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Every morning when I open a fresh can of wet cat food I anticipate two things: 1. The melodious meows of my very happy senior cat and 2. The floofy nuzzling and rubbing of his furry body across the bottom of my pant leg. He loves mealtime and to me it appears he is showing his excitement and affection for his favorite human. But it's probably more about the chicken pâté I just put on his plate.
Your face, your legs, the couch, or the dog, cats seem to love to rub all over things, whether it's by way of their smooshy cheeks or their whole fluffy body. This behavior can sometimes look really silly, like when my own cat rubs his tail across the chin of my dog, but much like head butting, there is function behind this behavior.
Two Simple Reasons Why Your Cat Rubs on Things (Including You)
1. Your cat is trying to communicate.
Cats are talkers even though they don't use human language. Although cats often enjoy vocal communication like meows, growls, and hisses, they generally prefer to communicate by way of body language. A cat communicates with their whole body, from their front paws to the tips of their tails, and kitty tails are especially good communication tools that say a lot about how a cat is feeling. When cats are feeling particularly good or wanting to display their contentment or show affection, they might rub their body and their tail against a nearby object (or their favorite human).
Interestingly, two cats that happen to be close buds might engage in this affiliative behavior (being social), sometimes even locking tails for a moment, as a way to greet their pal and check-in.
2. Your cat wants to spread their scent.
Felines want everything to smell just like them and scents are very important to cats (both wild and domesticated). They have scent glands located all over their body so when a cat wants to share information about themselves to the world they will rub their scent glands against objects, spreading pheromones wherever they go. So when your cat feels like you don't smell good (meaning like them) or they just want to re-deposit their personal perfume on you, they might swish their tail all over your leg or brush their soft body against your cheek.
The majority of the time your feline finds themselves rubbing their floofy tail or cuddly body against something there is no reason for concern. However, if your cat seems to especially push hard against you or other items and does so with increased frequency or appears to need to prop themselves up against something as if they are exhausted, make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any health concerns.