Most cats will rub their head on solid objects or against a human leg several times each day. This seems to be a rather common activity for cats. You may think that the cat is “scratching” itself. That could be part of the reason. But many pet experts believe that a cat rubs us with its head as a way of communicating. If the cat is rubbing its head against some other object, the reason may be similar.
The scientific explanation involves the glands that cats (and some other animals) have in their heads and on several other places on the body. These glands are reservoirs for pheromones. The cat may be rubbing its head or side to transfer these special chemicals. This is one way that the animal communicates.
According to veterinary science there are several types of pheromones. Each one provides a different message for other animals. For example, a cat may rub its head on furniture or on our leg as a way to signal that it is looking for, and ready for, a mate. Other pheromones are spread by a cat’s rubbing to mark territory – a way of indicating possession. Some of these chemicals may even be a message that all is well and the cat is in a comfortable place.
Your cat may rub furniture or the wood frame of an inside doorway to let other cats know that they are living in this area. If another cat passes through or is brought into the home that second cat will probably be able to detect the particular pheromone left by the first cat and will be able to read the message. A family pet may rub against your leg as a way of marking you and putting the cat’s scent on you or your clothes. This is the method the cat may use to establish you as part of an accepted group.
More Ideas on Rubbing
Aside from the transfer of pheromones, cats use head rubbing to make contact with other cats, with other animals and with us. Cats sometimes get comfort from just making contact. It seems that rubbing with the head is particularly soothing to cats. We may occasionally see two cats rubbing heads or butting heads lightly. This usually happens only when two cats are very comfortable with each other.
They not only share various chemical scents but get some comfort from the touch. Some scientists have proposed that cats touch heads or butt heads to find out who is first in the “pecking order.”
Finally, if your cat has recently been in the presence of another animal it may exhibit increased rubbing activity. Animals are so sensitive to the smells of other animals and humans they have to give priority to removing those scents. This may be a holdover from times when cats in the wild were trying to survive. If you are bothered by regular head rubbing try to look at it as a necessary activity for your family pet.