Cat owners are familiar with cat headbutts. Also called as “bunting” or “allorubbing,” it’s among the most interesting and endearing feline behavior. If you’re unfamiliar with this and you wonder why a cat rubs against you, here are three reasons for it.
If you’re a new cat owner or unfamiliar with cats, bunting might make you wary or confused. The first thing you need to note is that when a cat rubs against you, it isn’t because he or she is itchy. Your new cat or your friend’s cat is simply marking you. A cat headbutts and marks you to signify the start of your affiliation. Cats have scent glands with pheromones in several parts of their bodies including their foreheads and cheeks. So when a cat starts rubbing their body or head against you, they’re depositing their scent to mark you as a safe and accepted ‘hooman.’
Cats can’t talk like people do. So instead of verbal communication, they express through their actions. Headbutting a person is one way cats say “hi” and acknowledge your connection or relationship with them. Moreover, it’s an expression that a cat does to a person he or she knows and feels safe with. Additionally, bunting is a type of scent communication: it denotes a passive long-term non-verbal cue that suggests a cat is on good terms with you.
Once you’re affiliated with a cat by passing the headbutting ritual, this cat communication becomes more special. When a cat rubs against you, it’s a way to show affection. It’s an intimate social interaction cats do to a person they like and trust. When a cat decides to headbutt someone, it’s face and eyes are turned away with their body completely at your reach, making it vulnerable. So when a cat does this bunting behavior especially for quite a long duration, it means that this kitty trusts you a lot and likes your company. You can reciprocate and reinforce this affectionate feline behavior by petting the cat in return.
A cat’s language is limited compared to humans’. Despite this, cats are able to relay their message to us at least as much as we’ve interpreted based on their behavior and our long-term association with them. So you can interpret allorubbing either as affiliation, communication, affection or a mix of the three. The takeaway here is that feline bunting means well and it’s a positive interaction that a person can have with a kitty.