When Cats Rub Against You, What Does It Mean?

Last updated on February 5th, 2023 at 07:24 pm

When cats rub against you, this may be a sign of greetings or marking you through their scent or collecting information from you
Image Credit: Amiya Nanda/Pexels

When cats rub against you, what comes to your mind? Unlike other pets, cats are known to have some unique features that you will only understand after carefully learning their behavior and body language. In most cases, cats don’t gain trust faster in people; they take time to build relationships with people. The time can sometimes be in months or even years to form a bond between you and the pet. However, after forming the bond, you’ll still not fully understand the pet. For this reason, you will have to understand what the cat is telling you through body language. The cats primarily interact with people or pets using unique convert signals such as tail movement and blinking.

The most common interaction signal that cats use is rubbing themselves against humans or other animals. This social interaction signal has many meanings for cats and their bond partners, including humans or other animals. Therefore, when cats rub against you, there are several meanings that the cat shows from this behavior. This article focuses on the exciting behaviors and their meaning when the cat rubs against you. Keep on reading to learn more about these fantastic behaviors from your pet.

What does it mean when a cat rubs against you?

Cats are among the animals that have a strong scent gland in their body. The scent glands are located around their chin and cheeks, at the base of the cat’s tail, and at their head top. The scent glands contain pheromones that the cats use to identify you, other pets, or even house items and plants. Therefore, when your cat rubs their tail or even face against you, other pets or animals, or your household items, they will leave the pheromone. This behavior is, however, hereditary in cats; for this reason, the cats pass the behavior to the kittens. After the kittens learn about the rubbing behavior, they will also pass it on to the next generation.

According to the cat community, headbutting and rubbing in the neighborhood of cats is always a sign of adoration and greetings. They also use these convert signals to welcome you into the group and mark their territory. The cat can also gain information from you by rubbing against you. It is one of the animals that heavily rely on a sense of smell as part of their interaction. When the cat leaves behind the pheromone, especially on you, you need not take it negatively. This, in most cases, indicates the cat accepts you as part of the feline world of the pet. For this reason, it should be a great honor for you as the cat owner to show the strong bond the pet has to build with you.

However, not all the rubbing will bring a smile to your face due to the strong relationship with your cat. The rubbing may sometimes become too much or even compulsive, linked with strange or abnormal behaviors. In some cases, the excessive rubbing can be related to unknown complications or the cat having some medical issues. Therefore, you need to be careful when your cat rubs against you. After understanding why your cat needs to rub against you, it is also essential to understand the reasons for this behavior in cats.

These reasons include:


When your cat rubs their body or even their head against your body or leg, this may be a sign of greetings. It is a good sign that cats use mostly to greet their owners, especially if the bond or relationship between you and the pet is strong. The cat will use this sign to show their happiness after seeing you. In most cases, the cat will greet you after missing you, especially when you have been away for quite a long time. Therefore, you might notice this positive behavior in your cat when you have been out for a long.

When the cat loves you, they also miss you and will feel happy when you return home after staying out for a long time. However, it may not necessarily mean that the cat will only greet you after staying out for a longer time. They can sometimes decide to fantastic you whenever they miss you to show that the cat is happy to see you. The cat may come to greet you and move away or sometimes decides to be close to you, feeling glad to be with you.

Marking you through their scent

Apart from rubbing against you to welcome you home, a cat can also claim you with their unique scent. In this way, the cat becomes sure they mark you perfectly with the Scent for them to identify you quickly. Cats are very territorial creatures, which makes them claim their parents and other pet parents to be part of the territory they live in. For this reason, a cat can rub against an item, human being, or animal to form an affiliation with them. In this way, the cat accepts you to be part of their environment. The cat will then claim you to be in their territory.

However, the marking of the territory in cats is intermittent when the process or object shares the environment with the cat. These scents, however, need to be reapplied as they cannot last forever. The cat will have to ensure the object is marked correctly. They will continually reapply the Scent to enable them to become calm when enjoying their surrounding environment. However, when you live in the territory and go out for a long time, the Scent will fade off and leave you. When you return, the cat will want to claim you again back to the territory.

This means that the cat will rub against you upon your arrival. Apart from rubbing, the cut can also mark you with their Scent through licking and headbutting or may sometimes decide to bite you gently. It may be a too soft bite that you may not notice quickly. By doing all these, the cat will reclaim you back to their territory. This is also thought of as a way of increasing their endorphins, providing them with safety, calm, and a sense of smell.

