General Question

iaresven's avatar

Why do cats rub their faces on everything?

Asked by iaresven (46points) April 14th, 2010

Why is it that cats are always rubbing their cheeks on things? I have heard that they have some sort of “odor gland” that marks the territory as their own, is there any truth to this?

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10 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

Cats are equipped with glands, located on the forehead, lips, front paws, and on their flanks and rears, that secrete pheromones. Pheromones, which are substances produced by animals, act as a form of chemical 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 their deposition serves as a calling card of sorts.

Pheromones secreted by glands on the face seem to have a calming effect on cats.
When cats rub their faces on various objects they leave their scent, which is reassuring to the cat and non-offensive to humans. Other cats passing the object will often stop and sniff, maybe even rubbing their faces on the object to leave their scent as well. Pheromones convey information to other cats, such as the identity of the cat (if familiar), when he was there, which direction he was headed, and even what kind of mood he was in. When we stroke our cats, or they rub up against our legs, we pick up these scents, too. That gives us a group scent identification.

Buttonstc's avatar

Uber nailed it. Many people think that when your cat is rubbing up against you, that it’s because they want to show affection.

That’s only tangentially true in a family sort of way. They are marking you as their property. They own you and want the rest of the world to know it :)

Those aren’t their thoughts necessarily as this is a deep instinctual behavior pattern of theirs so they’re not really over-thinking things. Just doin’ what comes natcherly.


Draconess25's avatar

That, & because it’s adorable!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Cats also get a great deal of sensory input from their whiskers.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

You are right :)
Your cat owns you! lol

tinyfaery's avatar

@Buttonstc I don’t see at as ownership so much as group bonding.

erichw1504's avatar

My cat must like to mark his territory on everything, he is constantly rubbing his face all over the house.

Buttonstc's avatar


You may be right but it doesn’t much matter how we see it. It’s how the cat sees it that’s at issue. Of course we can’t know for certain EXACTLY what is in the mind of the cat.

However, this much is certain; if your cat thinks he owns you, it doesn’t much matter what you think. That cat owns you and there’s no way you’ll convince him otherwise :)

At least I’ve never had any success convincing all of mine of anything else :)

They’re firmly convinced they own me and all attempts to persuade them that I’m the one in charge have proven futile.

When I used to have three of them they would regularly fight over me. It was an ongoing dispute over who got to sleep next to me and where for several years until there was one on each side and the third under the covers curled around my toes. I didn’t get a vote in the situation. They finally worked it out.

I’m sure you can identify.


Draconess25's avatar

@Buttonstc But you’re not in charge. You’re their slave. You feed them, & you clean their litterbox. It could never be the other way around.

Buttonstc's avatar

So true, so true :)

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