One of my cats has become the queen of “head butting.” I’ll be sitting on the sofa, minding my own business and she’ll jump up and thump the top of her head into my stomach. It seems like a friendly gesture, but what does she actually mean by it?
Kitty head-butting and face rubbing is a form of communication. Because cats live in a very scent-oriented world, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to find out that felines have glands on their faces that secrete pheromones. A pheromone is like a critter business card that is used to convey information to other animals of the same species. Many animals secrete pheromones of some type. These chemicals are designed to elicit some type of reaction. For example, some insects use pheromones to attract a mate.
Cats have several pheromones that they use to mark their territory and indicate their reproductive status. The pheromones secreted by the facial glands often are used to mark familiar or comfortable spaces. (Apparently, my lap is one of those places.) Cats that are extremely comfortable with one another will rub each other’s faces as a sign of companionship. The shared scents apparently create a sense of harmony and well being. Basically, in the feline world, “if you smell like me, you must be okay.”
When your cat rubs his face on your leg, he is essentially saying that he thinks you’re special enough to rate some of his pheromones. Given the distain that so most cats have for many humans, you should feel privileged to earn this level of love and respect. Sure, he may also be demanding his dinner, but he’s doing it in a very friendly way.