Collecting information from you

If you are a new human or a visitor to a home where cats live, they may rub their body, especially the head, against you. This, however, not only applies to new humans but also to strange animals who come near the cat’s environment. In this case, the cat will be trying to gather information about the new human or animal. However, this does not necessarily mean that the pet may want you to pet or touch them. For this reason, when a cat rubs against you in a strange home, or just for the first time of meeting the pet, it’s essential not to take it as an invitation to pet the cat. This may be a false interpretation of the cat’s body language that will not make you succeed in petting the cat. 

Forming a group of Scent

Cats also often rub or headbutt each other, especially when there are feral cats or cat colonies. In this way, the cats leave the pheromones to each other in the group. The group scents in cats help them form a communal scent. The communal Scent helps the cats to identify any intruder into their environment. In addition, the communal Scent created in the group helps the cats promote peace within their group. Remember, the cats can also associate the other available cat pheromone smells with aggression, mating, and health status that consistently help them navigate their colony hierarchy.

When requesting something from you

The cat can also rub against you to tell you about something they need from you. Because the cats cannot speak to us about what they need from us, they have to find their way of communication. Their main aim is, therefore, to make us know their request and attend to them. They can communicate by rubbing against you, headbutting you, or sometimes biting you gently so that you may not feel hurt. Sometimes, they may not rub against you. Instead, they rub against something they need near you in your presence. 

For instance, the cat may rub against the cabinet close to you or in your presence that contains their treats or even food. In this case, the cat may be likely alerting you to serve them and will do this, especially when they are hungry. On the other hand, the cat can also rub against you to show that there is something wrong. This can be an illness, or the cat is facing some complications. It can also be a gentle reminder that the cat is showing you to clean out the litter box the cat uses. This can also be a way of telling you that they need clean water. All these reasons explain why your cat can rub against you at home.

It would help if you learned the behavior of your cat. This will make you understand if the pet wants something from you. It will also help you analyze the different reasons why the cat has rubbed against you. When you understand all these cat body languages, you will quickly respond to your cat’s character, needs and behavior. You will also become able to build a strong relationship with your cat. However, when the rubbing is too much, you need to think about it, as there may be a problem somewhere. Let’s look at why you need to worry about too much rubbing.

What happens if your cat rubs against you too much?

Your cat may sometimes rub against you too much or suddenly start rubbing against rugs and other objects. At this point, the cat may also start showing some behavior or attitudes that are strange to you; you will have to talk to your vet. This may result from illness, and the pet might face many medical issues. You can check out the presence of these sudden illness signs, which are always typical to cats. They include the cat looking confused, increased vocalization, vomiting, eye flicking, and head tilt. Other signs include hair loss, vomiting, weight loss, moderate itching, which may sometimes become severe, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

On the other hand, some medical issues may also make the cat experience excessive rubbing. Such issues include; Allergies, ear infections, fleas, feline hypersensitivity disorder, and some intracranial diseases such as tumors, inflammation of the cat’s internal body organs, and infections. For this reason, if you suspect your cat is having an increased rubbing than usual, you will have to visit a veterinarian. Sometimes you may fail to understand the main issue the cat is facing, but the veterinarian has more experience and knowledge about cats. The expert will be able to conduct an evaluation and possibly testing for the problem.

Allow your cat to rub against you

It is a good practice to allow your cat to rub against you. This is the best way your cat will communicate to you for you to understand them and attend to their needs. The cat may try to say hi to you, claim you or miss interacting with you. When cats rub against you, they may want to show you about a particular illness it is facing. It will also make the cat know if there is the presence of an intruder in your home. In this case, the cat will detect the intruder by the Scent marking, which will be absent from the intruder. Therefore, never fail your cat; learn about the pet’s behavior and body language. 


Even though cats can’t talk to us directly, they always have a unique way of communicating with us. They use convert signals to interact with humans, animals, and other items around them. You only need to learn how to interpret this way to understand what your cat is telling you. This will not only improve your understanding of the body language of your cat but also build a strong relationship with the pet. In addition, understanding why a cat rubs against you will make you detect if the pet has an illness or is facing any medical issue. So, next time when cats rub against you, you should always be friendly and calm to understand them.

Additional Resources:

Why Don’t Cats Like Water

Why Do Cats Knead Blankets