You're giving kitty some love, scratching behind his ears and stroking his back. He raises his hear higher and higher in the air. Happily, he sticks his tail straight up and maneuvers his butt right in your face. Kitty isn't trying to tell you off; it's a sign of affection.
You and your kitty don't really speak the same language, unless you're fluent in cat. To a cat, body language is more important than vocalization. Your kitty meows at you because he's realized that vocalization is important to humans. If you've ever seen two cats greet each other, there is a lot of rubbing and sniffing going on. Cats have scent glands at the base of their tails that a secrete a compound known as a pheromone. Pheromones give kitty information about whomever he's sniffing, and he also leaves pheromones on you to mark you as his.
Just Another Cat
While kitty will adapt to vocalize with you, he still views you as another cat. Therefore, he will use similar communication as he would use with other cats. This includes rubbing on you, sniffing you and grooming you. Some forms of cat communication, like butt sniffing, are kind of offensive to us humans. We certainly don't greet each other that way, at least if we want to continue having friends. Just understand that kitty isn't trying to upset you. To him, it's perfectly natural and even friendly.
When He Was a Kitten
But scent communication isn't the only reason kitty might give you the rear-view. When your kitty was a small kitten still nursing from his mother, she would groom him with her tongue. This grooming was soothing to him, and as a domesticated cat he's still very kittenish as an adult. He enjoys being pet on the rear because it reminds him of this affectionate grooming he received from his feline mom. He now goes to the litter box on his own, but when he was a kitten his mom had to help him out. She would lick his anus to encourage him to use the bathroom. While you see this as gross and probably have no intention of licking kitty's bum, he will instinctively show you his rear as a learned behavior from kitten-hood.
Kitty is dependent on you for everything. You feed him, groom him, pet him and play with him. Essentially, you have become his surrogate mom. Kitty not only views you as another cat, he sees himself as your kitten. So it's natural that he would respond the same way he did to his feline mother to you. This can be adorable when he melts into a purring ball of cuddles in your lap, or annoying when he begs you for food. Loving having his butt pet and showing you his rear are just instinctive responses to his mother's attention. Remember, the next time he sticks his butt in your face, he's just calling you mom.
- The Encyclopedia of The Cat; Michael Pollard
- Why Does My Cat Do That?; Catherine Davidson