What Is The Rub On Our Cats?
9 April, 2013

If you have ever owned a cat, you know how funny and quirky they are.  They communicate with us in so many ways without even opening their mouths.  Of course, they do meow and cry sometimes when they want our attention; however, there are so may other fun ways they communicate with us.  Like the rub!  When our cats stroke and/or rub us, they are telling us a variety of things. 

Cats rub to mark their territory

Our cats have glands on their foreheads, lips, front and back paws that secrete pheromones.  These pheromones act as a form of communication.  Cats produce several different pheromones that send various signals and affect a number of different behaviors. One well known function of pheromones is to provide information about the cat’s reproductive status and receptivity to potential mates. Pheromones also are used to mark objects and territory and some signal comfort and familiarity. Pheromones are unique, like human fingerprints, and the way they are released is their personal greeting.

Cats rub to release these pheromones to make them feel safe

When cats rub their faces on different object and leave their scent, it reassures the cat that everything around them is OK and it is a way to make them feel safe.  If there is more than one cat in the house, another cat can pass by the object and will usually stop and sniff, maybe even rub their faces on the object to leave their scent as well.

Have you ever noticed that when you put down a t-shirt that you have worn, that your cat automatically sits on it?  Our cats sense our smell and want to mix their own with it to make them feel safe.  It’s just another way to release these pheromones and mark their territory.  Even if they get their hair or smell all over it, this display is a sign of affection and comfort for them.

Cats rub against us to communicate reminders

Cats will also use contact or rub us to communicate urgency, from a ‘hello- it’s time to feed me’ to a demanding or insistent rub down. If you have more than one cat, you might notice how they sometimes butt the head of the other cats and/or rub their faces against eat other. Only cats entirely comfortable with each other will use this type of mutual head butting.  The physical contact of head rubbing creates a shared scent that helps cats to feel more comfortable with each other and more secure in their home territory.

The next time your cat rubs against your or another cat, you will know that this is his way of saying ‘hello’ and I care about you.  It’s almost like kissing the cheek of another human.  Your cat is claiming you as his own in his or her own way and saying ‘you’re mine’!

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