something. Unfortunately, you might see your cat try to claim your furniture by scratching it.
You can avoid this by getting scratching posts and placing them next to furniture that your cat tends to scratch.
This is definitely a cat owner’s least favorite way of marking, but it does happen. Cats may mark their scent with their urine.
This can be done in two different ways. The first is regular urine marking, which is done by a cat squatting somewhere to pee.
This is done on a horizontal surface like the ground, sofa, counter, or other places.
Spraying is a little different. Spraying involves squirting urine on a vertical surface like the wall.
When a cat sprays, their tail is high up and they will back up to their desired surface. You might see a cat’s tail shaking when they are spraying. You will see that urine marking isn’t specific to gender, both female and male cats may urine mark.
Cats rub against our legs to exchange scents and collect information. This is a process called scent-marking.
They scent-mark to claim what is theirs and that includes us! Cats like when their surroundings smell like them, it makes them feel secure.
Cats will mark you as theirs so you smell like the same family. Cats don’t only rub against their legs, it’s just easy for them to do so.
Cats also headbutt their owners in the face and it’s a very intimate way of marking. They will also sometimes rub their entire body and curl their tail around you if they trust you.
If you want your cat to rub against you, you need to reinforce the behavior by petting them or giving out treats! Cats scent- mark in other ways.
Through scratching and urine marking, cats will leave traces of their scent to communicate. Cats have a keen sense of smell and are able to tell so much through scents. That’s probably why they can smell treats from a mile away!