Why Do Cats Rub Against Each Other?

A head butt is a friendly way Kitty says "Hello."
i Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

If you live in a multicat household, you've probably seen two of your furry residents rub against each other. They'll butt heads and rub the length of their bodies together. They're using scent communication to say “Hello.” In the case of an unspayed female, she might be indicating that she's ready to mate.

Scent Glands and Pheromones

Cats have scent glands in the edges of the mouth, the temples and the base of the tail. When Kitty rubs against his feline friend, he's depositing his scent as well as picking up the scent of his buddy. His scent contains pheromones, chemical compounds that affect the behavior of whomever is doing the smelling. In this case, the scent tells him that this is a friendly cat he knows and trusts.

Just Saying "Hello"

Rubbing is Kitty's way of saying “Hi.” When two friendly cats greet each other, they rub their faces together, as well as rubbing the sides of their bodies. You might also notice some sniffing action as they actively smell the pheromones being passed around.

Cats scent-mark everything they consider to be their territory, including their friends and family. A head butt is a type of scent marking that's also a friendly greeting.

That Time of the Month

Another time you might notice cats rubbing on each other is when a female kitty goes into heat. If you have an unspayed female, you'll see her letting the boy kitties know she's ready to mate. She'll adopt a lordosis position, sticking her rear in the air, her tail to the side, and her front end close to the ground.

She'll also roll around, rubbing against her feline friends as well as her human companions. She also might yowl frequently and sound distressed. This behavior begins around 6 months old, and it will last for several days at a time until she mates. Getting her spayed will eliminate this strange behavior that some people find unsettling.

Rubbing Against You

The friendly rubbing that Kitty displays with his pals will applied to you, too. Kitty views you as another cat, albeit a tall one. He wants to rub faces with you, but he'll settle for doing figure eights around your ankles. Sometimes he'll climb on the counter or jump into your lap so he can get closer to your face.

Your cat might groom himself after scent-marking you. This is his way of tasting the scent he just picked up from you. Any time Kitty rubs against you, he's just letting you know he loves you.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest